Inside the Mind of a Fanatic: Must-Wins and Lois Lane

Mike Soscia was absolutely right last week when – in response to a reporter asking whether the ALCS Game 3 that the Angels had just won in dramatic fasion to claw back into the series at 2 games to 1 - he said there is no such thing as a must-win until you are playing in an elimination game.

Mark Teixeira was also right when he said, in response to the same question from a reporter after last night's victory, that every game of a World Series is a must-win.

The first is a statement of fact.  The second is a statement of psychology.  Players have to approach every post-season game, at-bat, and play in the field as do-or-die.  Then find a way to do that with the calmness and control most easily achieved by thinking of the moment as no more consequential than a pick-up game in their backyard.

I don't know how they do it because I don't even have that much discipline as a fan.  On post-season series off-days I am unable to let go and just focus on my work.  Instead, I sit around endlessly and rather pointlessly playing the same 2 or 3 scenarios for the rest of that series out in my head.  This is only slightly more defensible then replaying games that have already happened and wondering "what if?".  And even then, only in a philosophical kind of way because neither act of obsession will change anything.  It's just that one focuses on the unknown future while the other is about the settled past – which really can't change except when Superman reverses the rotation of the Earth.  And so I find myself this morning with a mountainous to-do list and rapidly-passing-deadlines spinning my mental wheels on the following:

Last night was clearly a must-win for New York.  The Yankees must also win either tomorrow's start by Andy or the next one by CC because they must not get into a situation of facing Lee in an elimination game – especially one to be played in Philly and without CC on the mound, which is what Game 5 will be if they don't pull out Game 3 and/or Game 4.

And even if they can win one of the next two, the best they are likely to gain is a trip back to New York where they'll need to win the last two games in a row – because again, Game 5 is as good as played-and-lost already.  So actually, the next TWO games are must-wins so that even when Lee carves them up like gutted fish (see AG's great descriptive post  from yesterday for this imagery) in Game 5, they can go home knowing they only need to pick up one of two games to be started respectively by two of their top three starters.

Of course, if they lose tomorrow, then all the pressure is on CC on short rest in Game 4.  So really, it is just tomorrow night's game that is really a must-win.  Unless they lose tomorrow – and then Game 4 is really really a must-win.

If they do win only one of Game 3 or Game 4, then Game 6 would be a must-win in the Mike-Soscia-it's-a-fact kind of way (as well as the Mark-Teixeira-this-is-how-we-must-approach-it kind of way).  And if they won that, then Game 7 would be a must-win because all Game 7s are must-wins.

And if Manuel suddenly decides to throw Lee on short rest in Game 4 then a whole new round of scenario-obsessing can begin.

Of course, if the Yankees don't win any of these must-wins then there will be nothing left to obsess about – except the past.  And then I'll have to go find Lois Lane and do something awful to her.  Although if I wait for an undesirable outcome of the World Series to do that then even that step won't be sufficient to retroactively help the Yankees.

So now you know why I'll be watching tomorrow night's must-win Game 3 with Lois Lane and an itchy trigger-finger.

11 comments… add one

  • So, a teacher said to his class – “we’re having a surprise test next week, but you won’t know when.”
    One of the brighter students induce that if the test is on Friday, it wouldn’t be a surprise, because on Thursday you’ll know it’s on Friday. By that logic, Friday is out.
    And that the test can’t be on Thursday, because on Wednesday you would assume it’s on Thursday because it can’t be on Thursday or Friday..
    The teacher gives the test on a Wednesday and everybody is pissed.

    Lar October 30, 2009, 11:39 am
  • No point to that story, but the Yanks got to start hitting. I wouldn’t mind if they won the rest of the games.
    Amusing side effect is that if CC starts game 4, you start Gaudin against Lee, which is a two game wash, if CC holds up and the Yanks hit for him.
    It makes game 3 super super critical. Wow. Must win indeed.

    Lar October 30, 2009, 11:41 am
  • Lee has been untouchable indeed, but don’t throw game five out too quickly. He was very touchable several times this year. Hopefully the next time will be Sunday.
    On another note.. That snap throw by Molina behind the back of Ibanez to pick off Werth.. remarkable.

    attackgerbil October 30, 2009, 11:41 am
  • Also, Mo has been kind of abused. With good reason, but hopefully it won’t come up.
    Bullpen is an issue, but also the issue is that even as the Yanks got great pitching thus far, they have not blow people out of the water enough to give Mo rest, other than that 10-1 game.
    3-1 game yesterday could’ve easily been 4-1, or 5-1, which would’ve at least save Mo for a few pitches. He faced the #9 hitter as his first batter in the 8th. Bah.

    Lar October 30, 2009, 11:45 am
  • I also wondered if AJ could’ve came out to face the #9 hitter, but that probably would’ve been greedy. Still..

    Lar October 30, 2009, 11:46 am
  • Someone in the Yankees bullpen other than Mo – and probably at least two people – will have to pitch a scoreless inning here and there for this team to do this thing. Girardi loves Marte, and seemingly only Marte. Joba is probably second on his list though he is truly unprepdictable at this stage. Hughes seems – quite frankly – scared.
    And yeah, some hits would be nice.

    IronHorse (YF) October 30, 2009, 12:06 pm
  • Well, there is this guys named Dave…Robinson? Ribero? ROBERTSON! who has been pretty much awesome down the stretch and in the postseason, who Joe G seems to have buried on the depth chart and relegated to extra innigns duty.

    Mark (YF) October 30, 2009, 1:20 pm
  • EVERY game is a must win…for my sanity. ;)

    krueg October 30, 2009, 1:47 pm
  • Random note, I would love to see CC jack a few HRs.. haha..

    Lar October 30, 2009, 6:14 pm
  • “Must win” is a convenient meme for sports media to fill airtime and column inches, but it’s meaningless to serious athletes.
    In the World Series, does it become more crucial to win Game 2 if you’ve lost Game 1? Does it become more crucial to win Game 3 if you’re going into a three-game stretch in your opponent’s home park tied 1-1? Does it become more crucial to win Game 4 if you lost Game 3?
    Well, duh.
    Of course.
    But do such perceptions change how any of the players actually approach postseason games? If the Yankees had taken two from the Phillies, winning 10-0 in both games, would they be less intense in Game 3?
    Of course not.
    Can anyone find any athlete in any sport nowadays who does not at least pay lipservice to the idea that one just takes it “one game” or “one day” at a time (even when playing garbage games after clinching toward the end of the season)?
    Top-flight athletes (with the possible exception of Manny Ramirez) don’t go out to play any game with the intention of doing anything but trying their damndest to win. That’s how they became top-flight athletes.

    Hudson October 30, 2009, 8:56 pm
  • Game 5 is as good as played-and-lost already
    This is the type of thought that a professional, elite athlete just doesn’t have. Which is why they are elite, and resilient, and in the World Series.

    SF October 31, 2009, 11:27 am

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