Tuesday, April 26, 2005

My surreal Paul O'Neill moment

On Saturday, I covered the Yankees for the newspaper, which was kind of funny, since I hadn't even been to Yankee Stadium in 10 years. As surreal as it was to make my return to the Bronx as a member of the working press, it was more surreal to find myself in a clubhouse with Jeter, A-Rod, Mariano, and Bernie. Down the hall and to the right, Joe Torre's office, decorated with photos of his finest baseball memories, included a framed shot of he and Don Zimmer celebrating with their arms around each other. It was a Yankee fan's mecca and and a baseball fan's heaven rolled into one. And even as surreal as all that was, my most striking out-of-body experience came at a most unexpected time.

During the third inning, I slinked off the men's room and soon found myself standing next to the Yankee legend known as Paul O'Neill. Paul was working with the YES Network, hence his skyscraping presence in the media restroom.

My first thought was, "Good lord, he's a tall man!" I think my next thought was "I guess even legends have to answer the call of nature." Then I thought about how funny it was that I was standing next to one of the most popular Yankees of all-time, one of the most emotional players in recent memory, and now here he was, calm as could be, standing next to me -- a young reporter he's never heard of -- in the media restroom. We were peers. I mean, what's more unremarkable than standing next someone in a men's room at a baseball game? (Don't answer that).

I wondered if it felt as surreal for him to be a part of the media as it did for me to be standing amongst the stars in the clubhouse. In the media workroom, O'Neill almost could have been 'one of the guys,' except for the fact that he was the only one over 6 feet tall, the only one wearing a size 68 suit (that's a rough estimate), and the only one who the players smiled at when he walked in the clubhouse.

My mind wandered, and just that quickly, he was gone. He brushed past me and sprinted back to the broadcast booth. The fourth inning had begun. He had to get back on the air. And I had to get back to my laptop. And that's what it's like to cover the Yankees.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Baseball's stupid (and unwritten) rules



How many more times can we hear a baseball analyst drop some brainiac analysis of a pier-6 slobberknocker brawl such as "That's baseball. A pitcher has to protect his hitters"?

For me, the number is slightly less than zero. Next analyst that looks into a television camera and says that, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, better duck because I'm firing my 73-mph cheese into the studio. Hey, sorry, but a viewer has to protect his television set.

It's one of those unwritten rules of baseball that people love to glorify. The reason they are unwritten is simple: If they were actually written down, then players could read them and realize just how stupid these rules really are.

How much more damage does a pitcher do to his team by getting ejected from the game, especially if he's pitching well?

On Sunday, the Devil Rays and Red Sox got into several brawls in the seventh inning of shame. It began on Friday when batters were hit and Tampa Bay's Eduardo Perez crushed a homer and flipped his bat. On Saturday, Curt Schilling plunked Carl Crawford in the ribs with a fastball as if he were playing pin the tail on the Devil Ray without a blindfold. David Ortiz hit a monster bomb and flipped his bat the exact way Perez did a day earlier.

In the sixth inning on Sunday, Bronson Arroyo pegged Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff. Seems Arroyo has his best control when he aims outside the strike zone (just ask A-Rod). In the top of the seventh inning, Tampa Bay reliever Lance Carter fired behind Manny Ramirez. Ramirez homered on the next pitch.

Four pitches later, Ortiz was knocked on his considerable patoot by some high heat. He erupted, benches cleared. Ejections followed. As did another beanball. In the bottom of the seventh, Arroyo nailed Chris Singleton in the leg. Another bench-clearing. More ejections.

Typical stupidity of baseball players. Forget testing for steroids. How about some IQ tests?

Pitchers are expected to "protect their hitters." But by throwing at a player in retaliation, all they've done is up the ante again and put yet another teammate in harm's way. If Schilling didn't plunk Crawford on Saturday, perhaps Carter wouldn't have felt compelled to go after Ramirez. If Carter hadn't gone after Ramirez, perhaps he wouldn't have felt compelled to go after Ortiz, either. If Carter hadn't gone after Ortiz, perhaps Arroyo wouldn't have felt compelled to go after Singleton.

And if Woody had gone straight to the police, none of this would have ever happened.

We've reached the point where a pitcher cannot hit a batter without reporters asking the interested parties if it was intentional. Sure, sometimes it is (just ask Tino Martinez about Armando Benitez). But, sometimes it's just a very bad pitch. Things happen. We don't always perform to our best. Hey, if i write 150 columns in one year, one of them has to rank No. 150. (Note: This isn't that one.)

But by continually retaliating, the situation escalates. That, in turn, creates more bad blood for the next inning, the next game, the next series.

Protecting your teammates is a noble cause. But if a pitcher does not retaliate, then odds are no one else on his team will get hit, punched, kicked, scratched, body-slammed, put in a figure-four or hit with a steel chair.

And the players who speak up about their pitchers not doing something are just exacerbating the situation. They make the pitchers, both those involved in a particular altercation and those on the outside looking in, more conscious of pleasing their teammates.

Not fair.

These pitchers have enough to think about, what with trying to find the strike zone and throw a pitch that won't get crushed. If you think I'm wrong about pitchers' concerns, then why did only 18 starters in the majors have an ERA under 3.50 last season?

If a pitcher must hit a batter, do it with a curveball so the opposing team thinks it's accidental. This way, you've pleased your teammates and you get off scot-free because no one would think a curveball was thrown intentionally at a batter.

If a pitcher must be stupid, he should learn how to be an idiot savant.

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Mocking the draft

Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers? Aaron Rodgers or Alex Smith? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

By now, you're so flooded with NFL mock drafts and "Who's going No. 1" speak, FEMA has approved disaster relief funds and musicians are lining up to do a benefit concert to save you.

But, here in Keyboard Quarterbacks, a safe haven from mainstream nonsense (we prefer our own brand of nonsense), we don't care who goes No. 1, who trades down, who trades up and who's that girl?

We'd much rather enjoy mocking the silly things that could occur on draft day. Here goes:

* The Minnesota Vikings miss their first-round pick for the third straight year and have to scurry to the podium to get their selection before another team jumps in and steals their guy.

* Unlike previous drafts, Vikings head coach Mike Tice did not scalp his tickets to the Jacob Javits Center.

* With the Oakland Raiders back in the first round, the odds of an early afternoon "I didn't even have him on my board" outburst from Mel Kiper Jr. went up by a factor of 10.

* No first-round pick for the Jets means no Blair Thomas and Jeff Lageman repeats.

* The idiocy of Eagles fans could reach legendary status this year. With the No. 31 pick in this year's NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO." Eagles fans boo for no good reason, like it's their unalienable right to bash their team's management. If Auburn running back Ronnie Brown inexplicably dropped from the top five to No. 31, fans would be pissed when the Eagles drafted him. It's as if years of arguing Geno's cheesesteaks vs. Pat's cheesesteaks finally turned the brain matter into cheese whiz.

* Which college player will outdress Michael Irvin?

* Over/under on number of times Irvin says, "The U," a reference to his alma mater Miami Hurricanes: 7.

* Over/under on number of uses of the phrase "He makes plays" in the first round: 17.

* In the first day: 416.

* Number of clips shown of a defensive player that was just drafted missing a tackle in a game: 0.

* Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards is a terrific player and potential top 5 pick. Let's just hope the team that drafts him doesn't throw any footballs on stage. Edwards has a knack for dropping%

Friday, April 15, 2005

In defense of Sheff


First reaction on the latest Red Sox-Yankees fan fight was that the guy was simply trying to reach over for the baseball and accidentally grazed Gary Sheffield's face. It seemed as if these two people just met at the wrong time in their lives, not unlike when Sonny whacked that no-name in the street because he smacked Joe Pesci's windshield with a Louisville Slugger in "A Bronx Tale."

Upon further review, that is a load of hoo-hah! This was Bostonian scummetry at its best, which the rest of America understands to be the dregs of human lifeform.

It was a complete cheap shot at Sheff. With the help of constant replays on ESPN, YES, the Web and some assistance from the DVR, here's the tale of the tape:

* This Bostonian ham-and-egger fan didn't even try to bend down to get the ball. The ball was bouncing low to the ground the entire way and only the infield at Calhoun High School in the mid-1980s could generate an alternate hop high enough to change its path.

* The Boston fan was barely watching the path of the baseball.

* He swiped his hand at the ball after the ball was beyond his reach.

* The beer that turned Sheffield's Yankee jersey into a throwback Mickey Mantle uniform complete with the stench of alcohol was intentionally dumped. Don't believe the hype! It was completely intentional.

* Two fans to Sheff's left held cups of beer. The one closest to Sheff was a woman and she held on to her cup for as long as possible. The second person was a man who dumped his beer on Sheff just before Sheff came up to push the fan.

* Sheff did not throw any punches. He used his glove and his right hand to shove the Ma$$hole out of the way.

"These people shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets much less come to a ballgame," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Ordinarily, players should never go anywhere near striking a fan, no matter how much they deserve it. (And fans definitely deserve a solid pistol-whipping.)

The fools in Detroit deserved some sort of beatdown, and this Bostonian deserved a shot heard 'round the world with a Pesky Pole to the noggin.

He took a blatant cheap shot at a major league baseball player. It's no different than if in a bar or a sidewalk. It's attempted assault, but since it happened in a stadium during a sporting event, no one will ever see it as anything more than a fan who drank too much. (Note: The level of alcohol consumption of this man on Thursday night is not known, but drunkenness will be the popular assumption.)

Sheff was perfectly within his right to shove back once. The tape also showed Sheff heading toward the stands looking to lay the smack down on this fan's candy patoot. But somewhere between the foul line and the wall, he had a Ron Artest flashback and thought better of building a woodshed at Fenway Park and dragging this fan behind it.

Credit Sheff for showing restraint. The natural reaction to getting hit in the face is to strike back like Debo from "Friday." But Sheff makes more than $13 million each year to hit baseballs, not fans. This fan surely does not stand to lose as much as Sheff.

"It would have been worse if I lost my composure," Sheffield said. "I almost snapped, but I thought about the consequences."

Sheff should be fined $5,000 by Major League Baseball for his conducts because Bud Selig has some of his droopy, cheeky face to save. But Sheff was definitely not wrong.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

He HAD to be there? Get outta here

It's rare that I can actually stomach more than a few minutes of WFAN's Chris Russo "taking" calls from listeners ("taking" more like "deflecting"). But every so often he stumbles upon a topic that is both pertinent and interesting to the sports fan.

Tuesday's subject du jour? Should Pedro Martinez have skipped the Mets' home opener at Shea Stadium in favor of attending the Boston Red Sox's World Series ring and banner ceremony at Fenway Park?

"This isn't about Pedro and his relationship with the Boston front office or the Mets fans," Mad Dog howled. "Pedro's been a Met for two weeks. This is about baseball history."

"For the sake of baseball history," he said, "Pedro had to be at Fenway. He HAD to be there!"

I'm sorry, let me get this straight: The Mets spend $53 million on a stud pitcher, annoint him the new face of the franchise (the batters eye will attest to that) and he's NOT going to be at their home opener? After two brilliant games, you're not going to give the fans a chance to cheer their new hero?

Let's think for a second about the kind of a message that sends to Shea's paying customers. Yeah, well, uh, thanks for showing up. I know we got this new guy but, uh, he's not around right now, so, uh... just clap for him and we'll show you highlights of him wearing another team's jersey while you try to get excited about your 1-5 team.

Seriously...

As much as "Baseball" needed Pedro to be at Fenway, the Mets needed him at Shea. For the sake of a fan base that hasn't had an ace since Dwight Gooden; for the sake of a team that's trying to forge a new identity; for the sake of Mets fans who love the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day, Pedro HAD to be at Shea.

Sure, it would have been nice if Pedro had gone to Boston. It would have been nice for Bosox fans to see him smile and wave his new ring. All those things could have happened, too. All Boston had to do was sign on the dotted line.

  • E-mail Mike Casey
  • Vote: Pedro on Opening Day
  • Saturday, April 09, 2005

    I got booed at Yankee Stadium

    Brian Roberts homered to right field on Friday night and my future autobiography earned itself an unexpected new chapter. In the seconds following the Baltimore Oriole’s blast, I got booed at Yankee Stadium.

    On this fateful night, I was sitting with my boy Joey Colskore in Weatherman friend Mike’s season tickets. Section 23, Box 91. Great view of the entire field and the rightfielder can hear everything you yell at him.

    Roberts’ blast hit off the screen attached to the foul pole and bounced back down the foul line. Gary Sheffield came over, scooped the ball and looked toward the stands like a smart, fan-friendly player should. The thing of it was that Sheff was no more than 5 feet away from me.

    I jump up. Colskore, seated to my left, boxes out the fake Pedro Martinez, two innocent Yankee chicks and Scorebook guy like the shortest Shaquille O’Neal you’ll ever see. I box out three guys to my right like I’m Bill Russell reincarnated and snatch that baseball with my right hand.

    What an amazing feeling to hold a baseball from a live game in my hand. Never happened before. This was my first foul ball/home run ball ever, and I’ve been going to Yankee games for the last 19 years. I came close twice. The first time, Papa La Monica couldn’t box out the 8-foot Nordic guy from three rows behind us with arms like telephone poles. The second time, I was on a beer run for my friends, I came back to the seats (upper deck, right field) and they’re showing me a Mo Vaughn foul ball. I already disliked the taste of beer, but this sealed the deal.

    So there I am, holding a major league baseball in my hand. The leather was soft and I could feel the pine tar and dirt that was rubbed in it before the game started. It was quite a moment.

    Then Colskore pulled a Fredo and turned on me. He started screaming “Throw it back! Throw it back!” The entire section joined in. Soon, most of right field is screaming at me to throw it back. What the hell am I supposed to do? Sheffield was kind enough to look me in the eye and toss the baseball in my direction and I’m supposed to slap him in the face and take a dump in his hat by throwing it back on the field? That doesn’t seem fair.

    On the other hand, it was a home run by an opponent, and as a rule, those should never be kept. If you want a souvenir that bad, spend the extra 50 cents a get the 44-ounce soda in a souvenir cup. Or splurge for some ice cream in a Yankee helmet.

    Then there’s the Mama La Monica factor to consider. She’d be pissed if she knew that I had the baseball and gave it up. On the other hand, she’d probably be happy that I did it because it was the product of something bad happening to the Yankees (and by default, her “honey buns” Derek Jeter). And Papa La Monica would be mad because then he couldn’t take the ball from me, use it for his baseball team, The Legends, and save $9.

    The smart move is to throw it back, a sign of disgust toward the Orioles and a virtual “Stick it up your patoot, Roberts!” But if I throw it back, odds are I’ll get kicked out. It’s the third inning. The seats were good (and free). No sense in getting tossed this early.

    But I can’t keep this thing, even if that means symbolically spitting on Sheff.

    All these thoughts took place in a span of 12 seconds. So, I turn to my left and give a Jason Kidd no-look pass to the right-field line. That’s right. I gave the ball back. I was content with my decision. Besides, roughly 43,127 of the 43,128 in attendance have never been in the Yankees clubhouse interviewing Sheff, A-Rod, Jeter, Torre and the rest. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

    However, due to my sneaky pass, most of the Stadium thought I kept the ball, so they booed me for keeping an Oriole home run. I was booed in Yankee Stadium. An amazing feeling. By Colskore’s estimation, roughly 29,000 booed me for at least 7 seconds. Do the math. That’s a lot of boos. I felt like Bernie Williams striking out for the 38th time in four games this season. I felt like A-Rod grounding out with runners in scoring position again and again ………and again.

    If only these fans knew the truth. Well, here it is. I gave the ball back and kept my seat at the same time. Take that, you non-observant fans. Boo this!

    Now, I just have to smooth things over with Sheff.

    E-MAIL ME

    Friday, April 08, 2005

    "The Sports Surreal Life"

    Just when it seemed Mariano Rivera was headed for a comfortable spot as a washed-up has-been on the sports version of “The Surreal Life,” along comes John Rocker, fresh off a five-year run as the most hated sports person in New York not named Reggie Miller or Rich Kotite.

    Rocker signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League on Thursday, which arguably is the best thing to happen to Suffolk County since getting its own zip code a number of years ago.

    When will News12 or Telecare do a “Behind the Music” documentary on Johnny Rock?

    The reliever with the big left arm and bigger mouth will become a fan favorite instantaneously if not sooner, kind of like Peter Brady (allegedly known by his real name of Christopher Knight) reinventing himself as a mack daddy and being courted successfully by America’s top model, Adrianne Curry, on the fourth season of VH1’s “The Surreal Life.”

    Hmmm, speaking of “The Surreal Life,” which puts has-beens, former B-level celebrities, wanna-be-but-got-cut-by-the-coach celebrities, and assorted other famous-for-a-minute-or-more people in the same house for a few weeks, it’s amazing to think this hasn’t crossed over into the sports world yet. With the wave of reality crapola television destroying the brain cells of America, it seems a natural fit to combine the two worlds.

    Let’s hope a network executive is out there reading this. If so, here’s a suggestion for the first season’s six-person cast of “The Surreal Sports Life.”

    1) Jose Canseco
    He’s in the news more now than when he was trying to sleep with Madonna in New York City during his playing days. But his gel job and outrageous clothing give him amazing star power. Other perks of him taking up residence in the house: He could offer another opinion on steroids; a trip to his probation officer in Florida would make for great television when the whole cast goes with him. He also fills the slot of relatively recent athlete.

    2) Mary Lou Retton
    She likely hasn’t grown much (vertically, that is) since winning Olympic gold in 1984 and her schedule these days probably has a few open weeks. The sight of this gymnast standing next to Canseco makes her a must for this show. Given her pedigree, she could easily fit the role of house ruler and lay down the law on a weekly basis. This would also help alleviate any post-Olympic trauma that may be lingering 21 years after the fact. Plus, every series needs one of those “Oh my God, I can’t believe she’s still alive” cast members.

    3) Charles Barkley
    Though Dennis Rodman may seem like a more obvious choice, he’s been more exposed than a porn star. Sir Charles is the perfect man for this job. He’s a Southerner who is not afraid to say what he’s thinking. From mind to mouth, there are no filters when it comes to the Round Mound of Rebounds. Can’t you just picture Regis and Kelly or the women on “The View” talking about Barkley’s latest insensitive comments? It’s very likely that Barkley would beat up Canseco, sleep with a cast member on the pool table, insult everyone on and off the show and at the same time be loved by America.

    4) Amanda Beard
    We need someone to pull in the young crowd. We need some sex appeal. And we need someone outlandish enough to have people talking about that sex appeal. Beard is an Olympic champion, so by definition she has some celebrity status but not too much because Olympians are rarely remembered more than once every four years. But everyone remembers this swimmer posing for Maxim, Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issues and other flesh-infested magazines.

    5) Rich Kotite
    Though it’s true the FCC outlawed the spoken usage of those two words in succession, surely we can seek a temporary injunction. This clown may be the worst coach in NFL history, and that history includes Ray Handley, Mike Tice, Joe Bugle, Mike White, Gene Stallings, Dick MacPherson and the bevy of coaches who haven’t even been born yet. Ask a Jet fan which he or she would prefer: a) The Doug Brien field goal fiasco in Pittsburgh; b) Kotite as the head coach. Even Kotite would choose A. However, the show needs an old man and a whipping post, so Kotite fills both roles.

    6) Morganna, the kissing bandit
    What’s a reality show without an old celebrity who was never really a celebrity but became popular because she was blond and, uh, well-endowed in that area above the stomach and below the shoulders? For those wondering, Morganna used to run onto a baseball field and kiss a player. It was one of those strange things that caught on in the 1980s, sort of like leg warmers and painter’s caps with the tails. Couldn’t you just picture Morganna running across the patio to kiss Canseco as he was injecting Kotite with some Deca or Winstrol? That’s why TiVo was invented.

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    Wednesday, April 06, 2005

    Oh, by the way

    Tuesday, April 05, 2005

    My Carolina blue heaven


    I tried to front like the outcome of Monday night's NCAA national championship game didn't really matter to me. I even convinced myself it was possible. Wow, what an amazing lie that was.

    I really thought I wouldn't mind if North Carolina lost to Illinois and Roy Williams continued his pursuit of being the new Phil Mickelson.

    By halftime, my stomach was in knots. It may have been the first known occurence of a hangover without the consumption of alchohol. UNC led, 40-27, but that's no safety net. CHEAP SHOT ALERT! CHEAP SHOT ALERT! Nothing is safe with Raymond Felton throwing the ball like Braden Looper. Plus, as a Raiders fan since 1983 and a Jets fan since 2001, I've seen my share of ridiculous defensive collapses late in games. (Then there's that little matter of the Yankees up 3-0, then down and out 4-3 to Boston in last year's ALCS).

    I followed every shot of the second half. Work be damned! The stories can wait. My Tar Heels were on the verge of something the world hasn't seen since forever and I was not about to miss a minute. Plus there was always the possibility of my DVR not working and I simply was not about to take the chance of missing a play and never being able to recapture all its glory.

    The lead soared to 15, then plummeted to zero with about five minutes left. Then, Ray-Ray put up a ridiculous three from MTV Rock 'N Jock distance while being double-covered. Swish. UNC up, 68-65.

    Fast forward. Game tied at 70. Rashad McCants, who probably hired an agent at the half given his 0 points in the final 20 minutes, got silly and gave the world a look at one of my patented driving layups -- up and under with a ridiculous one-handed hook scoop that doesn't go in. Fortunately, Marvin Williams brought in the hands team from Madden '95 and got the tip-in for the 72-70 lead. Then Ray-Ray comes up with the big steal and some free throws.

    Next thing you know, I'm standing and clapping at a 13-inch color television and screaming in my head. (Hey, I had to at least have the presence of professionalism in the newsroom, or at least fake it best I could.)

    I then sat down, exhausted.

    But wait, here comes "One Shining Moment." Can you believe some people had the nerve to speak during the year's best moment of sappy television? Such insanity. Where did these people grow up? CHEAP SHOT ALERT! CHEAP SHOT ALERT! They're probably Duke fans.

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    Random shining thoughts



    Things that ran through my brain during the three or so hours of North Carolina's triumphant return to the top of college basketball:

    * Sean May is a stud. Should he declare for the NBA draft and my hunch is he will, it will be really fun to watch the Knicks bypass him in the lottery.

    * Raymond Felton has an amazing knack for making UNC fans hate him in the first half and love him in the second. He'll make lazy passes in the first 20 minutes, then amazing ones in the second. He'll commit dumb fouls in the first 20 minutes, then none in the second. He'll miss shots in the first 20 minutes, then drain 25-footers in the second. Then again, if I had to choose, I'd prefer a second-half player.

    * Rashad McCants will turn pro in a matter of minutes.

    * "One Shining Moment" is without a doubt the greatest moment of sappy, emotional string-pulling in television, and I let it happen to me every time.

    * Or, as Editor friend Dave said, "If you don't like get emotional during 'One Shining Moment,' then you don't have a pulse."

    * Roy Williams is no longer "Best coach to have never won a national championship." Somewhere, Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton is pissed at Williams. He's got one more year left and his best players won't be Cowboys next season.

    * Special shoutout to Doctor friend Christy, Writer friend Jason and Editor friend LaRonda, all of whom happen to be Duke fans: Eat it!

    * Back-to-reality disclaimer: I fully understand that Duke's program over the past 15 years has been more consistent than North Carolina, but at least for a day or two, please let me have my shining moment. After all, it'll take another 12 years or so for the Heels to win another one.

    * Marvin Williams should stay in school another year. Maybe then he'll learn how to catch the ball.

    * Of the 10 starters in Monday's night game, there's a chance none of them will be in college next year. Note: Only four are seniors.

    * It seems I should donate a few thoughts to baseball's opening day, what with that always being the best day of the sports year. So here goes: Nice pitch, Looper!

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    Friday, April 01, 2005

    Restoring the pinstripes

    Opening Day is Opening Night this season for the Yankees. It also, just by sheer coincidence, happens to be against the Boston Red Sox the season after the Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series then lost such a series, 4-3, to those same Boston Red Sox.

    Wait, let me rephrase. It also, just by shear coincidence, happens to be against the Boston Red Sox the season after the Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series then completely choked and got a fresh "how's ya father" while losing the next four games in a row to those same Boston Red Sox, the archest of archenemies.

    Oh yeah, the Red Sox won the World Series, too.

    Watching the Yankees become the first baseball team to do such a thing certainly was interesting from a historical perspective. This city has seen its share of championships. At some point, it gets boring, at least for a little while. This may be why far too many men cheat on their wives.

    But as 2005 begins, the Yankees must still wonder how it happened. There will be constant reminders in the next two weeks. From April 3-12, the Yankees play nine games. Six are against the Red Sox. At least one of those games will be on national television, and you can bet the other five will be scrutinized by every John Kruk and Harold Reynolds seconds after the final out. Screaming A. Smith may even get in the mix, just for fun.

    It will be impossible for the Yankees to forget about what happened last October. They will say all the right things when scribes and TV puppets ask their questions. They will conduct themselves as if they lost to Detroit in a six-game series that was a battle the entire way. The average person will marvel at how calm and collected the Yankees appear.

    But no matter what they say, the collapse has to creep into their minds somehow. Forgetting it would be like trying to buy The Godfather Trilogy on DVD and asking the store to not charge you for “The Godfather III.” It won’t work. (I’ve tried.)

    Right now, the Yankees are like 25 versions of Austin Powers running around in search of their mojo, and there’s no Heather Graham waiting at the end of this scene. Just a Fat Bastard named David Wells waiting to steal it once again.

    The voice inside their heads is no longer little. It’s louder than the heavy metal music Wells used to play in the clubhouse on days he pitched. Shoot, it’s louder than Wells. How does a team respond after engineering the greatest choke in baseball history?

    We could argue that it begins this weekend with a few wins at the Stadium, and continues the following week by beating the Red Sox in Fenway the day they receive their rings. We could, but that would be a load of hoo-hah the likes of which we haven’t seen since Biff crashed his car into the horse manure truck in “Back to the Future II.”

    We could argue that the therapy continues throughout the season and every win is a step in the right direction. That’s nice, but they’re not recovering alcoholics.

    The only way to atone for such transgressions is to win the World Series this year. There is no other tolerable course of action. And if the Yankees can beat the Red Sox on their way to a fifth ring in 10 years, well, that’s quite all right, too.

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