The New York professional sports teams are just awful. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s something in the air. The New York Jets are pathetic, losing eight games in a row. The New York Giants, just blown out by Seattle this past Sunday, are scraping bottom. And baseball is no better. The New York Mets are so bad and have been so bad for so long that I don’t pay any attention to them anymore. While the Yankees didn’t even make the playoffs this year.
I’m a born-and-bred sports fan and I take this very personally. When I grew up I rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers—Jackie Robinson and all that—and we’d always lose. I was 7 years old when Jackie came up. And I got used to rooting for the underdog, because it was such a thrill to watch a team with subpar skills rise up and triumph. Frankly, if it’s been bad for New York it’s been even worse for me.
In the last five years I’ve declared twice that there were new ballplayers who would be stars. The first was a pitcher for San Francisco named Tim Lincecum. He was very tiny, for a pitcher anyway, at 5 foot 11. So he had to have tremendous thrust in his windup to get his fastball up over 90 miles an hour. As a result, his windup looked like something a mad scientist would concoct. But it worked. And I was right about him. He not only became a strikeout king, he won the Cy Young Award as best pitcher two years in a row. I recall being in San Francisco at that time. I have a daughter who lives there. And I saw a bumper sticker reading UNTIL THERE’S A CURE, LINCECUM WILL THROW STRIKES. And it was true. Anyway, in this year’s World Series between San Francisco and Kansas City, Lincecum was on the bench. He is only 30 years old, but he seems to have worn out. He throws only around 89mph. But his contract is for so many years at so many tens of millions that they put him on the “disabled” list and there he sits, watching it like the rest of us. He really hasn’t pitched well since 2011.
The other baseball player I’ve told everybody would soon be a star is Yasiel Puig, a 6 foot 3 inch 240 pound giant of a right fielder born and raised in Cuba. The Los Angeles Dodgers thought he was so amazing at 22, they contracted him for seven years with a $42 million deal. He spent a year in the minors and then came up in 2013, and he batted nearly .400 for the first half of the year.
As the Dodgers fought their way through the playoffs toward the World Series last month, Puig who had been in a terrible slump, suddenly couldn’t hit the ball at all. After striking out seven times out in eight tries at key moments for no particular reason any doctor could find for him, the manager benched him. And with that the air seemed to go out of the team. And they folded right up. Puig wound up batting .296 this year. A record low for him. And the Dodgers were gone.
So there I was watching the seventh game of the World Series two weeks ago with the Mets long buried, the Yankees out of it, Lincecum on the bench, Puig a disaster, the Jets a catastrophe, Eli Manning unable to throw to his receivers for the Giants, and the phone rang. The game was over. San Francisco had won again. And it was my daughter.
“Our town is better than your town,” she shrieked.
“Yes it is,” I said.