Stuck in neutral at Series
Yankees-Marlins matchup can't get the heart racing
MIAMI -- Do you feel any guilt over this? Just a little bit? I do. This is the World Series, featuring the two best teams in baseball, and I don't love it nor hate it. I don't dream about it or argue over it. It's just there, a neutral blob jammed between a couple palm trees.
You realize that it's tough to make those comments and then mention that you live in Boston. You find yourself having major credibility problems. You say that Yankees-Marlins feels like an interleague series in October, and people start making accusations.
They think you're bitter over what happened to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. They think you're a snob from an old baseball world, a world that started to go flat when you traveled south of Atlanta. They think you would be quoting Bill James from dawn until dusk if Pedro Martinez were starting tonight's Game 3 against Josh Beckett.
This sentiment has nothing to do with New England bitterness. The first two games of the Series have been the nation's sleeping pills. We've had 18 innings of oatmeal, with no brown sugar and milk. Business travelers have turned the games on in their hotel rooms, simply to have a drone that won't offend them.
The baseball is just OK, and if you could promise anonymity to the most rabid Yankee fans -- Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner included -- they would tell you that it feels as if they're competing for a Grapefruit League championship.
Dear God, please forgive me for feeling this way.
Is it the temperatures approaching 90 in October? Is it the presence of the Marlins, a baseball team in teal, playing in front of minor-league-looking signage in a football stadium? Is it the inevitable letdown from both league championship series that went the distance?
I was thinking about this yesterday, standing on the third-base line in Pro Player Stadium. The Yankees were having a light workout, and a 50-ish man in a short-sleeved shirt was watching them hit. A security guard told the man to move out of the way, as if the man were just another member of the media.
But the man was Reggie Jackson. You know something is wrong when someone doesn't recognize Reggie Jackson in October.
Maybe Florida is making a bland series worse.
"Well, let me say that there is nothing wrong with Florida being in the World Series," Mr. October said, putting his fingers together as if he were a professor at a lectern. "Las Vegas is going to have a baseball team one day, you know? So one day there is going to be a World Series game in Las Vegas.
"I think when all the pregame ceremonies take place, when we hear the anthem and see the bunting, there is no question this is going to feel like the Series."
With that said, the Hall of Famer wouldn't have been comfortable putting on the AC during the day and then going out at night to hit three consecutive home runs into a warm October breeze.
"I needed the cold weather to remind me that it was the postseason," he said. "I needed that cold to remind me that it was time to get going. You can't be Mr. October if you're not wearing long sleeves and a turtleneck."
Yesterday, Torre was asked about the number of New Yorkers in South Florida. He was also asked about the stadium and if his players had any familiarity with it. In the course of his response, the manager wound up giving the perfect summary of what we now have.
"This is different," he said. "We come in here and see the palm trees. Normally this time of year you're somewhere else. It's weird. It really is weird."
Torre also said Florida manager Jack McKeon is the best story in baseball, and he's right. It's a mystery. It's not as if this matchup doesn't have intriguing story lines. Baseball fans are going to be talking about Beckett for years and years. Marlins outfielder Miguel Cabrera is 20, and his sense of Series calm is similar to Andruw Jones's in 1996. Everyone loves Dontrelle Willis. And although there are many people who would love to see the Yankees add the 27th jewel to their vast dynasty, there are millions who would usually tune in just to watch the New Yorkers fail.
Not now. You may hate the Yankees, but can you muster enough passion to root against them? Do the Yankee fans in the bleachers -- those who chanted a pointed expletive at Martinez during Game 7 -- really feel anger when they try to distract Luis Castillo? And is there anyone who calls a talk-radio host and rips Juan Pierre?
The villains aren't even good villains in this drama. What the Yankees are doing amounts to October barnstorming. It's not a fair fight. Florida, a nice little team, doesn't even have an extra-base hit yet. Thirteen singles is not going to bring down the pinstriped machine. Tonight, there will be more than 65,000 fans in the orange seats, but that feels a bit hollow, too. The Marlins have been playing good baseball since the All-Star break, yet the crowds didn't begin to swell until late August and early September.
How much will South Florida hurt if its team is eliminated by Thursday night? How sweet will the wine be in New York if the Yankees crush Florida before the weekend?
This is a sporting event. A championship sporting event. And here I am, searching for the buzz. I'm feeling guilty about this. Really, really guilty.
Michael Holley is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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