Monday, October 02, 2006
Bittersweet baseball playoffs begin
If you've browsed in the Archives at all here you'll know I'm a long-time, long-suffering White Sox fan. Last year, when they won it all, I couldn't appreciate it because it was too good to be true... I was afraid I'd wake up... I was afraid to disturb the karma... I was just afraid.
This year, though, I was ready to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride back to the postseason.
I was ready; the pitching was not. And somehow Ozzie-ball -- bunting, sacrificing, stealing and taking the extra base -- turned into imitation Boston Red Sox station-to-station. And waiting for a home run.
The final disappointment came yesterday when the White Sox failed to sweep the Twins.
Because that means Oakland will now face Minnesota in the first round, while the Tigers will be sacrificed on the altar of the Yankees. I thought the Twins could dispatch the Yankees. I would root for that. And I could root for Oakland too, to beat the soon to be extinct Tigers.
But now.... This morning I was reminded of Thomas Jefferson's dialog between head and heart as I considered the Oakland-Minnesota match-up.
In my head, I think Minnesota should win -- they have the home field for this series, they've played so well in the second half -- but, in my heart, I'm pulling for Oakland. Because Frank Thomas is there. I've bought one baseball card for myself that didn't come with bubble gum: A genuine Frank Thomas Birmingham Barons card. Oldest Son, a world-weary cynic at 21, is a starry-eyed five year-old at the mention of Frank Thomas' name. Older Daughter got Thomas' autograph -- which did not go up on eBay, contrary to the oft-stated fears of every athlete that signs a scrap of paper -- but resides, in a frame, proudly, on Youngest Son's dresser at home.
And I'll root for Detroit, too, though I know it's futile. Red Sox fans are famous for hating the Yankees -- but White Sox fans are second to none in their odium. The New York Yankees are one of the works of Satan expressly renounced in the South Side baptismal rite. It's worse for White Sox fans, really, since we're ignored by Yankee fans -- who return only the Red Sox fans' hatred. And yet... if Yankee Stadium is the House That Ruth Built, the upper deck of Old Comiskey Park was also built by Ruth: Mr. Comiskey could sell the extra seats when Ruth came to town. And Ruth's between inning jaunts across 35th street to the long-lost McCuddy's are the stuff of legend.
But that's fine: Let the Yankees win a divisional series. Their losing in the ALCS would be that much sweeter. Of course, Middle Son is dangerously close to a Yankee sympathizer. He points out, not unreasonably, that Joe Torre and Derek Jeter and several other current Yankees are not arrogant and do not swagger. But they're still Yankees, and if Frank Thomas (and Barry Zito, Middle Son's favorite) and the A's are in the ALCS, harmony, or at least unanimity of opinion, will reign in The Curmudgeon's home.
I am only dimly aware of who's playing in the National League playoffs. I only root for a National League team when it plays the Yankees in the World Series. The only time I didn't was in 2000. I didn't know what to do then. All of us here in Flyover Country can only hope that this nightmare scenario does not come to pass again this year.
But here's one thing on which perahps all of us, of whatever baseball persuasion, may agree. Well?