I have little confession to make. It's no big deal, really. Ok, here goes.
I don't hate the Yankees.
Hey, where is everybody?
Now before you break out the 67M voodoo doll (yeah right, like you don't have one), I didn't say that I like the Yankees. I just don't overly despise them.
Yeah, I get the whole Evil Empire thing, the outrageous payroll, "OMG! Jeter!", and all that jazz. My heart was crushed the same as yours in 2000 and 2001 (and for you older folks, in 1981, too). I have lamented the exodus of homegrown stars to the Big Apple: Reggie, Catfish, Rickey (who was traded there), and Giambi. (This "tradition" actually began in the late fifties when the Kansas City A's were the Yankees' unofficial farm club).
It sickens me to no end to see their fans invade the Coliseum, just as it does when that other American League East team comes to town. But I know of at least one Yankee fan with a sense of humor:
Before Game 1 of the 2000 ALDS, my cousins and I were spread out over the top two rows of a section in the third deck. A guy in a Yankee hat made his way down the aisle where I was sitting, stopped, looked at his ticket, looked at me, and said somewhat smugly, "You're in my seat." To which I calmly replied, "You're in my stadium." And the guy in the Yankee hat, well he laughed.
I am an A's fan first, and a baseball fan second, but the baseball fan in me can't help but marvel at the history that oozes from a town where Sinatra says, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. We are talking about some of the greatest players to ever set foot on a diamond. I will spare you the details, but I let's just say I know more than I should. Now excuse me while I go cleanse myself.
Athletics Nation had an opportunity to talk baseball with Ed Valentine from Pinstripe Alley:
67M: The A's are not exactly catching the Yankees at the right time, as they are undefeated since the Break (6-0). What's been key to this latest surge?
EV: Simple. Pitching, pitching and more pitching. These numbers are from Peter Abraham, one of the Yankee beat writers. They don't include Wednesday's 6-4 victory (7 solid innings from A.J. Burnett), but they get the point across:
45 innings, 35 hits, 10 runs, 9 earned runs, 18 walks, 37 strikeouts.
67M: Any tasty trade deadline rumors to snack on?
EV: Pretty quiet in Yankee-land. Roy Halladay won't be a Yankee. I wouldn't be surprised to see the team add a veteran starter w/Chien-Ming Wang down, or a bullpen arm and move Alfredo Aceves into the rotation. No big rumors, though.
67M: The Yankee Mystique that has seemed to exist forever, but has been on hiatus of late, appears to be creeping back, what with all those late-inning victories this season (tied with Texas for most walk-off homeruns). Obviously there is nothing to that really (or is there?) but you have to like that the team is using all of its outs.
EV: This team battles. They know how good they are, they know they can hit and they know that especially in the Little League field known as Yankee Stadium a comeback is only a swing or two away.
67M: Perceptions are a funny thing, and in sports they run amok. Like how Dodger fans show up late, and leave early. I might already have an idea (in fact I might have answered the first part with my next question), but what would you say is the biggest perception of the Yankees as an organization, and their fan base?
EV: Easy. Everyone hates the Yankees; that's part of the territory. Lots of money, and willing to spend it. Lots of tradition, and willing to flaunt it in your face. As for fans, many Yankee-haters would describe Yankee fans as "arrogant, entitled idiots." I'd use a stronger word, but I'm going for the PG version. And, in all honesty, Yankee fans can be their own worst enemies. There is without doubt a section of fans who are "arrogant, entitled idiots." Not all, but they are vocal and they are the fans that others associate with the Yankees.
67M: Yes the Yankees can open their wallets whenever they want, but surely there is some satisfaction that the core group from their latest dynasty came up through the system: Jeter, Rivera, Williams, Posada, et al. Who are tomorrow's stars?
EV: Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are at the top of that list. Austin Jackson is an outfielder at AAA who should be in the mix next season. Jesus Montero is the No. 1 prospect. He is just 19 and tearing up AA, though he might only be a DH. A lot of young players out of the system have contributed this year, and that does make it satisfying.
67M: Clearly the Red Sox have caught up to- and in recent years- even passed the Yankees in terms of on-field success. From a fan standpoint, does it take some of the fun away not having 1918 to hold over their heads, or does it does just spice up the rivalry? After all, it's not really a rivalry when one team is always coming out on top, right?
EV: Ouch! 'When one team is always coming out on top,' hurts. Have you seen the standings? But, yes, you are correct. The Red Sox have had the upper hand in recent years, and things have changed. It's not the same, and it's not as much fun as it was always knowing you could get the final word in an argument with a Red Sox fan. Quick story, which makes a long answer. Took my son, who was 9, to Fenway in 1999, sitting in the right-field seats we heard the "Yankees suck" chant go up. Told my son to stand up, turn around and start yelling "1918" at the fans. He did, even though he didn't know what it meant. All the Red Sox fans immediately shut up. That went on for the entire game. Sadly, I can no longer play that card.
(I actually meant it wasn't a really rivalry when the Yankees had outscored the Sox 26-0 in World Series titles from 1918 to 2003.)
67M: But really now, you guys are aware that we play baseball on the West Coast, too...right?
EV: West ... Coast ... baseball? Heard vaguely that there are a few teams out there the Yanks and Red Sox use as schedule filler, that's all. A joke, a joke. Hope your readers don't kill me!
67M: The tradition of Oakland fan favorites defecting to the Big Apple continues. What are your thoughts on Nick Swisher (who I realize took an indirect route to NY), the player, as well as the personality?
EV: Swisher is ... umm ... different. You know that already. Can't remember a guy the Yanks have ever had like him. Love his attitude, love his energy, his desire, his hustle, his bat, the walks he draws. That said, at some point in just about every game I want to reach through the TV and kill him. He is one of the world's most bone-headed base runners, he can make a great catch or look like a butcher out in the outfield, and his judgment is ... questionable. Like the time he decided to run up the right field wall (yes, up the wall) to high-five fans at the start of a game. Of course, he fell and damn near killed himself coming down.
67M: Joe Torre was such an icon during his time in the Yankee dugout. I read how Hal Steinbrenner gave a little reminder to current manager Joe Girardi as to what's at stake (as if he needed one). How do you think he's done so far?
EV: Girardi had a rough rookie season as manager. The team, of course, didn't make the playoffs. I am not pinning that on him, since I didn't think he was dealt a good hand. He had lots of problems with relating to the media, and to some players last season. He has been much better with everyone this season, and he will have to be to stay in New York long-term. Of course, bottom line is no playoffs means a new manager in 2010.
67M: The Yankees last won it all in 2000. What does that translate to in non-Yankee years?
EV: Well, that depends. The entitled Yankee fan would say it's equivalent to dog years, probably. Or, it feels like a century. Or, we are suffering worse than Cubs' fans. I remember the dark years, though. It stinks, because I thought the Yanks could have won a couple of those years, but the fact is most Yankee fans did not truly appreciate how amazing what the team did in the late '90s really was.
masterpiece put the Yankees in an 0-2 hole in the 2001 ALDS. (Sigh).
67M: Admit it, we scared you a little bit in 2000 and '01 (God, that feels like forever ago).
EV: Scared? A Yankee fan scared? Only of losing to the Mets. We've already lost to the Red Sox and survived. Besides, we have Derek Jeter. Why should we be scared of the A's? Again, a joke.
Ok, I lied. I do hate the Yankees. (Thanks for your time, Ed).
First pitch comes at you at around 4:05. Vin Mazzaro, who grew up a Yankees fan, takes on CC Sabathia, who hails from Vallejo.