Mets fans: "rooting for the Phillies to fail"

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Two storylines you’ll hear a lot of between now and the first pitch on Wednesday night are (a) how bad it’s going to be for Indians’ fans to see a Cliff Lee vs. CC Sabathia matchup in Game 1 of the World Series; and (b) how bad it’s going to be for Mets fans to see perhaps their two biggest rivals — and certainly their two biggest bogeymen — facing off in the Yankees and the Phillies.

While I’m not an Indians fan, I am an Ohioan, and I can pretty much say that the Lee-Sabathia thing is overplayed. Midwesterners tend to take things like that in stride, and it’s not like Clevelanders are any strangers to bad fortune.  Tribe fans feel pretty good about both Lee and Sabathia, neither of whom left Cleveland voluntarily, and each of whom provided a lot of enjoyment while they were here.  Indians Nation blames Mark Shapiro and the Dolans for letting those big guys go, and second on the list of blame is baseball’s whole financial structure, which most of them feel is simply broken (which it may be, though I don’t think Tribe fans are first among those who have been wronged by the system). Upshot: no one is going to freak out about this too much in Cleveland.

Mets fans, however? Well, that’s a different story.  Mets blogger Matt Cerrone:

. . . the Phillies anger me every day, where as I only think of the Yankees during a few days in June and the occasional October.

So, for me, I can handle knowing my respectful Yankee friends and family are happy, because it means Phillies fans will be sad and disappointed, and their failure makes me happy.  So, again, it’s not that I am rooting for the Yankees, it’s that I’m rooting for the Phillies to fail.

I have a hard time putting myself in the shoes of Mets fans — they’re pretty delusional shoes, after all — but I think I can get behind that line of reasoning.  The Yankees have only directly killed the Mets’ dreams once.  The Phillies have done it fairly often in recent years. Or, at the very least, they were closer to the scene of the crime when the Mets killed their own dreams by imploding late in the season.  Either way, if I were a Mets fan, I’d have to root for the Yankees to win or, as Cerrone puts it, root for the Phillies to lose. 

Actually, now that I think about it, if I were a Mets fan, I’d probably just order a full season’s worth of some shows I’ve missed on NetFlix and pretend that the World Series was already over.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.