“Who are these guys?”
Nobody ever accused the Fox network of holding back the truth when it had the power to embarrass.
Still, when the network flew the caption “Who are these guys?” over the number of unearned runs (5) given up on fielding errors (2) by the New York Yankees in the first game of the 2001 World Series, it dropped like a howl from a hidden Greek chorus on such a pathetic and puzzling loss.
Indeed, who are these guys?
The 2001 Yankees are a paradoxical team, both slower and sleeker than they have been in the past. Andy Petitte appears burdened, and a clunkier pitcher than before, though we recognize him through a mist of hits as the team’s greatest master of pressure.
Derek Jeter, looking more stunned and innocent than ever, has no plays to make at shortstop — unless the ball bounces off Petitte, as it did in the seventh inning of game two before Matt Williams bounced one up into the left-field stands.
Graceful, but forever overestimated, David Justice drops balls in right while Paul O’Neill crusts over on the bench.
Chuck Knoblauch has been exiled to left field, where he contemplates the D-Backs purple wall. His replacement at second base, the rookie Alfonso Soriano, always completes his throws, but lacks experience, not to mention Knoblauch’s tough and trembling face that seemed uniquely appropriate for Fall Classics in the Bronx.
And no Yankee has hit well in the first two World Series games of 2001.
But who has? Both the slumping Yankees and the dangerously predictable Arizona Diamondbacks — they just hit — are uninspiring at the plate.
If the first two games of this series have been a grand exhibition for pitching, as TIm McCarver has claimed in his Fox broadcasts, then why have they been so unsatisfying? Why hasn’t great pitching taken on the drama that great hitting so often provides?
I think the answer lies in what we expect from such strong batting orders, though our expectations are never quite fulfilled, except in quick pileups of runs from the Diamondbacks or a long homer from a Yank. The first two games of this series have been not so much played as scored. Such instant gratification leaves us feeling like witnesses rather than fans.
Can the Yankees come back? I ask you, truly, to help me with an answer here. And the Fox sports desk seems equally nervous, rather than saddened like fans, at the lack of good hitting in this series, especially from the Yankees. It seems, indeed, that when the Yankees are losing, baseball as entertainment is falling apart.
Is it just my imagination, or are the instant polls that appear on my TV screen every few innings tinged with a new urgency when the Yankees are losing?
Game two, seventh inning, D-Backs 4, Yanks 0: “If you were Joe Torre, would you pull Petitte now?”
Well — would you?