Monday, November 25, 2013

Guest Editorial: The Yankee turnaround must start with contrition

This from an old friend, "ROSE CITY WOBBLY."

"What I don’t get is the huge variation in the way people view the Red Sox, compared to the Yankees."  El Duque – 11/2/13

I’m a lifelong SF Giants fan (with nice scoreboards two out of the last four seasons.) And while I have been out in the Pacific Northwest for almost half my life, I grew up in Hartford, CT, mid-way between NYC and Boston. Yaz I didn’t get. So on the regional question of Yanks V. Sox, I leaned hard to the South down I-95 and the mediocre Yankee teams of the 70’s and 80’s. 

On June 8, 1969, the day they retired “7,” I teared-up watching Mickey circling the field twice, in what I remember as a T-bird Convertible. (I still have the program). And I joined 32,000 others at Fenway on a cold afternoon in April 1973 and watched Ron Blomberg draw a bases-loaded walk - the first DH in MLB history. (If the Yanks hadn’t scored 3 in the top of the first, the 1st DH in history would have been Orlando Cepeda; Stottlemeyer got hammered, and “El Tiante” survived that three-run first to throw a complete game victory). In 1989 I cooled to the team after George gave Roy White's number “6” to Steve Sax - freaking Steve Sax  - two years after Steinbrenner fired White from his coaching staff.  Stay classy, George...

Let’s begin by paying tribute to a piece of Americana: The 1950’s “Faustian” musical "Damn Yankees,” whose plot line included the sale of a soul, and the drama of "the Washington Senators possibly losing the pennant on the last day of the season, resulting in thousands of heart attacks, nervous breakdowns and suicides of Yankee-haters across the country,” as summarized by Wikipedia.  Prior to that, in 1919 the “Curse of the Bambino” began, with the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees. This ushered in the Red Sox' pitiful story. Was it 1919 when the chant was launched?  The inanity of folks screaming “YANKEES SUCK” for nine innings is plenty pitiful, too.

So what else is going on here between the Sox and Yanks, between BOS and NYC?

1) For me, it starts with an urban-rural dichotomy. Boston is believed to be the bucolic little city – a bunch of small white puritanical towns amalgamated into one - while New York’s five boroughs are the epicenter of American density. I lived in Boston for four years in the 1980’s. The reality: There were no differences in water quality between the Charles River/Boston Harbor and the waterways around NYC. You’d never know it by the ways the two environments were depicted.

With that urban-rural perspective, New York must continually fend off the rest of this nation’s xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism.  From being Jessie’s “Hymietown,” to the media uproar and idiocy of the Tawana Brawley/Sharpton drama; the supposed swelling communities of mostly non-white immigrants; the incompetence in quelling crime until Sherriff Guiliani came to town; and more recently, the greed and excess of Wall Street and the behaviors of Spitzers, Weiners and Pattersons….

From afar, NYC appears as a badly-assembled gargantuan circus with little community and warring class, and racial factions at odds.  But NYers know – as exemplified by the de Blasio victory earlier this month – that the Big Apple is dealing with urban woes better than any other place on the planet.

Juxtaposed, Boston lives on as small city parochial and homespun with the 19th century naturalist Thoreau, Emerson and the like - at least that's how the elites and their media describe it. Boston has become a “big-money and big-spending sports-town,” cloaked in the idyllic New England mythology, with its cute-colonial revolutionary war stories around every corner. Fenway Park is very cool and its history very real. But the other reality of class and racial segregation in Boston and the Red Sox franchise - is glossed over.

2)The Yankee franchise appeared first out of the box on “spending whatever it took to win.” Sure, the farm system produced Bernie, Andy; Jorge, Mo and Jeter - anchoring possibly the greatest team in baseball history,the 1998 Yankees. But the excessive free agent signings that began in 1974 with Catfish Hunter and evolved into Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and A-Rod, and the current Teixeira and Sabathia – has been a mixed bag success and a p.r. nightmare.  Boston - as well as the Rangers, Dodgers, my Giants and Mets - have followed suit.But the Yankees were first and best to “Go bank,” to set the gold standard and wear that mantle of the Evil Empire.

3) Finally and most importantly – Yankee Hubris. Yeah we get it: You win, you are the “Damn Yankees.” You have 27 freaking World Series Championships. “Beat that Boston, LA, Chicago, St Louis, San Francisco!”  Well when any underdog takes on Goliath the rest of the world cheers.  But other things bug us, too:

a)     The Stadium Theme song “New York, New York” is a narcissistic treatise that begs for outsider disdain.  Find a new act. Frank is long dead … how ‘bout "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z? 
b)    Facial Hair Martial Law … it’s the 21st century folks.  Get over it.  Show a human face … in more ways than one.

c)     Stop being the victim and blaming ESPN and the Gammonites.  Sure Bristol, CT, is just down the road from Boston, and they like to dig at NY. C'mon, you would, too. 

d)    Humility. Grow some.  Have the Yankees ever said they were wrong, apologized and thrown their souls open to the fan base? Have they ever said, "OK we screwed up?" The Red Sox looked and felt human this season, but the Yankees still feel Madison Avenue-fake, like Botox and reality TV - behind a facade of corporate uncaring and dispassion. 

Coming two years on the heels of what went wrong in Boston with the beer/chicken and the firing of a beloved skipper; the hiring of that train wreck/a-hole named Valentine (CT guy, BTW)... the Sox cut bait and re-invented themselves -with humility. They got right so quickly and were amazingly rewarded by catching lightening in a bottle this season.  My favorite lefty sportswriter Dave Zirin wrote:  “Boston Red Sox Party like its1918 and my hate is on hold.” Click on it.

Americans love folks who show contrition – and the Yankee Brass as you highlight so well at IIHIIFIIC – show none.  If the Steinbrothers and Cashman tell us they screwed up, the rest of the world may be able to get with them. Eventually.

But hey, rejoice! Saturday, you spent $85 Million over the next 5 years for a serviceable catcher – with a fully vested no-trade clause. Crazy times. Good luck corralling “Cano-doncha-know.” And have a great holiday season.


Rose City Wobbly

(Note: If you want to submit guest editorials, well, WHY THE HELL NOT? Contact me at


Warren Wilhelm said...

Embracing socialists isn't the same as "dealing with urban woes", though to some it may feel that way for a while.

I personally have always liked the Yankees in large part because of their lack of humility. Real life offers plenty of opportunities to be humble; in baseball I think some unapologetic pride and swagger is a good thing.

Stang said...

"Socialists?" Down, Ayn Rand. Good dog

This is a great editorial.

Vengeance said...

If they start playing trash from a no talent hack like Jay Z,I'll burn down the stadium.Right after I track down your ip address for suggesting such lunacy :P

KD said...

Mustang, are you paying attention? the new NYC mayor is really out there. Dinkins' squeegee men are starting to reassemble.

Stang said...

I get a nice cut off the squeegee racket.