Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yankee schadenfreude

One of the things I admire about Barack Obama is his general reluctance to "go negative" on the campaign trail. Rising above petty attacks has ennobled him and hastened his rise.

But for all his happy talk about a perfect world there are also the exigencies of the real world, in which you've got to win an election before you can lead. We haven't even hit the national conventions yet and Obama's already sniping at John McCain, suggesting the other day that McCain's Senate vote against levee-maintenance legislation contributed to the Mississippi River flooding.

In fairness, Obama usually just counterpunches, attacking only when he's been attacked. I like this approach. He maintains the moral high ground while showing he's not too effete to defend himself and fight back.

Like Obama I generally avoid going negative, at least in this space. (I'm sure he vents to his wife around the kitchen table but he keeps his cool in public, and although I command an audience at least ten percent smaller than Obama's, this is nonetheless a public forum.) For example, I once posted a harshly critical broadside against a local radio host I don't like. It was gratuitous and jarring and it bothered me the whole time it was posted. I deleted it a few days later.

But Obama's not perfect and neither am I. The other day I ripped Carson Daly, who seems like a perfectly nice if clueless guy, and today I'm breaking out the acid again.

Like most right-thinking baseball fans, I do not like the New York Yankees. Actually, I have no issue with the team itself. What's distasteful is the toxic stew of their arrogant ownership, the loudmouth wing of their fan base, and the wearingly intense New York media crucible in which they play.

So as much as I try to be a good person, it's hard not to enjoy it when the Yankees, who too often get what they want, don't. Who doesn't like to see the rich, spoiled high school beauty queen getting hit with a pie in the face?

The Yankees' best starting pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, hurt a foot ligament running the bases last week in Houston. Initially expected to miss ten weeks, Wang now might have to miss the rest of the season.

It's the latest disaster for the star-crossed Yankee pitching staff. They get their aces cracked more often than a poker player on a losing streak.

First the Yanks backed up the money truck for Carl Pavano only to watch him sit out for nearly two years with an unending series of injuries. By the end of that debacle, Yankee fans wanted Pavano's head on a spike. Even his teammates, many of whom regularly play hurt, were privately disgusted.

The Bronx Bombers broke open another bank vault to get Randy Johnson, but he didn't last either. Then Yankee hero Roger Clemens decamped for his native Texas. And his valet Andy Pettitte went too!

What hurt just as bad were the pitchers they didn't get. They lost out to Boston in the Daisuke Matsuzaka derby and had to watch their crosstown rival Mets sign two Cy Young Award winners in Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana.

The Yankees are so desperate for pitching that they moved a promising kid, Joba Chamberlain, from their bullpen into their starting rotation. No pressure there with Tony from Passaic calling in to WFAN to critique his every base hit allowed. And now their best pitcher gets hurt in a freak injury.

It's enough to make a guy feel sorry for the Yankees if they weren't, you know, the Yankees.

Co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner has big shoes to fill but already looks like a world-class jerk in the tradition of his old man, a convicted felon with a legendary emperor complex (Latin name: registi helmsleiana).

Hank's insulting treatment last winter left the proud Joe Torre no choice but to walk away from the team. Some gratitude for a guy who had by all accounts done everything asked of him by the Steinbrenner family, not to mention delivered four World Series trophies in his first five years as manager.

Torre was immolated on the altar of Yankee presumption. Not even Connie Mack or Joe McCarthy (or Casey Stengel, who came pretty close) could deliver what the team's current ownership expects and demands: a championship every season.

Back to the present day. Hank Steinbrenner's take on Wang's injury: "The National League needs to join the 21st century. I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. That was a rule from the 1800s."

If I may quote Howard Stern's sidekick Artie Lange: "Waahh."

In baseball, pitchers are part of the starting lineup. Therefore they bat and run the bases. Other rules from the 1800s include "three strikes make an out" and "the team with more runs when the game ends is the winner."

The designated hitter rule, meanwhile, dates back to 1973. If Hank Steinbrenner doesn't like it, he should have asked his dad to buy a National League team. Or had his pitchers practice baserunning last March in the Grapefruit League.

Every other American League owner also has pitchers running the bases in various interleague, spring training, All-Star and World Series games. It's part of the sport. And last time I checked pitchers were still professional athletes.

Think Steinbrenner would be whining about the DH rule if Boston Red Sox ace Josh Beckett had torn his ACL sliding into third?

No comments: