With the Sox going to Yankee stadium this week for a big series I thought it would be good to discuss a few of the topics with a good friend of mine living in NYC. Joe is someone who lives, eats, sleeps and stresses about the Red Sox just like me, but does so right in the middle of Manhattan, true enemy territory…..
ITM: Joe, the Red Sox are coming to town, the Yanks are somehow still in the race, but team ownership seems ready to ditch this season for the new ballpark and 2009….do most New Yorkers share this opinion?
NY Joe: Obviously real fans aren't going to waive the white flag yet, but a quick scan of the NY dailies will tell anyone that there isn't much hope around here at the moment---not that people are dogging the Yanks; it's that they're hardly talking about them at all. As a Red Sox fan, my suspicion is that really it's some sort of huge Truman Show conspiracy going on where the entire city went to a Joe Girardi press conference where he revealed that Jeter drank some magic potion and Ian Kennedy grew a pair and Robinson Cano opened up the Wikipedia page on baseball and remembered what he was supposed to be on the field for---and that at the end of the conference, Girardi told everyone, "but listen, don't tell that kid Joe about any of this, because it's gonna be funny as hell to see the look on his face when he realizes we're gonna win it all again." But of course, it's possible that's just the usual Sox fan assumption. Absent that scenario, it does seem like a lot of people have given up. Fortunately, they had the Olympics to talk about for the past couple weeks instead. Now the US Open is starting up and that's a surprisingly big deal in the city---sort of a homecoming weekend type thing after people flee this place for August.
These are the main Yankees subjects right now that I'm hearing: 1) People love, love Xavier Nady ; 2) People feel really sorry for Melky---the guy was well-loved, for all his faults ; 3) There's a s*#tstorm brewing around Girardi. The buzz right now aside from the uninspired on-field managing is that he doesn't understand the distinction between not disclosing everything to the press and flat out lying. It's getting fans upset, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets less slack than some expect at the end of the season ; 4) And, obviously, Joba. He's apparently throwing up to 45 pitches in sessions now, but just moved beyond fast-ball changeup stuff. There's a lot of debate now about when and how he comes back---the starter experiment might be done for '08.
ITM: Are the Yanks hyping this series up at all since it is the last time Boston will play at Yankee Stadium? We’ve heard some of that talk here in Beantown, but not too much, thank god.
NY Joe:No, I actually haven't heard anyone bring that angle up coming out of New York. Probably by tomorrow the series will get some steam going, but so far there's hardly any indication that the Sox are in town. That's something that really mystifies me, too, since a good series puts them squarely in Wild Card contention, yet my non-baseball-fan neighbor said that he wouldn't have had any clue that the Sox were in town except the doorman’s claim that Francona walked by our building today. Me and Tito---ships passing in the night. As to the farewell to Yankee Stadium generally: there is definitely rising anxiety about moving to the new ballpark and abandoning the old ghosts. That and people are pretty worried about how expensive it's going to be. The Mets recently made a big to-do about how the big-seat ticket prices at their new Citi Field are significantly lower than the sort of astronomical numbers we're hearing about the new Yankee park. But the Steinbrenners points out that these high-roller tickets are going to keep the cheap seats more affordable than they will be at Citi.
ITM: Is there any sincere concern about the Bluejays passing the Yanks?
NY Joe: I haven't heard anybody talking about it. I'm not sure you get any lower than not making the playoffs in the minds of Yankees fans---that's sort of their attention cellar. There seems to be a faint memory of chiding us a couple years back when we sunk below the Jays, but really the only one talking about it around here is my Canadian girlfriend, and even she's more focused on Jason Bay right now as far as the compatriot scene goes. Also, she asks like every week whether Justin Morneau is a free agent and whether we're gonna sign him or what. She loves that guy. I don't have the heart to tell her that he wasn't actually born in Quebec.
ITM note: Keep that as ammunition for a later, unrelated disagreement between the two of you. Break it out when she least expects it and when you’re in the most trouble, it’ll throw her off so badly that you’ll win by default…just a thought.
ITM: Do you think Yankee fans/ownership are ready to admit that the Sox have had just as many, if not more injuries than the Bronx Bombers this year and they are not the only ones with issues? (This is one topic that particularly annoys me)
NY Joe: They seem to think they have a monopoly on the injury card this year, despite the Sox and the Rays own battles. As far as the Sox, I've heard people acknowledge the Beckett situation, but probably only because he's missing the start against them. Not a peep about Lowell's absence or anyone asking me where the hell J.D. Drew's been. Though to be fair, maybe they don't ask about Drew because the default assumption is that he's injured. Maybe they'd only think to ask me what was up if he was in the lineup and not complaining about something or other. And speaking of injuries, I liked a line I read somewhere this morning (might have even been Cafardo) that Carl Pavano has now officially beat Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes to recording his first win in 2008. What would Yankees fans have thought if you told them that was how this season was going to play out?
ITM Note: They probably would have turned it into a story about the Pinstripes giving Pavano Wolverine-like healing power and they all topped 15 wins on their way to the World Series.
ITM: Did you see the javelin thrower from Paraguay in the Olympics? Wow. Any chance the Sox and Yankees sign her?
NY Joe: Paraguay's landlocked, I know, which for some reason I think gives us the edge over the Yanks in the bidding war.
ITM Note: I don’t know what the hell that means, but I completely agree.
ITM: What’s the sense on the Rays? Is everyone there still blindly hoping/expecting them to fade like most people here?
NY Joe: Nope, I'd say they've made believers out of a lot of New Yorkers. Plus what hope the fans here do have is on the Wild Card, so they'd like, I think, to see the Rays keep up their end of it so that if the Yanks do make a run, it can be to bring the Sox down a notch. That said, no one's looking forward to the remaining Rays' series.
ITM: Last one...Please tell me people in NY don’t actually think they can still win the division…
NY Joe: Of course they do. They're just keeping it a secret from me so that I soar with hubris, then when I'm flying nearest to the gods, they'll watch me tumble to a watery death like Icarus. At least as far as I can tell that's what's going on.
ITM Note: Not sure if I know what that means either....but good work.