These damn Yankees are making me care about baseball again

My doctor says I should avoid unnecessary stress.

That’s why I cheer for the Chicago Bears. They are usually out of contention by late September.

I don’t have a favorite NBA team, though I enjoy the Golden State Warriors.

So, the days of me getting riled up during the NBA Finals have long passed.

But baseball, the sport I love the most and is managed by its owners the poorest, is where I must be very careful.

I root for the New York Yankees.

For most of my life, it was completely safe to root for the Yankees.

They won the World Series in 1977 and 1978, but I was too young to remember those teams.

Anything I know about them is from books and documentaries.

The Yankees I grew up with were those of Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, a lot of great players who underperformed, and terrible trades that kept the Yankees mediocre most of my childhood.

But there was always “Donny Baseball,” cranking dingers, scooping low throws to first, and embodying the best player in baseball from about 1983 to 1989.

He injured his back in ’89 and was never quite the same.

This strange and frightening thing happened: The Yankees got better.

They made the playoffs in 1995, losing a heartbreaking series to the Seattle Mariners.

Then Mattingly retired.

And the Yankees got even better.

In 1996, rookie shortstop Derek Jeter, who shared the same birthday as me, led the Yankees to their first World Series since 1978.

This was horrifying.

I found myself emotionally involved with the daily box scores.

(Younger readers, if there is such a creature, will have to look up “box scores” on Google.)

Between 1996 and 2003, the Yankees won the American League pennant six times and won the World Series four times.

This was very stressful.

When your team has a chance of winning, suddenly reports about high ankle sprains and turf toe become harbingers of doom for a happy fall.

The Yankees cooled off after winning one more in 2009.

They went to the playoffs a lot, but you could tell they didn’t have the spunk needed to win it all.

For the last dozen years, baseball returned to a pleasant background noise to be checked in on occasionally between other activities of greater import, such as going on Facebook to wish happy birthday to someone I barely knew from high school.

I thought for sure I wouldn’t be bothered with baseball in 2022 given the late start to the season over another labor dispute between owners and players. Billionaire owners arguing with multi-millionaire players give a guy who couldn’t afford a ticket to a single Yankees game very little to root for.

But now, just two weeks away from the All-Star break, all that preseason animus has faded and I find myself nibbling on my fingernails again.

The Yankees are good. They have the best record in baseball. The win with big home runs, sacrifice flies, and everything in between.

Detractors mock the distance of Yankee Stadium’s rightfield wall.

Those same critics fall silent when it’s noted the Yankees have the best team ERA in baseball, too.

The team had won 58 games through Tuesday, the most in the majors.

This makes me nervous. Is the Paul Bunyan-esque figure of Aaron Judge going to stay healthy for the entire season?

What trades could be made to solidify a sometimes defensively mediocre outfield?

Can journeyman Matt Carpenter maintain his flawless mustache?

These damn Yankees are going to force me to care about baseball again.

Apathy is so much easier. There’s no emotional build-up when your team’s got no juice.

But these Yankees remind me of the 1998 Yankees, who had all the juice.

I’m going to be looking up box scores online before I go to bed and checking records and waiting for the magic number.

The Yankees are making me care about baseball again.

I guess I can live with that.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Express.


Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
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