December 19, 2014

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Coughlin: Postseason is a recipe for cardiac arrest

  The party was raging all around him Monday night in the Indians’ locker room at Yankee Stadium. Players sprayed each other with beer and champagne. Grown men hugged each other. They jumped and they danced. Indians owner Larry Dolan smiled serenely off to one side.
“We’re here now and as anybody can see, we may be here for a while,” Dolan said to a reporter. “Enjoy it. Let yourself go. Enjoy the moment. And I think we have some more for you.”
I’m not sure, however, that enjoyment is what these baseball playoffs are all about, unless your idea of enjoyment is the Chinese water torture.
Back in the 1970s when I was a traveling baseball writer, I thoroughly enjoyed covering the playoffs. As Jim Murray said, I had a rooting interest only in the story. Give me a plane ticket and an angle. What more could a sportswriter need? The Indians? Hah! They were never a factor. I sat back and enjoyed the playoffs with dispassionate and detached appreciation. The Indians were never in them.
Not this year. The playoffs become an untamed beast when your team is involved. The tension is agonizing, especially when you’re playing the Yankees and half the world is rooting against you.
You know that the TV networks were pulling for New York. Even my network, Fox, wanted New York or Boston to play the Cubs in the World Series. It’s good for business. Big cities. Big markets. Big ratings.
You start to take this personally, so there is some perverse satisfaction in knowing that at least half of the World Series will be played either in Denver or Phoenix. Wouldn’t it be nice if the other half were in Cleveland?
In the meantime, we are sitting on the edges of our seats, actually fretting about lineup changes, pitching matchups and strategy. In the old days I let the managers worry about those things. I worried about getting my story finished in time for last call.
Now I get apoplectic about leaving Trot Nixon in the game after he hits a home run off Roger Clemens. Eric Wedge got lucky on that hunch play. But he pressed his luck. Sure enough, Nixon’s error in right field broke open Sunday night’s game and led to the Yankees’ only victory in this series.
Monday night I said out loud that he should get Kelly Shoppach out of the game after Paul Byrd left the game in the sixth inning. Shoppach is Byrd’s personal catcher. When he catches, Victor Martinez goes to first base and Ryan Garko sits it out. But, no, Shoppach stayed in the game and banged a double off the outfield wall, missing a home run by one foot. So far, Wedge is pulling the right strings.
In the ninth inning Monday night, you could make a case for letting Rafael Betancourt pitch the ninth instead of giving the ball to Joe Borowski. Betancourt had knocked the Yankees down 1-2-3 in the eighth with about 10 pitches. He was totally overpowering and had plenty of bullets left for the ninth. But, once again, Wedge ignored what was on my mind — and many of yours — by bringing Borowski on to save the game in the ninth. And sure enough, Borowski surrendered a solo homer before squirming out of the inning and burying the Yanks.
In the dugout, Wedge looks calm enough, although he nervously strokes his whiskers and is starting to develop facial twitches.
I’d be happy with only a twitch. The stress is killing me. Back in 1995, when the Indians made the post-season for the first time since 1954, I checked with some nursing homes and hospitals. They would not let old people with heart problems watch the playoff and World Series games. They told me they actually were afraid their patients would have heart attacks and die.
So I take my heart pill in the morning and my aspirin at night and watch these games with “911” already punched into my cell phone. If Manny takes Fausto deep Saturday night, all I have to hit is “send.”
Contact Dan Coughlin at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.