Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Damn Yankees

[Baseball, sad to say, is a spectacle of all the other teams chasing the Rich Kids. It isn’t a miracle that the Yankees win so often, it’s a huge one that they ever lose]

Given that it is  the rest of the baseball world’s perennial hope to beat the Yankees every year, a little objectivity is in order.

To fans everywhere, the Yanks are quintessential winners and consummate reps of the Great American Game. And there are reasons. I remember when there were no teams west of Chicago, and the St. Louis Cardinals represented the entire Southland, including sports-happy Texas. New York was by far the largest and wealthiest market. The Yankees were expected to win, and did. To the rest of the nation, the Big Apple could well have been in another galaxy. Kids who were loners or losers always declared themselves Yankee fans and thereby claimed a pyrrhic dignity, though they might never hear or see a Yankee game.

New York had an early corner on the greatest number of fans and the biggest bucks to grab the greatest players in the game. What they didn’t have, they could always get, like, you know, the Babe. Later, when fans in Kansas City had only the exploits of Roger Maris to enjoy,  Royals owner Charles Finley, strapped for cash like all teams outside the Big Apple, had to cough him up to, who else, Gotham City, which already had Mickey Mantle.

Such is the way of the world, and in baseball, too. It is human nature to be given to short memories, so I’ll stick with more recent history–such as when Yankee morale was daunted by a losing streak and a measure of grief filled the locker room. George Steinbrenner eased the sobbing by buying Jason Giambi; when subsequent mewling was heard, Georgie gave the Phillies an offer they, too, couldn’t refuse for the likes of Bobby Abreu.

Both A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, by all rights, should have been Red Sox but Boston was obliged to consider creative financing, as most of us do, and once again the Steinbrenners waved blank checks, and the rest, again, is history.

Baseball, sad to say, is a matter of everybody else chasing the rich kids. It isn’t a miracle that the Yankees win so often, it is a huge one that they ever lose. They should be up ten games by every All Star break, and twenty by end of season. An ESPN announcer, ticking off the Yanks starting lineup, once paused to say this was, in reality, an all-star team. Indeed it is, and the best that money can buy.

This sense of entitlement pervades their fans, and when a loss in the making, they’re outta there by the seventh inning.This rise of Red Sox Nation, the existence of which Hank Steinbrenner denies, has helped to change that culture of late; the Yankees, formerly ultra-blase about winning, have taken to jumping up and down like school kids after a win, hugging and kissing like they really love each other, instead of the old ho-hum trot to the lockers for showers and late-night on the town, a la the days of Mantle and Martin.

The Yanks, curiously, are also a “whitebread” team; notice the dearth of players of “color” and, when seen, are not long for such rarified air. Since the days of Elston Howard, who would guess, were they not told, that there is a tiny glimmer of “diversity” in light-skinned A-Rod, Jeter, Cabrera and Cano; and more lately, Sabathia. When the promising but very dark Alfonso Soriano came aboard, he made a handful of errors and in a trice was exiled–while lousy clutch-hitter A-Rod left tons of runners on base over years of play, but enjoys the infinite patience of fans and management.

They could have had Manny but made no real effort: aside from his skin, Manny would never have caved for a Yankee haircut, as did Johnny Damon. Teams like the Angels and Dodgers are replete with color, so you’d think the Big Apple is WASP City with a team to match.

Even a Boston sports writer tried to make a case that the Yankees have as much farm system talent as anyone but neglected to mention, in his infinite generosity, that the Bronx also added to last year’s roster three super stars–two world-class pitchers (one is A. J. Burnett)and a premier slugger–almost one-third of the starting lineup. Who can’t win with that that kind of fire-power?

Their new, overdone stadium is another benefit; they say it wasn’t built as a launching pad for homers, since all teams benefit when playing there–which overlooks who plays there far more than the rest.

All of which is a manager’s dream, and Joe Torre was an average skipper who put up with the Steinbrenners to bathe in their Midas Touch; and who was Joe Girardi, really? Fact is, anyone will do; they could stick a face with interchangeable parts on the manager’s bench and still come in first.

So why hasn’t the Big Apple won it all, in regular fashion, in recent times (save for last year?) Sure, chalk one up to the human spirit, but be really thankful for playoffs.  It’s one thing to have a Murderer’s Row swinging away through the regular season; it’s another to have narrow windows of time when you’re limited to only part of your star-studded pitching stable–given that other teams can scratch up that much for the short duration.

So, fans, sports-writers and -casters, not to mention announcers– don’t forget: it’s a miracle that the Yankees lose at all, not that they win. And how, thusly, do they and their fans keep a straight face when they do?

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