Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Driven

The title of this post is only a mild allusion to Derek Jeter's Avon scent. You'll find some comments about the MVP snub buried somewhere deep within this post, but it's only a part of my current line of thinking. Today is about burning desire. Today is about laser-like focus and will.

In the Spring of 1996 I found myself dissatisfied with the direction of my life. Things just weren't going according to plan, and I felt as though there were loose threads everywhere. I was working hard, eating my vegetables, and thinking happy thoughts, but something was just off. The Yankees had been eliminated by the Mariners in a tough wild card series a season earlier, and while baseball wasn't on the radar in terms of my personal angst, I definitely felt hyper-attentive to the 1996 campaign, especially when pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training. It was one of those times in life that sports provides the perfect diversion for misplaced energy.

As the season closed that year, and the Yankees made their magical run, I found myself alone at home each night cheering on the Bombers and participating in a wild roller coaster ride of October drama. I was high when the Yankees were high, and low when they were off the mark. In retrospect, it probably wasn't such a healthy thing to project my personal stress on baseball. Had the Yankees lost, I think I would have been extraordinarily depressed. But they did win. I rode the wave to the crest and shouted at the top of my lungs. I remember clearly when Charlie Hayes caught the last out and gripped his glove tight, I beamed...and I felt a great rush of power that permeated my very being. After 15 years, it was over. I was 10 years old when the Bombers had last triumphed as world champions, and the weird sports void that my adult life had possessed was suddenly gone. Red Sox fans must have experienced this emotion to the 100th power in 2004.

The subsequent championships were sweet. They were jewels in the crown we'd won back in '96. Each title that followed was more affirmation than revelation. 1998 was my favorite baseball season in history, and will likely stand as my single favorite ballclub of all time, until the day I day. I would take a big act to top that one. The thing is, the current drought of 6 seasons is beginning to be similarly trying to the 15 years between 1981 and 1996. It's less than half the time, but nearly double the strain. Here are a few reasons why:

1. The Budget

No one will let us forget that we have, by far, the highest budget in baseball every year. Even though the Red Sox, Cubs, and Mets, among others, are also spending vast sums of money, and shooting the moon on player expenditures when compared to the rest of the sport, they are given a pass because of the Yankees. The Sox spend on Matsuzaka's bidding and their fans have the nerve to duck and dive, hiding behind some intellectually superior veil of market trends, economic models, and diversified interests. The next Yankee free agent splash will undoubtedly be accompanied by the familiar cries of, "There they go again, those damn Yankees."

2. The Jealousy

Yankee fans are arrogant. Yankee fans feel a sense of entitlement. Yankee fans are the most annoying and unbearable people on Earth, next to the Taliban....maybe. That's what you'll hear from fans around the country. There are plenty of people that resent the success of the Yankees. Yes, there are plenty of fans wearing the interlocking "NY" that rub it in, and make the whole thing worse, but I'm sure the spite would exist without them. It's a biproduct of success. People hated on the Celtics and Lakers in the 80s. They hated on the Bulls in the 90s. The Yankees have worn the bullseye for decades. It's not the ire of haters that annoys me.

What annoys me is the blame that is tossed around at the Yankees for the things that are wrong in the sport. The Yankee payroll, as I discussed above, is a strike against the image of the team, but the jealous owners and writers around the country use the whole thing to their advantage. It's a kind of propaganda campaign that drives fan anger in the direction of the Henry Hudson Parkway. The Royals owner won't spend, but it's the Yankees fault that they haven't been competitive in a generation and a half. Likewise, the national media loves to focus on the failures of the Yankees. There is so much local media attention in New York that spills over into the media outlets stationed in the Big Apple that the backlash is palpable. Many of the beat writers that follow the Yanks work for papers that are in a blood war for circulation. That war is fueled by sensational headlines on the back page. If the Post can generate more controversy by, say, shitting on A-Rod every other day, people will read, get fired up, and buy more papers.

The national folks pick up on all this and feed the masses of Yankee haters with plenty of the bloody scraps left on the floor of the cage. ESPN is particularly bad when it comes to this, as they are a tight bunch of Red Sox fans looking to give the Bombers a swift kick in the ass. Anyone who follows SportsCenter knows the one week long celebrations that follow a David Ortiz walk off home run. They aren't the only ones though. There are plenty of beat writers for other teams, in other cities, that have such a chip on their shoulders that they will vote against Derek Jeter in the MVP ballotting, just out of spite. Many of them will make their case for another player, in an attempt to divert attention from their card-carrying Yankee Hater-ship, but it exists. It's out there. Not all the votes that went against Jeter are of this nature. I don't want to paint it as a conspiracy theory. If a guy votes for Joe Mauer, he has my respect. If Santana gets the vote, I'll reluctantly agree that it's probably deserved. But, you have less conspicuous members of the media like the ridiculous Joe Cowley, who voted Jeter sixth.

3. The Stars

With a team full of famous players, with long records of Hall of Fame credentials, it seems ludicrous that we haven't won a title in 6 years. The team is worth a billion dollars, the payroll is through the roof, and everyone from 1-9 on the roster is an All Star. The pitching is the problem, but even so it's not like we're throwing a bunch of AA guys out there night in and night out. It's difficult to swallow that this kind of Dream Team isn't able to slug its way to one championship in six years. The frustration of the fans is made exponentially worse by this fact. I think it's one of the main factors in the A-Rod hatred and subsequent booing. If the Yankees are spending all this money on famous Hall of Famers that can't deliver a title, they shoud be roundly booed, or so the thinking goes. That booing is directed at the most famous Hall of Famer on the roster, who also happens to be the most highly paid. Fan booing is WAY out of control in all sports, but it starts in the Bronx.

Fans pine for the Scott Brosius era, as if his .307 OBP and 15 home runs are the answer to our shortcomings. The answer is Johan Santana, or someone of his ilk. He's not available, yet, and the Yankees are going to have to play with the army that they have, to quote a famous monster. They can win. They're close every year, and they just might pull it off one of these days.

The point in writing all this is that I'm focused, as a fan. I'm so razor sharp focused on the 2007 campaign that there's no way the Yankees can fail. I'm going to will it to happen. I'm so tired of the talk of our payroll, while other teams get a pass. I'm fed up with the haters and the ultra-biased media, both local and national. I'm finally on the side of all those overpaid stars. They are busting their asses to win, whether we see it in their eyes or not. I believe in them and my belly full of guts tells me that they're going to silence the critics and emerge on top in 2007. My life is in a much better place now than it was 10 years ago. My son will be born in about a month, and life is sweet. The thing is, there are too many things on my back, as a Yankee fan, that I'm going to shake off like a wet dog. Yankee haters out there beware. The irresistable force that is the New York Yankees is about to be unleashed. Who's with me?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what you said. I'm tired of people assuming I'm a bandwagon fan because I happened to grow up liking New York area sports franchises, Yankees included. I'm also tired of whiners and nitwits who parrot ridiculous arguments against the team.

With that said, I have very little hope for this season. Maybe we'll sign a couple of good starting pitchers and I'll change my mind, but as of now I just don't have confidence in a Torre-led team anymore. I'm not going to give him the majority of the blame for the recent losses, just as I don't give him a majority of the credit for the championships. However, I feel he doesn't get the most out of some of his pitchers while simultaneously abusing and wrecking his good relievers. I wouldn't be surprised if Wright has a better season in Baltimore.

Torre also holds onto grudges tighter than he grasps Jeter's bat in the dugout, and that affects his judgment. What was the purpose of dropping ARod to 8th in a playoff game? If you're trying to get ARod out of his supposed funk (25 HR, .915 OPS in 2006), why wait until the middle of a five game series? Too little, too late.

This is also the same guy who put in Jeff Weaver (our Jeff Weaver, not whoever pitched for the Cardinals) in a tie game in the World Series at Florida in extra innings.

Furthermore, this is the same guy who sank with the ship in the 2004 ALCS, and then had the nerve to say on air that the 2006 loss to the Tigers was worse. If he doesn't understand the difference, he doesn't understand our franchise.

A lack of quality pitching has been the difference between the Championship run and this current era, but I can't help but feel Torre does not help things. We have some good young players in our system and I'm afraid he might ruin them before they have a chance to develop. I'm afraid of seeing a Phillip Hughes or a Humberto Sanchez come up, hit a rough spot and have to deal with Torre's infamous cold shoulders and dismissals. I'm nervous that Scott Proctor won't survive another season under Torre without destroying his arm. I'm bothered that Torre's machinations might drive away a huge talent like ARod. I'm also concerned that if we happen to win this year, Torre will stick around for another ten seasons. For the long run, I think that's bad.

rabid stan said...

Well, I'm with you, Mike.

I'm looking forward to next year, especially to watching our 1-3 hitters grind up opposing pitchers, who then have to face A-Rod and Giambi. Then Matsui, Posada and Cano.

I think the rotation is better than some people give it credit. I think Wang will have an even better season, even as he won't win as many games and may see a minor bump in his ERA, because I expect his excellent HR/9 and BB/9 to be joined by a better K/9 (I hear he's working on a curveball with Gator). Look for this guy to become Roy Halladay in '08, if he doesn't do it next year. Moose will hold his own, probably to the tune of a sub-4 ERA and 12-15 wins, barring arm trouble. If Carl Pavano makes an appearance, he'll probably produce like Jaret Wright while at least working into the 7th on occaision. Randy... Randy will still be effective against the weaker offensive clubs outside of Toronto, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and maybe Detroit, Minnie and Texas. That's still a good chunk of the AL, right? Whatever. If he gets hurt, then Phil Hughes can come up, or maybe Rasner or Karstens, whoever wasn't already up. They can't be much worse.

And whatever the Yankee's faults, no team in the AL is without its warts. All they gotta do is hold off the dirty laundry and those disease-ridden sky rats for the division, then anything's possible.

What I'm really looking forward to is '08, with Wang and Cano in their primes, Johnson gone, Phil Hughes a veteran, and a better free agent class next year. Hopefully Jetes, Damon, Abreu, Posada, Matsui and Mo will still be themselves by then, but even as they're getting on, I'm still not overly concerned about them.

It'd be a great way to send off the old stadium.

Craig said...

Beware of The Monster
By Eric Neel <------------- Redsox Fan
ESPN The Magazine

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2669791

Daisuke Matsuzaka smiles and a host of cameras flash. It's a lightning storm inside the ballroom of the Takanawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo, where some 200 journalists are gathered on Nov. 1 for Matsuzaka's "posting," the official announcement that his negotiating rights are up for bid. The 26-year-old Seibu Lions righthander, the best pitcher in Japan and the biggest star in all of Japanese professional sports, sits behind a flower-draped dais, looking nothing like his nickname, The Monster. Appearance is as important as reality here, and Matsuzaka's navy-blue suit, white shirt and black dotted tie all show respect for tradition. He smiles again, shyly -- not posing or hamming but beaming, each flash of his teeth met with the bright pop of the cameras.

"It's something I have looked forward to for a long time," he says in Japanese. "My fans, my teammates and everyone, I hope they will understand and support me. I'll be sorry to leave Japan, but this is my dream and this is what I need to do now." It's a neatly scripted speech from Matsuzaka. "There's a routine," says Peter Miller, a 25-year resident of Japan who's here representing the MLB Players Association. "You apologize, you express humility, and at the same time, you say that you're confident about what's to come." Although there are four American writers in the room, this is technically a closed event, for members of the kisha, or local press club. There will be no special interviews for the gaijin (foreigners). But even without a translator, it's easy to read the interplay between the young man on the stage and the reporters on the floor.



An Article about Matsuzaka and This Writer is Redsox homer who overhyped Dmat so much. I don't think the Yankees will not be indimated against Dmat thoughts?

Travis G. said...

What I'm most excited about in '07 is watching the young pitchers when they come up: Hughes, Sanchez, Clippard. Then continuing to watch Cano, Melky and Wang's progression.

detz said...

The irresistable force that is the New York Yankees is about to be unleashed.

That's a lot of chest-beating even for a Yankee scumball.

No wonder people hate the Yankees and their arrogant fans.

You should worry about getting past the Tigers or Angels before you gloat about unleashing jack squat.

Guess these Skankees are still smarting over losing Matsuzaka to their archrivals.

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