Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A fun year to be a Yankee fan

June 1, 2005. Fourth-place Yankees.

Wow! There are two sentences you never expected to hear in that order. At least in the post-1994 era, back when the Yankees were running away with American League before the strike delayed Don Mattingly’s first playoff appearance another year.

Speaking of 1995, didn’t the Yankees win 25 of their final 31 games that season to capture the AL wild card? Yes, I believe they did.

Ever since, Yankee fans developed a sense of playoff entitlement, never once considering that the team might struggle along the way.

Have a heart, people. Even the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls lost 10 games. And they had MJ, who cannot be compared with A-Rod, simply because baseball does not allow for one-man dominance the way basketball does.

The 2005 Yankees might just be the most exciting team since 1998. That team won every night and it was relatively new to see such domination. Following them in 1998 meant staring at the box score in amazement over another Yankee win and another six-game win streak and another Tino Martinez home run and another Paul O’Neill punching of a water cooler because he only went 3-for-4.

In the years afterward, the Yankees beating everyone up became passé. Sort of like when that new song you love hits the radio. You buy the single, listen to it 32 times in a week, then get tired of it.

That’s what the Yankees have done to baseball. Every year, they are the favorite to win. Every year, they add another few million to the payroll, making it that much harder to root for them.

And I’m a Yankee fan!!!!

But I remember the 1991 pitching rotation, which included Wade Taylor. ‘Nuff said.

I remember 1985, when the Yankees had to go into Toronto and sweep to win the AL East. They won the first game, lost the second, and then Phil Niekro earned his 300th win on the final day of the season.

That was exciting.

And so is 2005. Who knows what will happen? As Yankee fans, we must now monitor Baltimore, Boston and Toronto. And whoever thinks the Orioles and Blue Jays will falter, you may be right, but it’s June 1 and we’re still talking about them. No one expected that.

Now we don’t know what to expect. Kevin Brown could pitch a good game. Or, he could just pitch like Kevin Brown. We don’t know.

Randy Johnson might strike a few people out. He might even serve up three bombs. We don’t know.

A-Rod could hit three homers, or make three errors. We don’t know.

Which makes being a Yankee fan fun again. The Orioles and the Red Sox wrap up their three-game series on Wednesday. Yankee fans must hope against a sweep. That’s the best case scenario right now because there’s no sign of the Orioles slowing down. Not with that lineup. Plus, they’ve stunk up the joint something awful in recent years, so any little bit of success means a lot to hungry players.

The Red Sox aren’t going away, either, even if Curt Schilling doesn’t pitch again this season and Johnny Damon keeps running into walls. So long as the Yankees refuse to intentionally walk, pitch around or brush back David Ortiz, the Red Sox will remain a half-game ahead of the Yankees.

Every game from here on matters. They’re all important because, even though the Yankees won 16 of 18, they also lost 19 of 30.

It should make for an exciting summer. Unless, of course, you became a Yankee fan in October of 1996.