As the baseball postseason starts its long, chilly journey into Bud Selig’s November, I’m going to ask America a favor – not a big one – in regard to the American League playoffs:
Root for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Root against the New York Yankees.
(I don’t mean to slight Minnesota and Texas, but the division-rival Rays and Yankees might be baseball’s two best teams, plus the Twins and the Rangers both deserted my once beloved, now beleaguered hometown of Washington, D.C., leaving the nation’s taxation-without-representation capital with the perpetually woebegone Nationals.)
Now, I have never been to Tampa Bay and I don’t know anyone who lives in Tampa Bay. I couldn’t find Tampa Bay on a map if you gave me a map of Tampa Bay, and the newspaper there has never run my column. So, trust me, I have no spiritual affinity for Tampa Bay.
(Incidentally, the team doesn’t even play in Tampa – the stadium is in St. Petersburg, another town with a newspaper that’s never run my column. The entire state, in fact, rejects Couch Slouch. Go figure. Florida is brimming with my core demographic – people who still read newspapers – and I can’t reach a single one of those captive retirees.)
On the other hand, since 2006 I have lived in New York City three months a year. Alas, the 25 percent New Yorker in me grows weary of the 75 percent of my fellow Manhattanites whose world view is defined by the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, WFAN and that dog that won’t stop barking next door.
(If I hear one more subway dissertation on what’s wrong with Javier Vazquez, I’m going to marry the Statue of Liberty and return her to France.)
At the moment, the Yankees have 27 World Series titles and the Rays none. No one outside of New York and New Jersey will care if, in another month, the count is 27 to 1.
Anyway, Rays vs. Yankees is Bambi vs. Godzilla, minus Godzilla’s charm.
The Yankees have three bona fide Hall of Famers in Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera, plus four others – CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mark Teixeira – who conceivably could get there. The Rays have a middle reliever whose uncle once drove past Cooperstown on a family vacation.
The Yankees have a $210 million player bankroll; they even have a line item in their budget for Jeter’s acting coach. The Rays’ payroll is $76 million – that doesn’t even cover the Yankees’ infield costs – and due to a recent budget cutback, the team travels without a designated hitter.
The new Yankee Stadium cost $1.6 billion. Tropicana Field was largely funded through double coupons.
The Yankees’ manager is Joe Girardi, the Rays’ manager is Joe Maddon – I like Tampa Bay Joe better. Girardi micromanages every moment of the game. Maddon, I am told, often is doing Sudoku puzzles in the late innings.
There have been Broadway musicals and network documentaries about the Yankees. I’m not sure Rays games are even televised.
New York is the media capital of the world. Tampa Bay, I believe, has a town crier.
(By the way, New York also has the best food in the nation, but the Tampa-St. Pete area has 24 Chili’s and 24 Applebee’s, which means there’s some good eatin’ in the neighborhood.)
While the Big Apple is overripe with sports devotion, Tampa has a healthier daily routine. I like the fact that most Tampa residents ignore the Rays. In their final 15 home games, they had six crowds under 18,000. None of the September home games against the Yankees drew 30,000, and the final home stand of the year included a crowd of 12,446.
(Why fight traffic to Tropicana Field to watch the Rays when you can drink some Tropicana at home and watch “Glee” at a fraction of the cost?)
So, please, America, let’s rally ‘round the team with no fans and no titles.
Frankly, I’d move to Tampa Bay tomorrow, but I fear I’d run into too many New Yorkers.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Since the Mayan calendar sets us up for an apocalyptic ending on Dec. 21, 2012, do you think that the Evil Powers have already hired Tim McCarver as color commentator, just to make it that much worse? (Les Utz; Frederick, Md.)
A. They wanted McCarver, but he couldn’t commit in case the 2012 World Series is still in progress.
Q. Why doesn’t the NFL referee announce the offending official’s number when a blown call is reversed via instant replay? Then scorn and shame can be heaped upon him. (Mike LaRoche; Indianapolis)
A. I believe you are ahead of your time. It shall come.
Q. Do you think the pending legislation on embryonic stem cells will inhibit USC’s program for in vitro recruiting? (Dean Runkle; Herndon, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Just wondering – when I’ve been married for a total of 10 years, and five to the same woman, does that give me the right to veto any trade? (Andy Salomon; Brooklyn, N.Y.)
A. Pay the (marrying) man, Shirley.