We don’t cheer the sun coming up. We don’t cheer the grass coming in green. Yet we always cheer the Yankees going away. It’s heartening to know we can still appreciate the given things.
What’s that you say? It wasn’t a given that New York’s junior circuit entry would go away for good in 2019, especially when on Saturday night the sixth game of the American League Championship Series got itself tied in the top of the ninth inning and Game Seven loomed as a genuine possibility? Perhaps. It is baseball, and we are fond of reminding one another that in baseball, especially in baseball’s postseason, anything can happen — especially in a Game Seven and pivotally in a Game Six. What happened in the top of the ninth of Game Six was DJ Lamahieu poking a two-run homer just over the right field fence at Minute Maid Park and knotting the Astros at four, briefly casting into doubt the outcome of who would represent the AL in the World Series and disturbing the ultimate autumnal tranquility we have known and cherished since the unrequested ruckus of November 2009.
But a World Series in the 2010s by definition is a set of baseball games that never includes the New York Yankees. Not in any year between 2010 and 2018 and, as we approached the bottom of the ninth in Houston, not 2019. Not yet, anyway.
Not yet at all. Aroldis Chapman, heretofore untouchable fireballing closer, recorded two quick outs to keep Game Six tied, 4-4. Then he walked George Springer, bringing up Jose Altuve. Jose Altuve is not who you want up if you’re rooting for Aroldis Chapman.
Which none of us was, I’m pretty sure. Thus, we were quite content to see the mightiest mite swing and connect with a Chapman pitch that was next seen banging off a wall well above the high yellow home run line in left-center field. All those pinstripe-inflected lists being hastily updated to add Lamahieu to the ranks of Chambliss, Dent and Boone were just as suddenly subject to a quick Ctrl+Z. Instead, you could ink into legend a game-winning, pennant-clinching, Yankee-vanquishing home run. Astros take Game Six, 6-4; the ALCS, 4-2; and our hearts, for sure.
You’d think after ten consecutive Elimination Days — seven of them in October, four on the doorstep of the Fall Classic — that we contemporary denizens of the 2010s would be used to the Yankees going away. Within the parameters of a decade that has contained ten postseasons, it literally happens every year. But that doesn’t make its annual occurrence any less sweet.
Once Springer crossed home plate on Altuve’s blessed blast, Greater New York’s big-time professional sports championship drought reached 2,812 days, dating back to February 5, 2012, when the Giants snatched Super Bowl XLVI from the Patriots (no offense, Cyclones, Ducks and latter-day Cosmos). Daniel Jones’s and Sam Darnold’s respective right arms represent the next conceivable chance for the New York area to break through on any side of the Hudson. By the time we know for sure they haven’t — though anything can happen in any sport — we’ll be up to eight years without a full-blown celebration going off anywhere around here. Time was the Yankees could be counted on to interrupt fallow periods with a gaudy parade. Some New Yorkers got a kick out of that sort of thing. Many didn’t. We’ll take going kickless.
The 2019 ALCS now belongs to history, having taken its place alongside standouts of the genre like the 1980, 2004, 2010, 2012 and 2017 editions. If you’re a Mets fan who remembers living through prior decades, you understand why this is sometimes how we get our kicks. If you’re a Mets fan who came of baseball age in 2010 or later, you’ve probably figured out through life experience why the rest of us particularly cherish these moments of Sheadenfreude, the very specific Teutonic phrase for Mets fans exulting in the misfortune of teams we detest, especially when they and the bulk of their followers are based uncomfortably nearby.
The World Series is best when part of it takes place in Queens (which it did in this decade once). The World Series is next-best when none of it takes place in the Bronx. This World Series, between the Astros and Nationals, will be just fine. They’ve all been no worse than just fine from 2010 forward. May the 2020s be at least that good.