Three weeks into the MLB 2010 season and the Yankees and Orioles finally played against one another last night, setting off another instance of the Tempering By Fire of my marriage. You might think that April baseball drama is hard to come by, since the impact of those games on final season standings is about as meaningful as the first three minutes of a basketball game are in determining the winner. But never underestimate the singular gravity of the AL East.
Not helping matters at all was the fact that the O’s have been off to what can charitably be described as a rocky start. Uncharitably, one might point out that, going into Tuesday night’s game at Camden Yards, Baltimore had the worst record in the majors and had yet to notch a single W at home. As an unapologetic and insufferable Yankees fan, I of course prefer to see New York not just win, but dominate, and I usually look forward to the match-ups against the more hapless clubs (your KC Royals or your Pittsburgh Pirates), which meant that I couldn’t even play the “hey, it should be a good game” canard. Not while I was licking my chops at the prospect of my team’s bats carving up my wife’s team’s bullpen, I couldn’t.
Fortunately my beloved was working late during the first few frames, as the Yankees’ starter Phil Hughes struggled some but got out of a couple jams relatively unscathed (pitch count notwithstanding), while the rest of the Bombers chipped away and established a lead. Then my wife got home and there was indeed some bullpen-carving to be witnessed, but shockingly it was the O’s on offense making the Yankees relievers look like chumps. All of which culminated in a Yankees rally against a 3-run O’s lead in the ninth inning, as the Yankees small-balled their way into a position wherein they might actually snatch victory from the jaws &c. while the O’s closer Alfredo Simon showed some unsteadiness, amounting to the ultimate lose-lose situation for me:
If the Yankees lost, they lost, which always gives me the mean grumpies, especially when the loss comes against a team they should be able to beat on any given day. (On paper. But we don’t play the game on paper, do we, Jim?!?!?!)
If the Yankees won, it would have been a heartbreaker for the O’s, who had had a solid outing as a team to that point and did not, in any cosmic/karmic sense, deserve to suffer the indignity of yet another blown save, yet another day with zero wins at the Yard and the stairway out of the basement getting longer and longer. And of course my wife would be sad, doubly so for having allowed her hopes to be raised by the eight previous innings (or technically the two or three that she saw) only to be thrown under the Steamroller from 161st Street.
So as it went, the Yanks’ rally fell short and the O’s gutted out the 5-4 win, and good on them, and all in all my own personal grumpies are preferable to the righteous resentment of my better half.
I often try to envision a significant American League scenario which would actually be a win-win. I think it might develop something like this: The Yankees cruise to win the AL East, while the Orioles claw their way into the wildcard spot. (Of course, this being the ultimate win-win fantasy, the Red Sox finish dead last with the worst record in the history of the majors, 13 – 149 would be nice, and are unceremoniously sold to a foreign conglomerate. Hopefully one orbiting Alpha Centauri.) The Yankees take their ALDS series to five games, but lose what seems like a sure thing in the decisive all-the-marbles ninth due to egregious fan interference (which would in fact be cosmic/karmic payback for 1996 and hopefully would mean I would never EVER have to hear the name “Jeffrey Maier” again, once the inevitable firestorm of comparisons had died down). Meanwhile the O’s would win their Division Series and, now playing for the pride of the entire East, would sweep the ALCS and go on to ultimately triumph in the World Series over, I don’t know, the Marlins or someone equally unlovable.
I can dream!!!