Manifest Destiny

Rangers and Giants: Teams of Destiny


In the past 72 hours I have been on a handful of radio shows, and each time the host has asked me if I agreed that the Rangers looked like a “team of destiny.”  Well, not all of them. Some of them have asked me if I agreed that the Giants looked like  a “team of destiny.” Some quick Googling reveals multiple articles and forums in which the media covering and the fans rooting for both teams are considering whether their guys truly are fated to win this thing. The only person I’ve seen dismiss the concept out of hand is Jeff Francoeur, and since he’s wrong about just about everything maybe there’s something to this.

As a guy who doesn’t believe in fate or destiny or any related form of magical thinking, these questions have flummoxed me. I mean, man, even if the invisible hand of fate was making all of this happen, you’d think it would find a more efficacious avatar than Juan Uribe through which to work. But like I said, I’m out of my depth here.

But a lot of people do believe in this kind of thing, bless their little hearts. They truly believe that their team is destined to win. Which is fairly nuts. I mean, even if you find a Yankees fan with the most stereotypical sense of entitlement imaginable, they never say that theirs is a team of destiny. They think the Yankees win because of fairly simply yet immutable laws of nature, perfectly observable by scientists. And they’re probably closer to being right than the team of destiny crowd. There’s probably a lesson in here too: it’s only fans of flawed underdogs who believe that their team is a Team of Destiny. I mean, something had to help them get past the Phillies and the Yankees of the world, right?

The saddest thing about this is that one of the teams is going to have to win, thus making half of the Destiny Crowd believe they were right.  Who knows what other silly beliefs such a turn of events will bolster? If the fates deigned that their baseball team worthy of a championship, maybe they will make Junior’s strep throat go away without antibiotics. Maybe they’ll make that work-from-home business pan out.  One of these teams winning is going to screw up the social order, dammit, I just know it.

And for the losers? For the people who believed in fate, yet had their hopes and dreams crushed by a World Series loss? A descent into nihilism. Which is way worse than even believing that your team is fated to win.  I mean, say what you like about the tenets of Divine Predestination,  Dude, but at least it’s an ethos.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.