Monday, July 23, 2012

Whatever Lola the 2012 World Series

Pictured: Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski in Damn Yankees on Broadway
Strange events are brewing in baseball and the time is ripe for a Damn Yankees revival.  You know the story.  Joe Boyd, long-suffering fan of the hapless Washington Senators, makes a temporary deal with the satanic Mr. Applegate.  Boyd becomes ace pitcher Joe Hardy, leading the Senators in a pennant race with the hated Yankees (spoiler alert - the Broadway musical is based on the 1954 novel The Year The Yankees Lost the Pennant).  Applegate, with help from temptress Lola, want to make that temporary arrangement permanent, while Joe wants both his soul and the pennant.  So what does all that have to do with the 2012 standings?  Who are today's Washington Senators, who is Joe Hardy and do the Yankees have anything to worry about?

The Washington Nationals are conspicuous atop the National League East standings.  Ace Steven Strasberg is making a miraculous comeback in his first season after Tommy John surgery, and like Joe Hardy, his deal is only temporary.  Management plans to bench him after 160 innings to protect his shoulder, and his career.  Will Joe, I mean Steven, find a way to keep pitching down the stretch and into the post season if a championship is at stake?  Can he keep his shoulder intact and win the World Series?

The last team to bear the name Washington Senators is now the Texas Rangers, who are riding high above the American League West.  Slugger Josh Hamilton has skirmished with some personal demons- and yes - there's something about the smirk of former Ranger owner George W. Bush that just smacks of Mr. Applegate.

The original Washington Senators (who were in D.C. when Joe Hardy was created) are now the Minnesota Twins.  Dead last in the feeble American League Central, they are still only 11 games back, perfectly positioned for a Damn Yankees style playoff run, if only they can catch on fire fast.  Who could lead them?  Well the Twins have Joe Mauer, a catcher with three batting titles and a national shampoo commercial. Catchers normally get to endorse chewing tobacco - if they are lucky- and win one batting title, tops, before the constant crouching turns them into senior citizens on the base paths.    Clearly Joe Hardy, er Mauer, has already made a deal with someone.  

Finally, consider the Pittsburgh Pirates.  What do the Bucs have to do with the Washington Senators?  Historically and geographically, nothing, but spiritually, everything.  The closest baseball has ever come to a Joe Hardy moment is Bill Mazeroski's home run to beat the powerful Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.  Today's Bucs are fighting with the Reds for the NL Central lead and well positioned for a wild card spot even  if they can't beat out the Reds. A.J. Burnett has gone from throwing pies to throwing strikes, but Andrew McCutchen has gone from promising young outfielder to Superman.  McCutchen is having the kind of season that cannot be explained without recourse to the supernatural.

So who does Lola want in 2012?  The Washington Nationals suffered for a few years as an expansion team, but reached success with surprising speed.  This is not the sort of prolonged torture that drove Joe Boyd to risk his mortal soul.  The Texas Rangers are not even an underdog.  They have looked like the top team in the American League for the last two years.  Why bargain with Mr. Applegate if you can win on merit?  The Twins might need some supernatural help to break through this year, but they are the poster child for the successful small market franchise.  Sign stars like Mauer and Morneau, find good role players to keep costs down and break through for a title once in a while when they all have a good year together.  Not the Yankees, but still not in sell your soul territory, even in an off year.  

That leaves the Bucs.  Last World Series in 1979.  Last playoff appearance sometime before Barry Bonds learned about steroids.  A team that spent nearly a decade worrying that it would win too much and jeopardize its receipt of luxury tax payments.   Andrew, I hate to do this, but really, is one soul too much too risk for a Pirate world series win?  Sure you have some temporary deal now, and you can probably wriggle out of it like Joe Boyd, but when the chips are down maybe you should just go all the way..... I'm sure that's what Lola would want.   

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