The 2001 Yankees is Sports’ Greatest Tragedy Story

On November 4th 2001, I was lying in bed listening to game 7 of the 2001 World Series on radio. My father wouldn’t let me watch past a certain time because I had school the next day. I forget when, but at some point he came into my room and invited me into his to watch. I’ll never forget that.

My team was coming off three consecutive World Series wins and on the verge of number four. As an 11 year old, I  had only seen success. Four World Series championships watered down by my spoiled subconscious telling me, “Of course the Yankees will win.” I had never seen anything different.

And then this happened.

In that moment, shock, confusion, and disbelief showed me sports are never scripted. It’s the ultimate reality television. My team is mortal.

But wasn’t it supposed to be the perfect storm?

The Capital of the World, ravaged by arguably the worst terrorist attack in recordable history, overcomes all odds to win the championship of America’s Pastime, odds that included:

– A month earlier: Derek Jeter’s game-saving flip to Jorge Posada against the Athletics helped the Yankees rally from two games down to win the ALDS
– Four days prior: A ninth-inning, two-run, game-tying home run preceded an extra-inning walk-off win at Yankee Stadium
– Three days prior: The same thing, off the same pitcher

(According to baseball reference, entering the ninth inning, the Yankees had a 10% chance to win those games. One in 100 to win both)

It’s tough to paint the Yankees as the victim in sports’ greatest tragedy, but that’s what gives this story the added dimension – everyone hates the Yankees. September 11th temporarily changed that, and never again will the Evil Empire have more likeability than they did that postseason.

My thesis statement here is the headline of this article. The pieces were in place for a perfect story.

Until the last chapter, it was.

The goat of that last chapter, Mariano Rivera will retire at the end of the 2013 season. The greatest closer of all time will no longer throw his golden pitch. The number 42 will never again make the red carpet jog from the Yankee Stadium bullpen to its mound. Enter Sandman will be retired.

Yes, players of all sports post tangible numbers, but different fans assign different weight to different stats, thus rarely is one player unanimously rendered “The Greatest”.

Can you make the argument why Mariano Rivera isn’t the greatest closer of all time?

*Arguing a “closer” needs to throw more than an inning, ala Goose Gossage or Dennis Eckersley, is the sole sound argument I’ve heard against Rivera, but I think that argument is lame when stacked up against Rivera’s consistent numbers.*

His career’s only beauty mark  came November 4th, 2001.

On baseball’s biggest stage, in the world’s biggest city, facing the world’s worst terroist attack in recent memory, a country came together as the tattered American flag from the North Tower waved bravely above Yankee Stadium, where 13 miles away the fire still burned. Instead, a small market team from Arizona celebrated.

What sports tragedy compares? For argument’s sake, I don’t count stories like the Marshall University tragedy or similar others that transcend sports. If you can think of others, I want to hear. I don’t want my bias as a Yankees fan to influence my opinion. I simply couldn’t think of another sports tragedy equal.

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Chapman to the Rotation Will be the Worst Move in the MLB this Season

At 106 MPH, Aroldis Chapman can throw a baseball harder than any human on Earth.
At 106 MPH, Aroldis Chapman can throw a baseball harder than any human on Earth.

The Reds have agreed to a three-year extension with reliever Jonathan Broxton, presumably to fill their closer role and finally thrust the Cuban hurler Arolids Chapman into the rotation — as was their intention this year until Ryan Madson tore his pitching elbow.

This move will blow out Chapman’s arm and bring his career to a Greg Oden-like halt. It will break a 97-win team from this year and turn Reds clubhouse to side-choosing – Do we start him? Do we put him in the bullpen?

I don’t understand the near unanimous mindset among professional baseball teams that starting pitching is exponentially more important than a quality middle reliever.

Remember Joba Chamberlain?

Chapman can throw the ball up to 106 miles an hour, harder than any human on Earth. As a side note, I think throwing a ball that hard in any volume will blow out an arm, but why have him throw upwards of 200 innings a year when his previous high is 71.2?

http://mlkshk.com/r/1LXFA few years ago, Chapman got “105” tattooed on his body. When he threw the ball a mile an hour faster the following year, he got it changed to “106.”

Chapman has the hotts for heat. He will try to throw the ball 107. If you put him in the rotation, he will have to sacrifice some mph, something I don’t think he really wants to do.

Don’t underestimate that tattoo. You don’t put something on your body if it doesn’t have substance to who are as a being. If he gets an adrenaline rush by throwing the ball hard, then cater to it.

Keep him in the bullpen. Keep his innings important. Keep his adrenaline pumping. Someone who can throw that hard is already walking on eggshells – the human arm simply cannot keep that pace up.

https://i1.wp.com/2.bp.blogspot.com/_6oxf35Gsi6E/TT-P-9-RTZI/AAAAAAAAHRM/4mGGUPtOJtI/s1600/Joba.jpgIn 2007, Yankees pitching prospect Joba Chamberlain was brought up to a world of success. A starting pitcher his entire pre-MLB career, Chamberlain and his 98 mph fastball threw to an unimaginable 0.38 ERA in 24 relief innings for the Yankees down the stretch.

A year later, the Yankees forced him into the rotation, and he transformed into a mediocre pitcher. He missed all of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery, his fastball finally hit 94 mph this year, and New York still holds onto unrealistic expectations we’ll somehow see glimmers of 2007 at some point in his career.

Starting pitchers used to always throw complete games. As we learned the dangers of that, we slowly started to limit pitcher’s outings (Here are the numbers that back it up) to the point where today, six innings or 100 pitches is a “quality” outing.

With relief pitching as important today as ever, team’s should start to emphasize the importance of not just a closer, but a seventh and eighth inning pitcher.

In the playoffs, you need three good starters plus a solid bullpen. Give your offense the best chance to score late, knowing Chapman will shut down the team in the eighth inning.

Cincinnati, don’t fix what isn’t broken. Understand the limits of the human body. By forcing Chapman into the rotation, you genetically alter a pitcher who belongs in the bullpen.

Keep that fastball at 105. Keep those innings down. Keep those wins coming. The playoff wins will follow.