NEW YORK, NY - MAY 24: Andrew Miller #48 of the New York Yankees looks on before the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on May 24, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
After one half-week of the MLB playoffs, there are a few certainties.
We know the Nationals are once again not necessarily built for the postseason. We know the Texas Rangers, now sporting a negative run differential on the season, are exactly who the underlying numbers predicted they’d be. We know Xander Bogaerts can’t go two pitches without a check swing.
And, of course, we know the Cubs have solidified their status as the deserved favorites, and the Indians have solidified their status as our favorites.
And it’s because Yankee fans can’t help but automatically side with Andrew Miller over Aroldis Chapman.
So far, Aroldis has been the Aroldis we remember from 2016’s first half: talked up by announcers, ostensibly dominant, but the meat is lacking. He emerges from the ‘pen, getting his virtues extolled, then ends up 3-2 on every hitter he faces, getting ahead in the count, then seemingly choosing to miss with a sequence of no-bite breaking balls. He’ll be the Cubs closer for the remainder of their run, of course. Maybe he’ll blow a game. Maybe he’ll be flawless. But either way, all indications are he’ll remain a surprisingly seat-of-your-pants plug-in closer option when he’s talked about as if he’s…well, as if he’s Andrew Miller.
Because Andrew Miller is an animal, and he’s let it be known that he’ll do anything and everything to lock down a postseason win.
Make no mistake: bringing Miller into the fifth inning during Game 1 against the Red Sox was a brilliant move, as long as it’s not your manager doing it. When it’s your own team, you turn into a throwback manager; the closer’s for the ninth, the setup man’s for the eighth, nobody panic, if we get there, we get there. But when you’re able to think objectively, what Terry Francona did with Miller is so clearly brilliant, because you can’t plan for tomorrow. If you feel the need to save Miller for Game 2, then let me introduce you to a game that never got closer than 6-0 and had no need for the lefty buzzsaw.
The announcers seemed to love saying that you would pull such a move if you needed to steal a game on the road, but not if you had to defend home turf. I strongly disagree; you need to win any game you can, especially against a team we already know is an offensive juggernaut. You choke away a game on the road, you can potentially recover. You choke away Game 1 at home? You’re beyond done. The accurate, justified confidence in the Red Sox down 2-0 should be enough to prove Francona right.
And so us Yankee fans will continue to root for our favorite son, in whichever scenario he finds himself. Postseason baseball shouldn’t be about the status quo. It should be about extending yourself, daring to burn out your body, all for the 10% chance of taking home a ring. Anything to raise the odds.
I love the Cubs; don’t get me wrong. I’ll be rooting for the Cubs to navigate their way through the National League, which certainly looks like a road to the World Series stacked with legitimate competitors. But my heart lies with the pursuit of Andrew Miller, the one the Yankees didn’t really have to give away, but also likely did have to. We have Clint and Justus; you have our man, and you’re using him in ways we never imagined. Pass the popcorn; I’ll always root for these heartbreakers.