Yankee Fans Find Their “Hiro”

By: Alan Levy

Masahiro Tanaka demands your full attention. I don’t care if you’re glued to the TV watching the Rangers march through the playoffs. It doesn’t matter what golf tournament is on (Tiger isn’t playing yet anyway). Your basketball season has been over for months if you’re a Knick fan (and for weeks if you’re a Net fan, or anyone else not Miami and San Antonio). The World Cup hasn’t started yet and football is still in hibernation. Masahiro Tanaka wants you to watch baseball now.

I remember feeling like this before. In 1978, Yankee fans watched as their defending champs stumbled through the beginning of the season with the exception of every fifth day. That was when Ron Guidry took the mound and created a dominant pitching performance that compelled you to watch. He didn’t lose a game until July that year (he ended up losing three); finished what he started 16 times with nine shut outs and an absurd 1.74 ERA. Lots of luck finding a starter that can begin 16 games without a trip to the DL now.

(Post Break: Beth Aaron’s Sweet Sixteen, held on June 17, 1978 coincided with a Guidry start against the Angels. At the party, all the Yankee fans were anxiously kept in the dark (in those pre-internet days) until we got home and found out that Guidry struck out 18 batters. That Saturday night was the first time Yankee Stadium fans started clapping when a batter had two strikes. I was not happy I missed that game.)

Tanaka, has taken baseball by storm this year, going 10-1 with an AL leading 2.02 ERA and making Yankee fans remember what it’s like to watch a pitcher at the top of his game. In this era of relief specialization, Tanaka has shunned the bullpen, twice completing games and going as deep into the game as Yankee Manager Joe Girardi’s binder will let him. He’s averaging over seven innings an appearance and averages over a strikeout and inning. But it’s his aura, like Guidry in ’78 that compels you to tune in. Something special can happen any time he’s on the mound and you don’t want to miss a thing. Yankee fans can only hope for a 1978 redux (maybe without the 14 1⁄2 game comeback).

At a time when the Yankees are sliding their way back to pre-1995 mediocrity, Tanaka could be the bridge between the Jeter Era and whatever comes next. But for now, we’ll just watch.

Just Sayin’

Who is making Rangers D Dan Girardi’s sticks – ACME Toothpick Company? If I’m Derek Fisher, I’m pumping up that Carmelo-to-Miami talk so Melo opts out. There’s no room for a 30 year-old ball hog in the triangle.

Jon Beason, we hardly knew ye . . .

Fantasy Football Update: I’m trying to get over the fact that I’m still watching hockey and I’ve already received my pre-season projections email. I can’t be behind in preparing already – can I?

World Cup Update: Fearless prediction is that someone not ranked in the top five will win this year, so farewell Spain, Germany, Brazil, Portugal and Argentina – hello Italy? Belgium?

(Follow me on Twitter – @upperdeckview)

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Alan Levy lives the American Dream in Northern Virginia, but is a third generation New York sports fan whose parents went to a Rangers/Red Wings game on their honeymoon. Alan also writes over at http://viewfromupperdeck.blogspot.com/

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