Friday, August 31, 2012

Yankeetorial: The Traveling Wilkes Barres, survivors of Taco Hell, are true Yankee heroes

Here's a suggestion for the Hollywood Redsock Vengeance Squad otherwise known as Ben Affleck and Matt Damon: Instead of exuming the rotted bones of Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, make your inevitable bad baseball movie about the greatest team that will ever be forgotten: The Empire State Yankees of 2012, the ultimate road warriors in the highly chlorinated motel swimming pool netherworld of Triple A.

Last night, they clinched the International League's Whachamacallit Division, meaning they'll play an extra set of games in September, chasing the famous Somethingorother Cup, instead of putting this season in hell out of its misery. For several players, it means delaying a call-up to New York, which is why they played the season.

They survived an entire year on the road, from Hampton to Treadway to Ramada, from Sbarro to Wendy's to Roy Rogers, from Thruway rest stop to Thruway rest stop to Thruway rest stop. Every night, even when "Scranton" was designated "home team," one poor Yankee would be announced as "Taco Bell Strikeout of the Game," guaranteeing a free taco to everyone in attendance, if he whiffed. Thus, the entire crowd would swallow its cud and chant "TACO, TACO, TACO." Trust me here: You don't want to stand between 500 Batavians and a free taco. Yet they persevered.

They had every right to be cynical, to be lackadasical - to outright quit. Can you imagine Francisco Cervelli's state of mind in April? He'd always hustled as a Yankee. He had a knack for big hits with runners on base. Twice, he went to an emergency room in an ambulance, after trying to block home plate for his team. He went to Tampa expecting to be the back-up catcher. Two days before coming north, he was dispatched to Taco Hell. Yet he persevered.

And what about Chris Dickerson? Last year, as a utility OF, he performed well for us. He spent the entire year at Triple A. He's 30. He won't get many more shots. At "Scranton," he hit .321. On many teams, he'd have gotten a shot by now. Why isn't he in a corner of the bus, poking needles into a Nick Swisher doll? He persevered. "TACO, TACO, TACO..."

Kevin Russo, Darnell McDonald, Cole Garner, Ramiro Pena, Eduardo Nunez, Gus Molina, Manny Delacarmen, Ramon Ortiz, Chase Whitely... these players had one incentive this season: September. All they had to do was finish out of the playoffs. Labor Day comes, they're gone. Nobody would blame them. No more tacos. No more rest stops. No more Happy Meals.

Let it go into the fossil record that the Empire State Yankees of 2012 gave the organization a loyalty that I'm not sure it deserves. They won a title, and they extended their season -- and it might just make the difference for the Big'uns.

They may have given Alex Rodriguez a chance to test his wrist in an actual rehab game, rather than come back a do a couple 0-4s... while batting cleanup.

They may have given Andy Pettitte a chance to pitch in an actual game, instead of shaking off the rust against Tampa or Boston.

Goddamm... They did their jobs. Even if this Yankee season is remembered as one of the worst collapses in history... they did their jobs.

Goddamm. They marched into Hell and brought us all back a free taco.

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