(Photo from Yahoo! Sports)
“I love the guy. He’s great. But if he digs in too hard I’m gonna have to hit him in the neck.” – Mike Timlin on Trot Nixon.
Here’s the thing: I like the Indians. I’ve liked ’em for a while now. Not just because they’ve become Trotter’s new home or because Grady Sizemore can smuggle illegal immigrants across the border in those ridiculous dimples but because, you know, they’re a pretty good baseball team. They’re scrappy and they’ve got heart. But not in that obnoxious David Eckstein way. Their manager looks like a serial killer and I dig that about him. It’s good to have someone on the bench who looks like they might snap and kill four people if you so much as spit a sunflower seed in their direction. See also: Tavarez, Julian. Plus, they beat the Yankees. That’s gonna give me warm fuzzies no matter how you slice it.
Now people asked me who I’d rather face in the ALCS, the Indians or the Yankees. And while I was quick to point out that we had to get there first (ever superstitious), my answer was always the same: bring on the Indians. Because, and I know I’ve mentioned it before in this space, but I am so done with the Yankee thing. Of course I was happy to see them get knocked out in the first round (again) and I eagerly await the carnage and bloodshed that reigns down from Steinbrenner’s underground lair, but I am tired of baseball being all Yankees/Red Sox, all the time. There are other teams. The Indians are one of them. Let’s play them this time.
Of course, there’s also the little matter of 2004 and how, with every passing year, the legend of that grows more intense and extreme. And no matter what we do, we’ll never surpass that level of emotion, of come-from-behind-ness, of intensity. Even if the Sox were to pull the same “dig self out of an 0-3 hole again,” it wouldn’t be the same. You only get one first time.
That said, this series against the Indians looks to be a great one. Both teams have excellent pitching, potentially explosive offense and both are playing great baseball right now. And that’s what the playoffs are supposed to be about. Two great teams beating the crap out of each other for the pennant. I, for one, am excited.
You see, when the Sox play the Yankees, I spend most of the games angry, craving blood and hellfire. I throw things, I break things, and my cat hides under the sofa (where he doesn’t fit, actually, but that’s another matter). The “good baseball” part becomes secondary because, try as I might, I can’t let go of the “AHHHH, APOCALYPTIC BASEBALL WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE, STUPID YANKEES ARE EVIL AHHHHH!” thing that we’re all fed constantly. It’s just too ingrained. All rational thought goes out the window and I spend every pitch dry-heaving. But now, with that pressure removed, I’m thrilled to see two excellent teams go at it. The way I see it, if the Sox were to lose to the Indians, there’d be no shame in that. I wouldn’t be happy about it, obviously, but I might be able to sleep with that result eventually. The Sox and Indians have identical records this year. They’re an even match. This is how it should be.
Plus, there’s always the chance that Eric Wedge and Tavarez will get into a staring contest that will eventually result in someone shooting lasers out of their eyes or that Manny will decide to kidnap Trotter during the seventh inning of Game 1 and force him to tell him stories from inside the Green Monster. To say nothing of Jason Varitek being forced to reveal his superpowers in front of a packed house at Fenway. It’s playoff baseball. Anything can happen.
“We saw him and he got his ovation – which he deserved – but I hope he doesn’t get anymore. If he gets too many of those, it means he’s on base way too often.” – Terry Francona on Trot Nixon.