Columns, Minority Report, Opinion

American League Divisional Series pits Cleveland’s David against New York’s Goliath | Minority Report

Take one look at each superstar for the Cleveland Guardians and the New York Yankees, and you’ll see a David and Goliath comparison begging to be made. 

Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs this year and stands 6’7”— taller than the biblical Goliath, who was 6’6”. He’s got a square jaw, muscles that pop through the Yankee Pinstripes and a neatly groomed head of hair. He went sneaker shopping with Complex. He’s backstage with Travis Scott. And he plays for the most iconic franchise in baseball: the 27-time World Series champion New York Yankees.

Guardians third baseman José Ramírez stands 5’9” tall and weighs just 190 pounds. He’s stout and unassuming, with plump cheeks and short, blond dreadlocks. The national press is not clamoring to see what kinds of shoes he wears. If you sat next to him on a train, you probably wouldn’t guess he’s an elite athlete who dominates the major leagues. He plays for the small-market Guardians — the franchise with the longest active World Series drought: 73 years.

Judge was a top prospect whose stardom became destiny after the Yankees picked him in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft.

Ramírez was an under-the-radar Dominican prospect described in a 2017 New York Times article as “something of an afterthought.” 

Ramírez took a team-friendly extension for seven years and about $140 million to stay loyal to the club, saying he hopes to retire as a Guardian. After signing, he tweeted, “This is my home!!” His partnership with Guardians Charities and the City of Cleveland to create a turfed baseball and softball field in the area — aptly named José Ramírez Field — is proof of Ramírez’s dedication to the community.

Earlier this year, Judge turned down a contract worth over $200 million and is awaiting what might be the most lucrative contract a baseball player has ever signed. 

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | Graphic Artist

In 2022, the Yankees spent over $260 million on players — the league’s third-highest payroll. The Guardians spent about $80 million on players — the league’s third-lowest payroll.

One team plays in a modern-day Babylon with a GDP just north of $1 trillion and a population of around nine million. The other plays in a humble, Midwestern city with a GDP of around $115 billion and a population of about 380,000.

Contrasting the affluent metropolis and the industrial city along with their respective superstars creates an almost cliched matchup between pride and humility. In fact, there is an actual movie called “The Pride of the Yankees.” But are money and contrasting stature the only biblical similarities? Is God winking at us? Or are these mere coincidences?

For those of little faith, I present to you: plague. 

In the Book of Exodus, Moses warns the pharaoh to free the Jews, lest the pharaoh suffer the wrath of a great many plagues. The third plague was gnats, and Aaron, Moses’s brother, “struck the dust of the earth, and there came gnats on man and beast; all the dust of the earth became gnats throughout all the land of Egypt.”

In 2007, Cleveland beat the Yankees in the ALDS, partly thanks to a swarm of midges — also known as gnats. The midges swarmed the Cleveland stadium and bothered Yankees relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain so much that he lost command of his pitches and gave up a game-tying run in the eighth inning of game 2 — a game Cleveland would go on to win. 

Chamberlain acknowledged every stadium had distractions, but said distractions are more challenging “when they’re flying in your face and in your ears.”

Can Cleveland count on another plague? Luckily for Cleveland, the midges are back just in time for the ALDS games 3 and 4 in Cleveland.

“[Midges are] now coming up to the surface and emerging out,” Cleveland Metroparks naturalist Jake Kudrna told local Cleveland station WKYC.

And what days are games 3 and 4 in Cleveland being played on? Saturday and Sunday — each considered a Sabbath day by Abrahamic religions. 

All of these hints from above seem to point to Cleveland’s David triumphing over New York’s Goliath. This may come to be, but this matchup also shows a misunderstanding of the David-Goliath dynamic. With God on his side, David was the mismatch for Goliath, not the other way around. 

While I cannot prove that God is on Cleveland’s side — though as a Guardians fan, I would like to think that He is — the apparent favorite Yankees may well be at a disadvantage. Though the Yankees won 99 games to Cleveland’s 92, the Guardians have the league-best record of 16-4 and 24-6 over the last 20 and 30 games, respectively. 

Aside from Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ lineup lacks depth, whereas depth is one of the strengths of Cleveland’s young lineup. Cleveland also has a clear bullpen advantage and a slight edge in starting pitching. 

Besides players, Cleveland has a colossal advantage when it comes to coaching. Guardians manager Terry Francona is one of the league’s best — the winner of two World Series, three pennants and two Manager of the Year awards. Yankees manager Aaron Boone has no such accolades. 

If a better leader, better pitching, better lineup depth and a plague on its side are not enough, Cleveland may be looking at another 40 years in the baseball desert.

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