Friday, August 17, 2007

Mood swings

Yankee fans are the most knowledgeable baseball fans in America. Just ask them. Or ask the local radio broadcasters who often perpetuate the collective self-delusion by confirming it on the air.

Along with genius, as we’ve seen with Van Gogh or Michael Jackson, comes a little craziness, or at least a minor mental condition.

For Yankee fans, it is wild mood swings.

With the Yankees in the depths of a lengthy three-game losing streak, Yankee fans want blood. This from the same people who, just last weekend, were seriously contemplating the idea that the Yankees might never lose again this season. The same people who took great joy in telling me that I’d better start rooting against the Red Sox, since the wild card would likely come down to the Sox, the Tribe and Seattle.

It’s Joe Torre, the man who has led the Yanks into the playoffs in all 11 years he has managed them, who has raised the ire of Yankee fans this week. His crime? Relying on perhaps the most reliable closer in the history of the game – Mariano Rivera.

Rivera had a minor breakdown against the Tribe on Sunday, nearly letting them close a 5-2 gap in the ninth. On Monday, Rivera blew a one-run lead against Baltimore in the ninth, in a game the Yanks came back to win in the bottom of the inning. It was Rivera’s first blown save since April 20. Rivera followed that performance on Tuesday by handing back a lead to the O’s in the tenth that Shelley Duncan had erased with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

The astute Yankee fans – at least those who called talk radio shows yesterday – could see BEFORE Rivera was brought into the game, that his arrival would mean disaster. Rather than rely on the man who has been their closer for the past 10 years, Yankee fans knew it would have been a better move to bring in rookie Joba Chamberlain – who has pitched all of five innings in his major league career. Five scoreless innings – with eight strikeouts - don’t forget. How could the old man let that obvious move elude him?

This is not to say that New Yorkers have a corner on irrationality. There are irrational fans in every city. Hell, I think I’m probably one of them myself.

But every time I listen to Yankee fans matter-of-factly acknowledge that they indeed are the most astute in baseball I marvel at just how much they don’t know how much they don’t know.

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