The Blue Jays’ continued run of playing good baseball culminated over the weekend in a series’ split with the New York Yankees, the Major League’s most beloved and loathed franchise. They are the most successful team in baseball history, garnering almost as many World Series titles (twenty-seven) as the next three on that list combined (the Cardinals, Athletics and Giants have twenty-eight between them). At times it feels like all the really great players were Yankees–you all know the litany: Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Gherig, Berra, Jackson. They are more than a baseball team, having become a global brand, synonymous with baseball itself for many people who couldn’t name a single other team, or even tell you how many outs are in an inning.
I hate the Yankees. And you should too. And here’s why:
Their stupid ballpark
Yankee Stadium, even the new one, is a beautiful place, but it’s as brazen a bit of cheating as you will ever see: only in baseball, and probably only with the Yankees, could it happen that a team would be allowed to build a facility specifically designed to give it a decided and often deciding advantage over their opponents: that stupid, so-called “short porch” out in right field has one purpose, and one purpose only–to allow the Yankees to stock up on left-handed power and set them loose in that bandbox of a park (from the left side only, of course) for half their games.
The Yankee strike zone
Yankees’ pitchers, particularly when pitching in New York, routinely get borderline calls denied the opposing pitcher. They even seem to be able to take that expanded zone with them on the road: witness yesterday’s game when Severino kept getting pitches low and away called for strikes while Stroman had the identical pitch called for a ball.
The Yankee replay
Not for nothing is the video replay team stationed in New York. On challenges this year the Yankees have had 74% of the challenges they’ve made go their way which makes them the team with the most “my bads, sorry, you were right, the call can go your way now” in the majors. Compare this with 35% for the Blue Jays, which is the lowest in the majors (but of course, that has nothing to do with them being the only Canadian team, naaaah, of course not!).
Not just him, though, but all the garbage, dirt bag players the Yankees have decided over the years belong in pinstripes even though they were garbage dirt bags. It doesn’t seem to matter to them if you’re a violent, domestic abuser (Chapman) or an arrogant, unrepentant, serial liar and cheater (A-roid Rodriguez) you are welcome in the Yankee clubhouse so long as you are wiling to remove your facial hair, because good Lord above, attacking your domestic partner and pumping yourself so full of steroids that your face looks like it’s made of clay are forgivable, but sideburns? Forget about it.
It’s not that I have anything against Jeter himself: he was a good ballplayer and seemed a decent fellow, but he was and remains the epitome of the cult of celebrity that surrounds the Yankees. With the team and their fanbase, it’s not really about baseball, or at least very rarely: it’s about the “personalities” on the team, the “big names”. I could just have easily called this section Billy Crystal and I darned near did, because Jeter was never, has never, and will never be evaluated on his abilities as a player but by the size of the “media presence” he was able to generate playing for the marketing monster known as the New York Yankees©.
It’s a well-worn, but no less valid, comparison by now, but putting Derek Jeter and Craig Biggio side by side reveals that Jeter was, yes, a great hitter (like Biggio) and, yes, deserving of entry into the Hall of Fame (like Biggio), but he was no defensive miracle worker (unlike Biggio, who was very good) and certainly not one of the Greatest Players Of All Time, and arguably not even one of the Greatest Yankees (whereas there’s a very good argument to be made that Biggio is one of the greatest second basemen of all time). But there’s that marketing monster at work, pumping out endless reams of press to the panting masses, telling the world about Saint Jeter and His Unmatched Career and there are the masses lapping it up like so much well-flavoured swill until we’ve reached the point where I have to sit through endless hours of Buck and Pat singing from the Derek Jeter Hymnal while I’m trying to enjoy watching the Blue Jays thump the Yankees.
The Judge’s Chamber
And again, it’s not Aaron Judge I dislike (how could I? The guy is so much fun to watch), and in a way it’s probably unfair to him to set him apart from my Jeter comments above, but he’s not indicative of the celebrity culture that defines the Yankees so much as he shows up how easily the fans in New York can be convinced that they’re somehow special or ‘better’ than fans elsewhere…
The Yankees had a problem this year: after the big sell-off of aging
celebrities players at the end of last season they didn’t have any “big names” left on the roster, only a collection of tremendously gifted young talent, and given that this is New York, having a good team playing well with great players doesn’t really fill the seats so they immediately set out this year to create new celebrities. Part of the marketing campaign is, of course, The Judge’s Chamber© which the organization built out in right field and into which they cram a few select “lucky fans” dressed in judicial robes, to make it appear as though there’s some kind of grass-roots, ‘authentic’ fan movement out there breathlessly following their new favourite celebrity player.
It’s a marketing campaign, dreamed up by the boys in red suspenders, and bought into wholesale by the fans who star in the tawdry bit of reality-TV for the good people at home. It’s pure Yankees.
The Yankees “Mystique”
This is the real crux of my loathing for the Yankees: this ridiculous, tired, undeserved idea and endless talking note of some magical aura surrounding the team.
First, there is no mystery as to why the Yankees have done so well for so long: money. They have always been the richest team in the majors and have been more than happy to spend like it. (And I say, more power to them, and I wish Rogers would take a page from that book: I’d rather the money go to the players than the shareholders.) Even now when they are in a quasi-rebuilding mode their payroll is ‘down’ to ‘just’ $200 million as they enjoy having all that incredible young talent produced by their lavishly-funded farm system (and again, more power to them, and is Rogers paying any attention at all?).
Second, the idea of a mystique is created and maintained by the same boys in red suspenders who dreamed up the Judge’s Chamber© and the Undying Visage of Saint Jeter©. These guys are good, though, I have to hand it to them: they’ve taken a team whose success is founded on a set of ridiculously unfair advantages (their ballpark, their strike zone, and their replays) and endless money, which is home to a series of terrible human beings, a fanbase that cares little for baseball and more for celebrity news, run it all through their marketing machine and come up with a “mystique” that is like the Force in its ability to surround them, penetrate them and bind the whole stinking mess together.
It wasn’t always like this, of course, there was a time (a long time ago) when it was the great players who made the Yankees what they were, and yes back in the days of Ruth and Mantle they were still doing it with money and their unfair advantages, but at least it wasn’t pure smoke and mirrors, it wasn’t just about celebrity worship, marketing and maintaining the pretense of Yankees Exceptionalism.
Nowadays, though, that’s all it is. The Yankees of today are baseball’s equivalent to a Disney World ride: contrived, prepackaged, polished, over-hyped and marketed as part of a “magical” experience that really just leaves you wanting to throw up.