Like my colleague Mr. Joice (and apparently unlike David Wells), I too have become a less-than-enthused Yankees fan. And beyond the two of us, I’ve found many people in my circle to be dealing with the same level of disinterest. So, what’s this all about? Let’s dissect the situation.
1. The Personnel, Alex Rodriguez
If we look back a decade or so, we can clearly see the Yankees make the shift towards who they have ultimately become: a franchise that will do anything and everything to win (I’m not saying George wasn’t willing to do so previously, read on…). Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, in theory, yes, it is a good thing. But in practice, it’s quite a different story. Why? Because the result of this mentality has become to pay and overpay and overpay some more to annually recruit mercenaries a la Kevin Brown and – gasp – Raul Mondesi. Again, not the worst thing in the world, except that this directly takes away from one of the many things that makes baseball great and something we were once very good at: developing young talent. With all that in mind, I can tell you that, from my point of view anyway, no one thing or one person could possibly impact my fandom more than Alex Rodriguez. Not even if you combined my dislike of Brown, Mondesi, Carl Pavano, Kenny Lofton, Steve Karsay and Kyle Farnsworth (wow, that’s a motley crew right there).
Could there be another human being that represents what the Yankees (historically speaking) and the city of New York are about less than Alex Rodriguez? Could there be a bigger distraction, bigger prima donna, bigger annoyance than this man? Aside from 2009, all he has done is routinely make this city, the fans and the franchise look like fools. Announcing, through your former agent Scott Boras nonetheless, that you’re entering free agency DURING the 2007 World Series? Really? But that’s not the kicker. The kicker is that we actually re-signed him until he’s motherf**king 42-years old. The Dallas Braden incident. Steroids. The screaming “ha” in Toronto incident. Madonna, Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson (OK fine, I’m not mad at the last two). This guy is far and away the number one reason I personally have cared less and less about the New York Yankees over the past few years. He perfectly personifies the new New York Yankees: classless, unaware but hyper-aware at the same time, more concerned with money than anything else in the world, all about appearance. Which leads me to my next point…
2. The Stadium, The Fans
While I recognize that the new stadium is obviously a major upgrade from the old stadium in so many ways, I can also clearly state that the new stadium has drawn a new breed of fan. A group that uses Yankees games for client outings. A group that talks about their new Weber grill rather than the game itself. A group that actually eats the sushi at the new sushi restaurant in the food court. I can’t even tell you how many times I went to games the past two seasons and heard people around me say things like, “Wow, that guy wearing number 2 looks pretty good,” or, “What’s the fat lefties’ name again?” It’s disgusting. Appalling. GO AWAY, ALL OF YOU. The fact is a baseball game at Yankee Stadium has now become a hundred dollar night even if you sit in the bleachers, unless you smuggle in food and drinks. While there are certainly plenty of real, knowledgeable fans who can afford this kind of an outing, it’s blatantly clear that MANY of the great, longtime, working class Yankees fans have been priced out by their own team.
But the worst part of the new stadium and the disgusting lot it’s attracted is that it’s become so painfully quiet that it’s actually awkward to be there during the late-innings of an important game. First of all, half the stadium leaves by 9:30 regardless of how close the game is, so the stadium is typically down to about 25,000 people by the late innings. Next, even though there are still some real fans around, most of the crowd, even those who stay, are tourists, casual fans or the like and they are SILENT. Perfect example: a few of us went to a game on a balmy August night in 2009. We sat in the front row of the upper deck directly behind home plate. It was a close game so Braceface Girardi (if you haven’t noticed his braces yet, please look at them. They’re simply amazing.) brought Mo in during the bottom of the 8th. When the count got to 3-2 with two outs, we rose up out of our seats and began yelling obscenities at the opposing batter and cheering on MO. About five seconds into this once common routine, a security guard politely tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to take my seat. Here’s how the exchange went:
Me: What do you mean take my seat?
Guard: People behind you are complaining that they can’t see.
Me: Well tell them that they’re at a baseball game, not the opera, and that they should stand like real fans.
Guard: I understand, man. I know it’s not the old days, but take a look around you.
So I did. And what I found was shocking. There was literally not one person in the entire stadium standing and/or cheering. Not one. Not even one drunk moron cheering for Steve Howe like it was 1994 all over again (Yup, old Stevie pitched to 1.80 ERA that year if you can believe it). Not Freddy. NO ONE. By the time the exchange ended, Mo had struck the guy out swinging and maybe 5,000 people cared to cheer. And it was at that moment that I realized things had clearly changed, and changed for the foreseeable future. And ya’ know what? This is EXACTLY how Hank and Hal want it because we’ve never been a more valuable commodity. Obviously they’d never admit it publicly, but I doubt strongly that ownership isn’t acutely aware of and perfectly at ease with everything I just said.
Part II of this piece is forthcoming. In the meantime, agree with me? Think I’m way off? Let us know…
-by Jamie Fedorko