Fantasy Baseball

A fan's notes: How the Yankees became the Freuds of Summer

Aaron Small provided heartwarming proof that Major League Baseball is staged for maximum dramatic effect, to shelter the masses from their fear and trembling. A 33-year-old journeyman pitcher who considered retiring in AAA this season, Small joined the Yankees as an injury replacement and won 10 games without a loss. In his spare time, the happily married pitcher works with foster children and church youth groups. You can script this. (See: The Rookie with Dennis Quaid.)

3 Love Fest: The Yankees' major off-season hurdle has already been cleared by an improbably fruitful session of marital counseling. "We didn't use the word love, but it was pretty warm," admits Torre about his hour-long sit-in with the Boss last month in Tampa. Steinbrenner never hid his mounting frustration with the stoic, revered manager over the course of this grueling season, going so far as to forcefully funnel his criticisms through the mouths of YES Network reporters. Torre and Steinbrenner had spoken only five times since spring training, and many speculated that the Boss would replace him with fiery Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella. (Torre has led the Yankees to eight consecutive division titles, but such is the burden of New York expectations.) In the end, the "talking cure" helped cooler heads prevail. "I had to not only hear it," Torre adds, "but to hear the tone in which it was said."

I didn't pee during he division series against the Angels. Pure superstition—I hadn't urinated during Game 1, guaranteeing the Yankee victory, so why not work my magic again? Superstition is a denial of death, creating an illusory sense of control over the uncontrollable. So instead, I justify the bladder control as a kind of penance (though masochism, of course, is another obvious denial).

See, I'm a lapsed fan, deserving of punishment. My wide-eyed Little League role-playing eventually gave way to hazier teenage pursuits. After years of adolescent alterna-vibing, when decoding Pavement and Pynchon replaced OBP calculation as a primary interest—dropping my math grades a full letter, but gaining me cred with the English comp teacher who thought my use of quasar seductive—I dismayingly noticed that Slanted & Enchanted was a common coffee coaster at my liberal-arts college, which stamps the motto "You Are Different. So Are We" on recruitment literature. Rebellion would now have to filter through a populist channel. Thus, my nightly devotion to the YES Network sent the same message as a teenager's proclamation that Rocky Horror saved his life: I am different, you are not. (Illusion alert!)

Even with my parenthetical recognitions of the causa sui project's Icarian futility, I am not exempt from Becker's ineffable assertion that "our central calling, our main task on the planet, is the heroic." Neither is A-Rod. Mere days after the death of a season and the death of an uncle, the Daily News spied Alex Rodriguez (fresh from therapy?) manically recuperating with the ladies at a Chelsea nightclub, tipping the Grey Goose and loving his body, loving his life.

Akiva Gottlieb has written for the Los Angeles Times and Spin.

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