I am not, nor do I suspect ever will be, a New York Yankees fan.
As a loyal supporter of the Chicago Cubs I understand all about losing. Anyone remotely interested in baseball knows the Yankees are the antithesis of the Cubs’ 101-year – and counting – World Series drought.
The truth is, as hard as it to swallow, that the World Series is truly the Yankees to lose. The National League Championship Series (NLCS) begins today and the American League Championship Series (ALCS) begins tomorrow.
The NLCS matchup features the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies against the Los Angeles Dodgers. If you accept — as I do — the near inevitability of the Yankees’ advancement to the World Series, then pulling for the Dodgers makes sense on a few levels.
History is certainly a factor, harking back to the Dodgers-Yankees World Series classics of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Arguably the most memorable event in World Series history – Reggie Jackson’s three home runs against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1977 event – cements the legacy. So too was the win by the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers over the Yankees, their only one before moving to L.A. three years later. The Dodgers are also managed by Joe Torre, who guided the Yankees to four titles in five years between 1996 and 2000.
The Yankees are matched up in the ALCS with the Los Angeles Angels, and forget the ridiculously overused David vs. Goliath (1 Samuel 17) metaphors here. The Angels are a good team with deep pitching and feature one of the most consistently overlooked superstars in slugger Vladimir Guerrero. They have also been fueled by the car wreck death of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart, recovering from a protracted slump in the wake of his death.
Other than their season-long dominance over the rival Boston Red Sox – who were neatly disposed of in three straight games by the Angels in the AL Division Series – the two biggest of many reasons why the Yankees should be favored are Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera.
A-Rod’s year started out horribly with revelations about steroid use and an injury. The biggest knock against him by Yankee fans and pundits alike was his lack of postseason production in pinstripes. In New York’s AL Division Series sweep of the Minnesota Twins, A-Rod had five hits and six RBIs. If his production in the beginning of a trend with the steady hand of Derek Jeter and the thump of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees will be nearly unbeatable.
Rivera, at 39, remains the gold standard of postseason closers. With an inhuman 0.74 playoff earned run average over the past 14 years and another lockdown effort against the Twins (3.2 innings pitched, no runs and seven strikeouts), come October the game is over when Rivera gets the ball. To boot, Rivera is a devout Christian who has used his wealth to benefit his native Panama.
In a 2006 interview with the Christian sports magazine Sports Spectrum, Rivera said, “Every time I was going through a hard time, somebody was there to help. It’s not too often when you play in the minor leagues that a coach will tell you he will take care of your son while you stay with your wife at the hospital. My pitching coach did that, and one lady from Panama-I never knew her (before)-offered to stay with my wife while I was playing. Even though I had nobody here, I was never alone. That made me accept Jesus as my Savior. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. It was the Lord putting someone there for me.”
While you may not be a Yankees fan either, Rivera’s talent and outlook provide the finishing touches on what likely will be the franchise’s 27th World Series title.