Confronting our demons Angels: The will must be stronger than the skill


My fantasy team “Enemy Bait” came through last week and took down the juggernaut “Woodside Warriors,” and now there’s 2 weeks in the championship round to play an even tougher beast, “Igawa Hall of Fame,” a team that’s so stacked I’m beginning to question whether or not the rest of the league was actually participating during the draft. Because how else do you end up with Chris Carpenter, Zach Greinke, Adam Wainwright, ARod, Ryan Howard, and Miguel Cabrera all on the same roster?

The only team with a more brutal schedule on their horizon than “Enemy Bait” is the New York Yankees, who open up a series in Anaheim today before heading back to the Bronx. If playing the Angels set is like getting disciplined in the principal’s office, then this weekend’s series is like heading home to face the music from your parents. Not exactly a comfortable homecoming when we got the Sox waiting for us.

But maybe this is a good thing that we’re playing our toughest foe. While Boston’s schedule is indelibly enviable, what kind of premium are we putting on false confidence? There’s a line in West Wing that says, “There’s no such thing as false hope. There is only hope.” Does it work the same for assurance?

In other words, would I rather face the most challenging obstacle, risk losing the game and thereby risk diluting our confidence? Or combat cream cheese teams and head into the playoffs fueled with momentum. If they lose to the Angels, the pressure is really on high. But if they win, well, it’s worth a lot more to me to beat the Angels than to beat the O’s.

Tonight Andy Pettitte (13-6, 4.14) comes back from resting his sore shoulder to face Joe Saunders.(13-7, 4.75). My buddy once said that every time he watches Pettitte pitch, he thinks that, mid-windup, Pettitte’s going to all of a sudden remember he’s old and that’ll be it for him.

For some reason, I know exactly what he means. There’s no real substantiation for this theory though, considering Pettitte’s August ERA was 2.50, with the Yanks winning every game he’s started. I’m not sure of the specifics around his “fatigued arm” but I’m uncharacteristically confident that he’ll be dealing tonight.

As for the offense, the Yanks can’t ask for a much better way to open the series than with Saunders, although this is basically like saying you’d rather be attacked by a man with a knife than one with a gun. His fastball is decent, but not unhittable, and his sliders are lethal…but only when they stay in the strike zone. His best asset is getting batters to chase him, and if the Yanks stay patient and don’t get too jittery and eager, they’ll be able to manage him seamlessly.

Although he’s won his last 4 starts, he’s 1-1 with a 7.97 ERA against the Yankees. The big bats from NY know his changeup and curve well, and aren’t fooled, with Jeter going 5-11 with a HR, and ARod batting .500, including a double a 2 HRs against Saunders.

If the Yanks wins tonight, they’ll clinch a playoff berth, their 15th in 16 years. While it’d be nice to know we’re definitely in and all, it means little if a team that was all but guaranteed the division and home field advantage, starts stumbling so much that they end up settling for the Wild Card.

So…streak now, or forever hold your peace.