Say it with me: There's always a downside!
The American League Division Series, collectively, could not have gone much better for Yankee fans, thus far. Facing a 101-win offensive record-setter out of the AL Central, the Yanks dispatched the team in three games, and the notion of competitiveness early in Game 2, when surprise starter Randy Dobnak failed to bottle any decades-old Playoff Nonsense Magic to reassert his city's potential. Then, their Hail Mary prayer for the Astros to somehow squander their 2-0 series lead and best-laid rotation plans came to fruition, as well.
But now we've reached Gerrit Cole toeing the mound in a dream Game 5. And I beg you, Yankee fans: Don't root for anyone here. Don't pick a side. Because no matter which basket you sink your eggs in, the victor could come back to bite you.
New York has spent all season (all of the last two calendar years?) dreaming of the moment they'd have the chance to match themselves up against Houston, the tried and true cream of the American League crop. Is it a dream, though? Or a worry about running headlong into a monolith, repeatedly bashing our head against cement? And also, they're not wearing pants in this scenario.
Yes, I'd say the way NYC is treating this Astros-Rays battle more resembles trying to channel mental energy to knock out Houston out of fear. Every few months, they've supplemented their best-in-the-league offensive core with another Cy Young-caliber starter, and if the Yankees match the 'Stros in the ALCS, you're going to get plenty of prognostications asserting an early H-Town slaughter. It is certainly correct that they're terrifying, but folks...who wants to go to Tropicana Field in October?!
Before this series returned to Tampa-St. Pete, we mocked the crowd size. Well, turns out, Rays fans showed up in droves. We shouted out loud about how a Yankees-Rays ALCS would include up to seven Yankees home games. Well, I'm not sure who the thousands of towel-wavers creating the sound of riotous buzzing bees were on Tuesday, but they sure as hell were not Astros fans enjoying a night in the lap of luxury. Is Tampa Bay a weaker opponent than the Verlander-Cole-led Houston Astros? It would seem like it. But Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell have proven fearless on the road, and the Yankees couldn't hit Charlie Morton with a telephone pole. If he placed the ball on a tee and walked off the field, it would somehow still break off a table.
We're not saying the Yankees cannot, will not, or wouldn't prefer the chance to beat the Tampa Bay Rays for a shot at the World Series. We're just saying that with every game they gain, Tampa's "Don't Let Us Win Tomorrow" energy is through the roof right now.
In a month where every wish seems to come with an equal and opposite Monkey's Paw reaction that throws a wrench in things, the relaxed Yankees and their fans should take what comes. Because there's no benefit to rooting hard for the underdog, only to have to switch gears relentlessly once their curveballs start dipping on you.
Imagine a trip to the World Series being stolen away by a ball banging up against an in-play catwalk on the roof. I rest my case.