If the Yankees and their fans had not just gone through a wretched, wrenching, one-year absence from the postseason perhaps resulting in a rare and surely temporary feeling of appreciation at simply getting back there schadenfreude might take precedence over pleasure this Sunday. Because this was not only a day when the Yankees emerged victorious, advancing to their first American League Championship Series since 2004 (five years, people! five years!). It was also a day that their enemies suffered.
We’ll ignore, at least until the morning, the combo of the brutal Patriots loss and the Giants’ victory over the Division I-AA playoff aspirant Oakland Raiders. Yankee fans saw the Red Sox swept by the Angels in particularly brutal fashion in the afternoon the foundation of the Sox’s swagger the last few seasons, infuriatingly frattish closer Jonathan Papelbon, finally imploded in the way close observers have been predicting all season and then watched their team stomp all over the trachea of infuriating bust Carl Pavano in the evening. Pavano was brilliant for most of the game, holding the Yankees scoreless for six innings, but the way he ultimately lost, giving up homers to Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada (both on good pitches), had to be particularly demoralizing. To pitch the game of your life, on the grandest stage you’ll ever perform on, and to lose like that… well, you have to wonder if it would have been easier for Pavano to just give up six runs in the first inning and be done with it.
So! Papelbon? Check. Pavano? Check. Just one more nemesis to go: those blasted Angels. The ones the Yankees have always struggled with, a team that has won a World Series since the Yankees last did, the team that knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs in 2002 and 2005. But they must wait. Until Friday. Man, that feels far away all of a sudden, doesn’t it?
No matter what happens, you have to marvel at what has happened to Alex Rodriguez, who suddenly looks like the casually devastating baseball genius that New York paid hundreds of millions for in the first place. When you are flicking home runs to the opposite field like the one he hit off Pavano tonight on an outstanding pitch you are locked in. It’s becoming more difficult to consider this a fluke, harder to remember the faint, pallid, sweating playoff A-Rod of old. He is hotter than he has been at almost any time as a Yankee, and it is happening at the perfect moment.
Game one at Yankee Stadium isn’t for five days. That’s forever. Is there somewhere A-Rod can be placed in suspended animation until then, so that he has no time to think about what he’s doing, about the import of the next two weeks? We hear there’s some recently opened space available at the Alcor labs. Worth a look, anyway.