Who Can Beat the Yankees?

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The Commissioner's Trophy, awarded to baseball's World Series champions. (AP Photo)
The Commissioner's Trophy, awarded to baseball's World Series champions. (AP Photo)

In April it’s easy.

A big part of the point of the baseball season is that it begins in the spring, the time of renewal when anything is supposed to seem possible. Accordingly, people in Kansas City root for the Royals and people in Pittsburgh root for the Pirates.

In April you can do that sort of thing without feeling silly. By May it’s a stretch.

By the All-Star Break, lots of fans in the cities housing teams that have fallen out of contention have begun cheering for their second choices: the Red Sox, in some cases, or the Cubs, for the dreamers, or the Dodgers for people who used to live in Brooklyn or wish they had, or, for lots of folks and for lots of reasons, anybody who can beat the Yankees.

Then it gets tougher.

Until Tuesday night, there were probably plenty of people from cities other than Atlanta crossing their fingers for the Braves. Long-time and sometimes loveable manager Bobby Cox, often the man in charge of the runner-up, had announced he’d retire at the end of the season.  It was fun to hope he might go out a winner. But the Giants dumped that sentimental pick.

Rooting for the Giants is still in play. They haven’t won the World Series since 1954, which is a long time unless you are a Cubs fan.

You can still root for the Rangers, who beat the Rays three times in Florida, but their strength is mobile mercenary pitcher Cliff Lee: October baseball’s answer to the brave and but transient samurai. If your home team looks like a contender late next summer, perhaps Cliff Lee will suddenly appear on the mound for them.

The Phillies, former employers of Cliff Lee and champions in 2008, probably earned some new fans on October 6th when Roy Halladay tossed a post-season no-hitter against the Reds. Who – besides Don Larsen - wouldn’t want to see him throw another one in the World Series?

And of course the Yankees are still available for your contempt. They’ve re-energized their detractors not only by continuing to employ the unctuous Alex Rodriguez, but by dispatching the relatively mutt-like Minnesota Twins, darling of the small-market set, with unseemly if not cruel haste. Beyond that, the Yankees won the World Series last year. I’m told it’s currently fashionable to hate incumbents, no matter who they are.

This program aired on October 14, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.