By now we're all familiar with the scene that follows a ninth-inning win at Yankee Stadium. The player who recorded the winning hit celebrates with his teammates in a raucous scene in the infield or at home plate before heading over to do an on-field interview where, sooner or later, A.J. Burnett slams a whipped cream pie into his face to the delight of the assembled fans. We're used to it now, but when the pies first started flying it was hard to reconcile the normally sober Yankees with such exuberance.
The change from stolid businessmen to chipper little leaguers has been credited with helping the Yankees back to the playoffs after a one-year absence by several sources. The Wall Street Journalpicks up the banner on Friday, quoting the always jocular Nick Swisher as saying this season has been the most fun he's ever had in the major leagues. That's a good jumping off point for a question about whether the fun is giving birth to the winning or if its the other way around.
The guess here is that it is a little of both. Any attempt to credit whistling a happy tune for 103 wins comes at the expense of the addition of Burnett, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. All three represent a massive improvement on the player who came before and even if the clubhouse soundtrack was nothing but Sigur Ros there's a pretty good chance that the team was going to be better as a result of their arrival. That said, having a loose clubhouse where people feel comfortable can only help foster an environment where the valleys are quickly traversed and stays on the peaks last a little longer.
At any rate, we're about to set off on a series between two closely matched teams who split their five regular season games and that means we've got a good chance of seeing more flying pies. We could try to break down the odds of who is most likely to wind up wiping whipped cream from their face this series, but that seems a bit difficult given the nature of baseball games. Instead we'll tie it into the above issue of a sea change in the Yankee outlook on life and hope that Derek Jeter pulls some magic out of his postseason cap.
Does the Captain catch a pie? Early in the season when the first inklings of a lighter Yankee team were popping up there was some talk that old school guys didn't cotton to the stylings of Burnett, Swisher and the other jokesters. But then Jorge Posada took his pie like a man and the train kept rolling and now it would seem odd if he didn't go along with the group.
And what better night for it than Friday? With Ronan Tynan gone, the last vestiges of the ultra-serious, we're not here to enjoy ourselves Yankees has been shuttled off to the side. A Jeter pie would crush whatever was left of that attitude in a way every Yankee fan could appreciate.