Wednesday, June 11, 2008

DL Yankee Stadium Stop (Special Tornado Free Edition): Jose Guillen Will Not Be Satisfied Until He Is Deemed King

I'm sure nobody is aware of this quite yet, but the mainstream media will very soon let everyone in on the little secret that this is the final season for the (hated) Yankees at Yankee Stadium. They've got themselves a brand new space, right next to the current one, which will be all set for Opening Day, 2009. But of course, it won't BE Yankee Stadium, even if that's what some will attempt to call it. The chance to finally see my beloved Royals in person at the old ballpark was something that couldn't be missed, even though I firmly believed I would be the only one amongst the fans openly rooting for the Royals. Which would make Yankee fans Mike Scossia, and me Jose Guillen in this relationship. I was already starting to feel that Guillen was a misunderstood baseball star, and confused that Yankee fan would possibly find that odd.

Sitting close to the field on Friday night, I felt the disconnect immediately. Amongst the legions of beautiful women who were there wanting to hand Derek Jeter their hotel room keys (more on him later) and the intense Yankee faithful who couldn't justify how New York could even play the Royals close, I got the early suspicion that I definitely could have been the only person in that building happy the Royals were winning, unless Kyle Davis had his family sitting up in the cheap seats, and if that were the case, one of them would have been thrown down to the field by the time Davies came out to pitch the 6th inning. A Yankee fan who had been a season ticket holder for years -- but is officially resigning that status when the Yanks move to their new digs next year -- had no problem with fans of the visiting team visiting the old ballpark. There was just one rule. "Don't come in here and try to take over the building and act like it's your own," he said. "You know, like Boston does." In other words, don't fuck with them, they won't fuck with you.

I understood that completely. In fact, I even said out loud, "Ahh, you mean like HUSKER fan." How Husker fan travels to almost every road football game, and tries to be like Red Sox fan at Yankee Stadium. No wonder Notre Dame was so pissed when the "Sea of Red" hit South Bend in 2000. No wonder Missouri and Kansas thought they won National Titles just by destroying the Red when they'd beat them in their home stadiums. And the other key factor that differs from, say, Memorial Stadium: Don't expect the Yankee faithful to offer some polite applause should the Yankees win big. Winning's expected, and if your team somehow wins, for crying out loud, don't poke the bear.

As I've always maintained, even through the multiple losing skids, this is a different Royals team. The roll-over and accept it Mike Sweeney days are in the rear view mirror. This team is at least going to show signs of at least trying. And the Royals during the Sweeney "Milk & Cookies" era were especially dreadful at Yankee Stadium (How bad? How about 6-33 going back to 1998). This was especially disappointing to me considering the fact that my all-time greatest sports moment happened at Yankee Stadium. Game 3 of the 1980 American League Championship Series, when George Brett hit that first-pitch, towering shot in the upper-deck to finally get the Royals past the Yanks and win their first pennant. And things started well on Friday as KC led 2-0 going into the 7th, witch the aforementioned Kyle Davies still in the game. The Yanks would scrap another run to chase Davies, but with the white hot Joakim Soria fresh, unfazed and ready to nail down an important win, I wasn't the least bit worried.

Which brings us back to Jeter. A great part of sitting right behind the Yanks on-deck circle (other than the satisfying visions of being able to pelt Johnny Damon with flashlight batteries if I chose to, and actually hit him), was to witness the magnitude of one Derek Jeter. The rest of the Yankee lineup spends their time in the on-deck circle doing what you'd expect. A few practice swings, trying to time a swing and step with the opposing pitcher. If you're Jason Giambi, you intently study the bat, all the time smiling at the fact that even though your pants are ripped and having to stay clear of any sort of pharmaceutical help as your game has somewhat suffered, you have peace of mind in knowing that nine-figure contract you signed in 2000 is guaranteed. But if you're the Shortstop Yankee Captain who everyone associates with the glory of winning four World Titles, well you veer through the crowd to see how many pretty girls you can make eye contact with. I got the sense that Jeter was the lead singer of a rock band, finding 5-7 women he shared a look with, and had a member of the road crew give them his card to hook up later at some private party. As Soria was mowing down the Yanks in the 9th, Jeter would have come up to win the game had Damon reached base to extend the game. But Derek only had eyes for a group Vince Vaughn would call, "Beautiful Babies". I'm sure Jeter would have figured he'd have another one of hid patented Yankee moments if he'd of had a chance. Not I. The way Soria was dealing, this was the Royals night.

This was confirmed as everyone filtered out of the game (with two full cold bottles of Budweiser no less, walking out with those in hand was no problem, and considering they were $9 a piece, nobody seemed to mind). First of all, instead of playing the usual Liza Minielli version of "New York, New York", which is traditionally what they do whenever the Yankees lose, the public address system played the SINATRA version instead. TWICE. It's established they only play Frank when they win. So this was a puzzler.

And outside, finally, Royals fans, in Royals gear, who couldn't have been more pleased to find one of their own, wondering who else would either make the trek from the Midwest in early June, or if a transplanted New Yorker could still keep bleeding Royal Blue. We were all so delighted, we hit a few Bronx Bars, toasting a multitude of shots that would carry through the wee hours in Manhattan. We Royal brethren stick together, and this was the sort of night where there weren't enough shots of booze to toast to. Trying to convert a German Lesbian even seemed to be in order.

By the way, the most hated man in baseball (and really, he wouldn't have it any other way) Jose Guillen went 2-4 (in the game, not at some Irish bar with German Lesbians later), with a double (he might have gone to 2nd base with a Royals fan who bore an uncanny resemblance to Katie Holmes for all I know -- yes, there was such a woman outside Yankee Stadium) and run scored. This was just a taste of what was to become an incredible weekend for Guillen.

Getting to Yankee Stadium required extra effort, which is what getting to bed at 6am THAT morning will do to you. Even if we would have been told before hand it would be perhaps the greatest baseball game one could ever hope to witness in person, making it for Andy Pettitte's first pitch was going to be a challenge. Former Husker Alex Gordon, who made some nice defensive plays on Friday night, got the day off because he was mired in a slump at the plate and it was around 97 degrees, which nobody in New York expected for early June. Newest Royal star Guillen was going to all but propel KC to an improbable win all by himself, and I felt like Babe Ruth as I called his game changing grand slam in the 7th inning.

The big highlight to come out of the game was that phony Johnny Damon becoming the first Yankee to ever collect 6 hits in one game at Yankee Stadium, including the game winner off of the previous unbeatable Soria. But the 7th inning for Kansas City was Guillen's coming out party (or again, maybe it was for some other German woman who liked what she saw from the previous night). Actually, Guillen had already hit a 2-run homer off of Pettitte in the first inning, and had an RBI single in the 3rd. I have no earthly idea what Pettitte, who had giving up the tying run earlier in inning, was still even DOING in the game to face Guillen. Pettite intentionally walked Mike "Seriously, I'm not going to have to pay to get into the Stadium to watch the game?" Aviles, hoping to get Mark Teahan to hit into a double play. Pettitte got the next best thing (getting Teahan, who frankly spends way too much time in that head of his, to strike out), but there was still the rather large problem of the batshit crazy Jose Guillen walking up to the plate with determination to plant one in the left field seats. It was one of those moments you could just feel happening. For one, Guillen just missed the grand slam, fouling one just a little left of the LF foul pole. And no way Pettitte would walk the lead run.

(No WAY Torre would have had Pettitte pitch to the Right Handed Guillen, who we've already established doesn't let anything get in the way of pissing off Yankee faithful with a killer grand slam. And wouldn't that moment, two-outs in the 7th, bases loaded with a power right handed bat at the plate, been a great time to bring in a stellar reliever? One who sparks insane levels of excitement in that building? One who would have clearly thrown his glove into the air, Jonathan Paplebon/Jesse Orosco style, if he would have struck Guillen out? Somebody like, oh, I don't know...JOBA???)

After calmly suggesting to the section we were in that Guillen was certainly going to plant one way over the left field fence, I got the sense many of them were feeling the same thing, and oddly enough not as upset about it as Yankee fan would normally be. (I blame the heat for this odd calmness from them. Also: Hank Steinbrenner, who everyone was clearly concerned about with this whole Joba experiment; a Grand Slam here and the "Joba would have been nice" cries would have been out in full force.) Because Jose takes delight in crushing baseballs and being able to cause hatred and vigor in as many people as possible, he did come through with the grand slam, giving the Royals a 10-6 lead and an excuse for some to get out of the heat (SOME, not many, Yankee fans understand the importance of staying for the entire game). Guillen had tied a club record with 7 RBI, and then went to Manager Trey Hillman and said, "I've done my part. Fuck this heat, I'm going to pick up some German Lesbians". Actually, Guillen had been shaken up by taking a ball off of his shin in the sixth, and was said to leave the game early to avoid further aggravation. I wouldn't be surprised if he just left the stadium without telling anybody, right after that Grand Slam.

What could have been a small two-game winning streak for the Royals (at Yankee Stadium no less) would turn into a game they'd give back to the Yankees three times, despite FINALLY getting to Mariano Rivera. A-Rod, Mr. June, would hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, and 666 -- I mean Mr. 6-for-6 Johnny Damon would tie it in the 8th with a 2-run single.

We finally got to see one of the most famous reliever entrances in baseball history. We've had to suffer Joe Buck talking about what an amazing moment it is when Mariano Rivera casually walks out from the bullpen to Metallica's "Enter Sandman" on television for 10 years now. You understand the moment more in person, as the Jumbo-Tron follows Rivera right from the dugout, Rivera walks in perfect step with the music, and it's a moment which allows the 50,000+ crazed Yankee fans to get as loud as the student section of a college football game when the home teams scores a touchdown. But for me of course, I didn't find the moment amazing. I was downright concerned, because the Royals have NEVER hit Rivera. They notoriously swing at his first pitches, and he usually gets through an inning maybe throwing 9 pitches and wouldn't even break a sweat in this 97 degree heat.

David DeJesus, who speaks with an infliction that suggests he'd like to audition for a job as an evening news anchor in some medium sized market in Iowa, led things off. I was expecting the usual, DeJesus swinging at the first pitch, getting fooled on a Rivera cutter and grounding out softly to Jeter. And then sending his resume to a news director in Ames, IA. He swung at Rivera's first offering, as is always the case, and promptly homered to right field. The Royals had finally broken through against Rivera, unbelievably had the lead back, and were ready to bring in the next Rivera, Joakim Soria, in to nail down another win.

Rivera would breeze through the next three batters, throwing a total of 10 pitches. Then the unflappable Soria would pitch the bottom of the ninth. I was a bit stunned to hear the PA play both "Paper Bag" by Fiona Apple and "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder for Soria's entrance into the game, but he did walk very slow to the mound. Even more surprising was that the version of "My Cherie Amour" they played was the one Eddie Murphy and Stevie did back on Saturday Night Live in the early 1980's. People really seemed to like it though.

Soria wound up blowing his first save of the year, allowing "Hip Hip Jor-Hey" to homer and tie the game (Yankee fans are a little too in love with that nickname and chant, I will go to my grave thinking that Jorge really pronounces his name "GEORGE" and this is his way to fuck with everyone), and then Damon got hit number six to bring in the winning run. Yanks 12, Guillen/Royals 11. The Royals win that game, which they had in the bag three times, and they would have taken 3 of 4 at the Bronx. And Hank Steinbrenner would, how can we say this, been rather unhappy.

And that was the final game we went to of the four-game series, and frankly after getting to see the Royals win and get all we could out of the Saturday game, nothing could have topped either of those two games. Husker Fan couldn't believe we missed the Joba start on Sunday, but again, we didn't roll in until 6am (Saturday) and another member of the group decided to stay out that late AGAIN (Saturday night, going through Sunday morning). Plus it would top 100 Sunday, and for some reason the seats at Yankee Stadium aren't air conditioned. Although we hear some of the new ones at the new place definitely will be.

The Royals split the four game series. My new favorite player Guillen would personally see to that on Monday, hitting the game winning homer off of -- who else -- Rivera to give the Royals a 3-2 win. Over the long weekend, Guillen went 9 for 16 with 4 homers, 10 RBI and 6 runs scored, and probably hooked up with that Katie Holmes lookalike of a Royals fan who alluded my grasp on Friday night. In my defense, I was stunned that somebody in a Royals shirt could look that good; there was also a chance that she really WAS Katie Holmes, and the idea of having a brain washed Katie trying to explain to me the joys of Scientology over a wonderful but hot weekend in New York scared the living shit out of me. None of that would have fazed Jose Guillen, and he would have surely tapped that shit.


notorious DEK said...

Were goin streaking

Your Home Team, LLC said...

I was there dude, It was awesome. But not a pretty guy, good size junk though.