February 3, 2009

Singing the Pinstripe Blues

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This is embarrassing. I don’t quite know how to say this … I am a Yankees fan. Correction: I was a Yankee fan. I had been for quite some time. But, it is time to hang ‘em up. It is time to call it quits. Brett Favre, be damned, I am retiring from my endless pinstripe passion. Up until now, I have been waging an internal war concerning the stance I should take towards the boys from the Bronx. Last week proved to be the final straw.
On the precipice of the biggest football game of the year, Joe Torre stole the national spotlight for a few fleeting moments. The former New York skipper, who swapped coasts and leagues to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers, has co-authored a book with Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci. The book, entitled The Yankee Years, explores Torre’s 12-year tenure as bench jockey for the Yankees. The 500-page exposé has received widespread publicity for Torre’s candid, behind-the-scenes viewpoint of the world’s most successful sports franchise (sorry Manchester United, I am only including real sports).
“I really don’t think there’s anything in the book at all that’d I’d apologize for,” Torre said. “I feel badly if people are taking it the wrong way. I’m not going to say I’m insensitive to it.”
Well, what did you expect, Clueless Joe? You are asking for controversy when it is revealed in your pseudo-tell-all book that A-Rod was referred to as “A-Fraud” in the clubhouse. So much for “what’s said in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse.” Spin it however you want, but there is no justification for writing this book. It is just one more unnecessary outburst in Yankee Land, and I am sick of it.
Understanding where Torre is coming from is not the difficult part. It’s the same reason why he left the Big Apple. Torre was insulted by the pay cut New York asked him to take after another postseason failure in 2007 and is now enjoying the sunny beaches of L.A. instead. He takes home a meager $4.3 million for a six-month season. The man has to put food on the table somehow.
Rumors have Joe raking in somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million for this book deal, which is an extraordinary amount to receive upfront for a sports book. He will receive even more money when the book goes straight to No. 1 on the New York Times’ Best Seller’s List.
It is time for Torre to take off his rose-colored glasses. In July of 2007 when he was asked on WFAN sports radio about Jose Canseco’s book, in which the former slugger implicated fellow steroid users, Mr. Torre offered a much different outlook towards revealing what goes on in the locker room.
“There are certain things when it goes on in the clubhouse, that’s like sharing things that go on at the dinner table at your house,” Torre said. “There are certain things you don’t share with other people. Now, if Canseco’s goal was to clean the game up then you look at it differently, but his goal is strictly to make money. To me, even though some of the stuff he’s writing seems to have some credibility, the way he has gone about it and for the reason he has written it, I really have trouble respecting the whole issue.”
So what was your goal, Joe? To clean up the game? To clean up the Yankees’ locker room?
Obviously, this is not the most egregious error a member of the New York Yankees has committed in recent history (see: Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez), but it represents a long established trend which has plagued the Yankees.
Although Torre left New York for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, he will undoubtedly be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Yankee. No one can minimize his four World Series trophies, six American League pennants and 10 AL East Division titles. Besides his on the field success, Torre remained a vestige of the old Yankee guard. He was stoic, loyal and true to his players. However, with his book scheduled to be on shelves as early as today, Mr. Torre has demonstrated that even the Yankee greats can tarnish the pinstripe legacy.
And for what? To tell me what I already know? A-Rod is a divisive personality in the clubhouse? You mean his teammates don’t like him? Oh wait, the onslaught of mercenaries from Jason Giambi to Randy Johnson to the infamous Carl Pavano have not panned out? They don’t mesh? Thank you Mr. Torre. Tell me this, Joe, when it rains do you get wet? When you add one plus one do you get two? When you watch ESPN do the bickering Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless make you want to shoot yourself? So much for the strong, silent type. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
I have met a spectrum of Yankee fans. I have encountered those who could name the right fielder before Babe Ruth arrived and I have encountered those who can only tell you that Derek Jeter is a Cancer with handsome hazel eyes. I would be a hypocrite if I did not tell you that I fell into the latter category.
In The Yankee Years, A-Rod is described as having a “Single White Female”-like obsession with Derek Jeter. Perhaps, the better question is who does not have a “Single White Female”-like obsession with Mr. November? Is it wrong to idolize someone who won four championship rings, a World Series MVP, three Gold Gloves, the AL Rookie of the Year and has dated a slew of women that would make the cast of America’s Next Top Model look downright homely? If it is, then I don’t want to be right.
Although they are well-polished on the surface, the Bronx Bombers have deeply hidden flaws inside the clubhouse. Recent World Series champions, such as the Red Sox, Phillies and White Sox, have had one thing in common: chemistry. Unfortunately for the Yankees’ brass and their fans, you cannot purchase team chemistry. If your squad is an amalgamation of multi-million dollar megastars who covet the limelight, well, then I guess you would be the Dallas Cowboys. You rarely see me-first players who hold petty grievances taking home the hardware at the season’s end.
My rooting for Steinbrenner’s hired-guns has come to an end. Perhaps, this is a blessing in disguise. As a result of Torre’s loose lips, I am no longer guilty by association. Let me explain. Yankee fans are obnoxious. Well, not all, but some, depending on your vantage point. I, myself, am the wisest, most polite former-Yankee fan on earth. I am God’s gift to mankind, if you will. However, no amount of suave sophistication or degree of decency can overcome the glares I received when I told others of my team affiliation.
For years, I have heard that the Yankees are not ideal. To many, the Yankees represent all that is wrong in the world. They are the Evil Empire that ruthlessly pursues big-name free agents with reckless abandon. There is no price tag too high. And, unfortunately, there is a large New York Yankee contingent that only roots for the team based on this reason. No wonder the glory years of Paul O’Neil, Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez are a thing of the past. Some Yankee followers have forsaken championship seasons for the cheap thrill of a homerun and a marquee name.
Enter A-Rod. There are a lot of offensive things in life — people with bad breath, people who never turn off their high beams, Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson, and the fact that Cornell has done away with trays in most dining halls to save a buck. (It’s funny how Cornell is all of a sudden “environmentally friendly.” Where was this attitude when Redbud Woods was being bulldozed?) But nothing makes me angrier than the wise guys who sit around and dub A-Rod with a catchy new nickname every week: Hot-Rod, Lightning-Rod, Stray-Rod, Shea-Rod, E-Rod, K-Rod, Nim-Rod, A-Rodadonna … Wow! You thought of those all by yourself? Nice job, Einstein, you are A-Tool.
Now that I addressed all of the issues, I would like to add one final thing. After signing C.C., A.J. and M.T. (unfortunately Teixeira does not go by initials alone) anyone who thinks I am entering the season as anything other than a New York Yankees fan is nuts. Time heals all wounds and I have 10 days until pitchers and catchers report. So, move over Boston. Get out of the way Tampa Bay. That was cute what you guys did last year, but Daddy’s home and he’s wearing pinstripes!