Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I've always loved "the magic number." To me, it's always been one of the coolest stats in baseball. Baseball is a game without a clock, without a deadline, and yet, as the season winds down, there's the magic number, just there, just ticking along to an endgame some love and most dread. It's really the only "clock" that baseball has. Simple math tells us that, at some point for every team but one in each division, there comes a point in the season where all the impossible dreaming is simply rendered impossible- the dreaded mathematical elimination. The games may go on a few more weeks for those teams, but all they can do is play the mythical spoiler. Earl Weaver used to relish the spoiler role; to an eliminated team, nothing beats knocking out some other hope-filled team and its fans. It was his own little sweet revenge. That's why I hope the Orioles beat Tampa Bay Wednesday night. Their magic number to be mathematically eliminated from the division title is two. If we win and they win on Wednesday, then a Sox win on Thursday, when I'm there, eliminates the Orioles. Sweet revenge for those years in the 70's when the O's broke my dad's heart late in so many fruitless seasons.

At some point, and I feel the Red Sox are almost there, the magic number is the glorious, long-awaited light at the end of the long, dark, 162 game tunnel. The promised land, the goal from the first day a pitcher slings it to a catcher when most of us are still slinging snow from our driveways. To the chasers, and Lord knows how familiar we are with this role, the magic number becomes four walls, claustrophobically, methodically closing in on you, until finally, all light is extinguished, all hope is lost. The last thing you hear is the sad, plaintive cry, "Wait till next year..." That's the thing about the magic number- it doesn't matter how much you win, if the team you are chasing keeps winning, too. It's not completely your own destiny to control. There's a helplessness to watching your team's late season winning streak equaled by your hated rival; nothing you can do at that point is good enough. That's what's so depressing about it- even your own perfection is useless when reflected back at you in that mirror.

So here we sit, longing for a combination of Sox wins and Yankees losses that equals 17. And here I sit, hoping that somewhere tonight, right now, some Yankees fan is starting to sense the walls closing in. I hope they pick up their paper tomorrow and see how their team blew out Seattle tonight, then see that we won also. Fruitless. I know they are improving their chances of making the playoffs, but I also know that it will kill them to finish second to us at anything. Maybe we will see them again on some crisp October evening, and maybe we won't. But for now, I hope they're at least getting a little short of breath. It's getting darker, the walls are moving closer, all the time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the MFY completely eliminated but I don't think it's gonna happen.

8:10 AM  

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