Tuesday, April 02, 2002

(Not) America's Team by Kip Yates

I was watching the American League Championship Series this past October between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners when I heard a lame brained broadcaster (I don't remember who it was exactly. They all start to morph together after a while.) proclaim that the Yankees were trying to win it all for America. Now let me explain something. I cannot stand the Yankees. Hate'em if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty. There isn't a team in professional sportdom that I despise any more than I do the New York Yankees. Not just this current crop of pinstripers either. I am one of the few New Yorkers, my friend Matt and his Dad the others, who cannot stomach the long tradition and history and Yankee lore that we are force fed every October. (Mantle, DiMaggio, Ruth? I’ve seen better!) So it occurred to me that not all of America was rooting for the Yankees.

At this particular time, with the city of New York reeling from a terrorist attack only a month earlier, and American patriotism at a high not seen since World War II, I was wondering just who the Mariners were playing for. For whom did the Mariners and later the Arizona Diamondbacks want to win if not for our country? Were they not part of America too? We’re they in secret cohorts with the Communists or worse yet, terrorists cells throughout the World? The “Axis of Evil?” Who would dare oppose the mighty “All-American” Yankee squad? Then it occurred to me that these teams with the audacity to challenge the mighty Yankees must be punks...plain and simple. But Edgar Martinez and Brett Boone are pretty good guys as are Luis Gonzalez and Curt Schilling. This led me to despise the Yankees even more, and worse yet, I wanted a team, any team to “punk” them.

Shortly after the curtain closed on Game 5 of the World Series, I was left to ponder what might have been if Byung-Yun Kim had taken some computer job in his native Korea. I prepared myself for more of the same unadulterated machismo that I inherently wandered into while walking the streets of New York City after the Yankees had won another title. My nightmare would continue for another year, unless Randy Johnson and Schilling could shut down the Yanks in games six and seven. Of course, there was always the reoccurring nightmare of Kim picking up a ball again, which scared the daylights out of me. So my mind began to wander.

What collection of punks could dethrone this team? It had to be punks because the nice guys in San Diego, Atlanta, and that other New York team did not get the job done and it appeared that barring a miracle, the guys from Arizona were not going to dethrone the Yanks either. Who would I sign on to my All-Punk team? My un-American team if you will? Who would not be afraid to slide hard into Derek Jeter, besides Mariah Carey? What pitcher would not bat an eyelash at throwing a bull’s eye at Jorge Posada's noggin? Who would give these guys the just punishment they deserved? That is when I decided to assemble my team of miscreants and for what it is worth, here they are:

FIRST BASE: Wil Cordero is so punk that he has come full circle that he is not even “punk” anymore. Because he continually beats his wife despite jail time and an aborted league suspension (thanks again, Players Union!), he is the lowest of the “punk” order: He is a scoundrel! But the deposed Cam Bonifay, Dan Duquette and everyone’s favorite virtue merchant, John Hart, thinks the man can still swing a bat so that’s all I need. He hits number five in my line-up.

SECOND BASE: Felix Martinez, the little known former Kansas City Royals prospect for that broken jaw he gave a base runner a couple years ago with a hard tag. Just the kind of thing that Paul O‘ Neil needs. He is my number eight hitter.

SHORTSTOP: This is a toughie because they are all pretty swell guys, but I am going to take Omar Vizquel with this one. Sure there isn't anything remotely “punk” about him, but he did threaten to hold out for more money after Roberto Alomar joined the Tribe and I hear that, unlike contemporaries Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, he does not help old ladies cross the street. Vizquel is my number two hitter.

THIRD BASE: Charley Hayes doesn’t bring any particular talent to my team other than his willingness to rush the mound after every brush back, bean ball, ball on the inside corner of the plate, strike out...you get the idea. He bats seventh.

CATCHER: Mitch Meluskey is recruited because he punched Houston Astro teammate Matt Mieske during batting practice and pretty much wrote his own ticket to Detroit. Insert laughter here! Oh yeah... he’s punk! He's a number six in the order punk.

LEFT FIELD: Gary Sheffield represents my un-American all punk team in left because of his bad attitude and his even badder swing. I choose him even though I know that when we start losing he’s going to want to go play someplace else. Until then, he is my cleanup hitter.

CENTER FIELD: I have to be careful with this selection because I understand Carl Everett doesn’t like being called no punk. He also doesn’t believe that Dinosaurs ever existed but that's for another place (read: insane asylum). He is badder than Leroy Brown and ballsy enough to challenge Yankee Mike Mussina’s near perfect game. I like that... and did I mention that the guy can play. He bats third.

RIGHT FIELD: Ricky Henderson is not going to like that I am moving him to right field from left but he has to understand that in his 43 years, he has lost a step. Also, Juan Gonzalez wanted to play for my team, but at the last minute he chose the tax free money that the Barry Manilow All-Stars offered, so I had to settle for the Mouth in right. The best lead off hitter ever bats lead off.

PITCHER: Randy Johnson is not a punk in the same vein as the rest of these guys, but a nasty slider, a wicked fastball, six feet ten inches of intimidation personified gives my team the best opportunity to defeat New York. 200 wins, over 3,400 strikeouts, a near three E.R.A. and the ‘Kentucky Waterfall’ he sports is reason enough for him to anchor my team of outcasts.

There you have it. My starting lineup and last great hope to defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series and save me from another agonizing off season of what if's and woulda/coulda/shoulda’s.

And now, the Yankees are just Mark Grace, Damian Miller, and whomever Bob Brenley decides to pinch-hit for Randy Johnson away from winning their fourth straight World Series. Mariano Rivera is on the mound and has not blown a post season save in 23 games and he just blew threw the Diamondbacks order in the eighth inning. Arizona doesn’t stand a chance…At least that is what we all thought didn’t we. It turns out that there isn’t any need for my team of infidels and villains after all. The Diamondbacks are World Series Champions. They won it for America. Hallelujah!

No comments: