Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Journey - Chapter 13

Monday, August 10, 2015 was an off day. The team flew out to Cleveland, to begin a series with the Indians the following day. Joe Girardi was not on the plane. He was no longer manager of the Yankees.

At the moment of Girardi's firing, the record of his squad was twelve games under .500. Commander of a team nineteen games out of first place and sinking fast,  Girardi's departure from the team he had managed since 2008 was a seeming inevitability. Even though he was in the middle of a four year contract, the dollars the Yankees were forced to absorb in the firing paled in comparison to the earlier A-Rod disaster.

The ownership, with the departure of King George, had been much more forgiving of the trespasses of the team and of its leader, but there were limits which had now been exceeded. The last Yankee mid-season firing of a manager was the dumping of Bucky Dent, in June of 1990, while he was with the team, in Boston of all places. A quarter of a century later, at least the timing was a bit better.

Dave Miley had managed the Cincinnati Reds for two and a half seasons ten years ago. On August 10, 2015 he was performing that role for the Scranton- Wilkes Barre Roughriders, the Yankee's Triple A team. The following day he was back in the big leagues, this time as the leader of the most storied franchise in baseball history.

He was widely viewed as an interim sacrificial lamb, a placeholder until a manager with some gravitas could be plucked from the ranks of the unemployed or free agents before the 2016 season. He hoped to prove the naysayers wrong, much as two controversial earlier choices (Buck Showalter and Joe Torre) had done.

The road trip to Cleveland and Toronto produced five wins and one loss. Everyone seemed to have a little more bounce in their step, which is a strange phenomenon that occurs with some surprising regularity in circumstances such as these.

I was trying to regain my own footing, having just gone through some difficult days. My 38th wedding anniversary was August 6th. As much as I paid it little mind throughout the years, the fact that it was not a day of celebration but one of somber reflection robbed me of any joy this event would typically bring.

I encountered my first health problems on this trip. I had been fortunate throughout the season that apart from the occasional back discomfort, I had been remarkably healthy.

On Wednesday evening, August, 12, 2015, I ate at a Caribbean food truck on Ontario Street just outside of Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. I awoke in the middle of the night with a very pronounced case of food poisoning. After struggling for an hour or so in my room,  I called my wife looking for help, as though she could hold my hand at 4 AM from afar, then contacted the front desk asking for suggestions, I ended up taking a cab at 5AM to an emergency room. I was in the hospital most of the day, and was discharged late in the afternoon.

Too weak to even consider spending the night at a ballpark, I now missed my fifth game of the year, and my fourth in less than ten days. At this rate, it was a toss up as to who had the worse record, the Yankees or me.

That evening, I did manage to go into the bar at the hotel to watch the game. I do not drink, due to a balky stomach, and have hardly ingested a glass of wine or stronger beverage in over four decades. So, I was decidedly in the minority as I sat there, surrounded by mostly Cleveland fans, all with several alcoholic stimulants helping to propel the discussion.

When the conversation turned to me, and how I found myself sitting in that particular locale, I was advised that it was not the food, but the Yankees that had made me so ill. I could hardly put up a fight, both because of my weakened condition and the state of the squad that I had now followed, at least most of the time, for almost four and one half months. 

Thankfully, at least on this night, victory was ours. Jacoby Ellsbury hit two home runs, only the third time this year that anyone on the Yanks had accomplished that feat in one game, drove in six runs, and the final score read 8 to 5.

When the game concluded, I called my wife and both of my children to check in and let them know I was feeling much better. I woke each one up. While I wondered if I had overestimated my value with them, I understood the truth was that my family knew if there was even anything remotely bothering me I would chronicle it, chapter and verse. For I am nothing if not both a wimp and a hypochondriac.

In 11th grade I was considered a pretty good soccer player. Captain of my team, I was being counted on to be its most prolific scorer. After the third game, I developed a small rash under my chin. When it persisted for several days, I went to a doctor for a diagnosis. I was informed that I had impetigo. I rested for the remainder of the season, almost two months, for what was quite candidly, not much more overwhelming than a pimple.

As I lay in bed that night, I worried if I would be strong enough to continue on the road trip. I am sure the following morning my family was in contact with one another, chronicling my episode and laughing at my latest version of impetigo.

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