Wouldn’t you know it? With 24 games left and tonight’s contest at the Trop not meaning much, especially with the Red Sox thumping the O’s, the Yankees finally resembled the team they were supposed to be. Moose pitched a gem, A-Rod hit a homer, Joba threw well out of the pen, and the Yanks won. What’s more, we were the ones that played crisply and cleanly while it was the Rays that looked sloppy, both in the field and on the bases (Upton’s spectacular catch aside). So ironic. Tampa Bay has the best record in the majors and the Yankees are on life support, and yet tonight was like a blast from the past: We were our old swaggering selves and they were the lovable losers.
Last year when I was researching “Confessions of a She-Fan,” I followed the Yankees to every city and every game after the All-Star break, including the games at the Trop. I have great memories of that place. Not because it’s a beautiful ballpark (it’s like an oversized gym) and not because of the delicious food (although they’ve got an Outback concession that was actually pretty good). It was because Matt Silverman, the Rays’ president, was a charming host, treating me to VIP seats for the entire series.
But mostly, the reason I’ll always have a fondness for Tropicana Field is that the Yankees clinched the wild card there last September. After the miserable first half of the season, we rebounded in one of the most amazing comebacks in baseball history and made it to the playoffs.
What a scene it was that night in ’07. The photographers covered their equipment in plastic so the cameras wouldn’t get doused with champagne during the clinch party. While the players celebrated, I sat in my plush seat clapping until my hands were raw. I was so happy.
Well, now here we are a year later. No clinch party but a victory tonight. I have no choice but to settle for that.