No, I’m not referring to the pinch hitter for A-Rod.
I saw vast sections of empty seats at a Yankee Stadium playoff game.
I’m not talking about one vacant seat, here and there, during a new hot earth Nor'easter. I saw vast sections of dark blue, empty blue, unfannied seats for the ALCS. The Yankees were playing. The fans were staying home.
Listen: If anybody has to ask if the Yankees are in decline, what were they watching last October? Whitney? Let me tell you a few things.
Yankee home attendance has fallen since 2009. Should we be surprised? The bloom is gone from Yankee Stadium, just like its virginity, following last summer’s restroom sex tape. It took four years for New York to recognize that it razed an iconic piece of American history and replaced it with a concrete theme park/money fortress, a place where millionaires watch millionaires play ball.
The Yankee product is boring and predictable. Yes, we have the Great Jeter, the Great Mariano, and Old Faithful Andy — they’ll bring cheers. But it's a team of cardboard cutouts. Nobody ever says anything human. The lone personality – Nick Swisher – was booed from NYC. There is no Yogi — no Brian Wilson, no Mark Fydrich, no R.A. Dickey, no player with the heart of a fan. Joba is close, and he’s a china doll disappointment. The players are as human as Mitt Romney’s definition of corporations. I love the guy, but has Jete ever said a memorable quote? We have no soul, and it showed last fall, when they were undressed.
The Yankees have grown accustomed to a free ride in NY. For the last 10 years, the slow-motion collapse of the Mets gave us a false notion of deserved popularity. They never had to fight for the back pages (which soon will not exist.) They never faced a viable alternative. That won’t last forever. One of these days, the Mets will turn the corner. New York is hungry for a young team, a rising team, a team without A-Rod. One of these days...
The MLB salary cap was carefully designed to screw the Yankees. That smiling piece of hemp rug, Bud Selig, slipped into fine print the paragraphs that sealed New York's future, when he negotiated the last players agreement. Frankly, we're dead. If Hal and Hank don’t reach the $189 million budget, they get hopelessly swamped by luxury tax. Nobody else in baseball has to worry abourt that rule. Just us. So do the math: Next year, you see Robbie Cano walking. Can you imagine that? And if the old-time Yankees do play well this year -- dear God -- the Steins will face a Miami Marlinesque dismantling next winter. Not since the movie "Major League" has an ownership faced more to lose by fielding a winning team.
Help is not on the way. The Yankee farms yielded no money crop last year, suffering from a drought launched by the king of disasters – the trade of Jesus Montero for a torn shoulder. The Yankees have few prospects north of Double A, the traditional culling fields of youth. Read the Yankee blogs, and you'd think we were on the verge of a new era. Jose Ramirez! Woopee! But here's the reality: Everybody looks good below Double A.
The league smells our rotting flesh. They sense a wounded creature. Toronto went spending spastic this winter. If the outfielder that Tampa received for James Shields turns out to be the real deal, watch out. Baltimore soared last year; they’ll improve in 2013. Boston cannot be worse, even if they seem to be trying. But considering our age, don't call an ambulance, get the defibulator. An injury here and there, brother — we could be fat, old, tired, overpaid and in last place.
I'm sorry, folks. If I were a commenter on River Ave, they'd call me a troll. Yes, I'm just a fan - I don't claim to have internal knowledge of the game. But where I sit, yeesh... the Yankees in decline? Hell, freefall is the better word.