Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Backing the Enemy? Yankee Fans Face Dilemma When Sox Play Rays, Rangers

An old adage advises people to “keep their friends close, and their enemies closer.” This thought process has seemingly never translated to the trench warfare of the Yankees-Sox rivalry.

Even at the expense of level-headedness and the bases of logic, fans on either side of the barbed wire fence refuse to wish good things upon their mortal enemy.

By no means is this concept intended to spark applause and fist pumps from Yankee fans each and every time the Red Sox capture a victory—or spend nights wishing on a star for an ALCS rematch.

There is, however, a time and a place for rationality to overcome disdain.

There exists a situation where it is acceptable and prudent to secretly raise a mental “foam finger” (no, not that finger) in support of the Boston Red Sox.

This does not prevent Yankee fans from sleeping like Rip Van Winkle in the event of a Boston loss, but any matchup of the Sox with a Wild Card contender should at least spawn a dilemma in their thought process.

The Yankees currently sit at 64-42, which is good enough to maintain a 1.5 game lead on Boston in the AL East race.

However, their hypothetical “Wild Card lead” is a mere 4.5 games over a surging and resilient Texas Rangers team. The Rays are not far behind, and currently face a 5.5 game deficit.

What does this mean? The Yankees are one bad week away from fighting for their Wild Card lives, let alone battling for reclamation of AL East supremacy.

With injury and “breakdown” concerns surrounding Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, and the bullpen in general, no team could benefit more from a tranquil September than New York.

The perceived “unmovable” innings limit on improving fourth starter Joba Chamberlain has also allowed doubt to creep into any late-season philosophies.

In order to supply adequate rest for their aging, recovering, and protected players, the Yankees will need to establish an insurmountable Wild Card lead.

The only chance New York has at a run to the World Series is ensuring that it is recuperated and refreshed when entering October baseball.

This is where the Red Sox, and to a lesser extent the Angels, come in.

Boston and New York can blow Tampa out of the race, and LAA can provide the same knockout blow to their Texan foes.

If the Yankees can then handle their business in head-to-head matchups with Boston, and prevent them from gaining ground in the standings over the series’ last 10 games, a playoff appearance is virtually guaranteed.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi and company would then have nothing to fight for in September but playoff positioning—without the pressure of having to overuse key starting pitchers, position players, and bullpen staples.

It may seem unorthodox or uncomfortable, but you should not feel like the baseball version of Benedict Arnold for occasionally golf-clapping Red Sox regular season triumphs.

You are not supporting the Taliban, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or the redcoats—or giving a metaphorical high-five to Kim Jong-il or Adolf Hitler.

You are instead rationalizing what is most important for your team to recapture the ring and trophy that “success” in this city is personified as.

It is ok to root for Brad Penny and Boston tonight in their series finale with Tampa Bay, so long as you can flip the switch to pure and unadulterated hatred come Thursday night.

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