Friday, June 01, 2007

"It's Been Extremely Difficult Times"

The other night I had a very strange dream. I'd been traded to the Red Sox, and I was composing a blog entry closing up shop here at the WTDB, because as one Sox exec pointed out to me, "You can't write for the Red Sox and keep a Yankees blog. It just isn't done."

Then I started questioning the logic of the dream. Since when do bloggers get traded? What kind of sense does that make? "You're not just writing," the exec says, "we also got you to pitch."

Turns out that--even though I'm right-handed--I'd been acquired as a LOOGY/blogger. And indeed, although I didn't seem to throw much harder than I do in real life (which is to say, not hard at all) in my dreams I can twirl some pretty sharp breaking balls, left-handed. Who knew?

I've been troubled by this dream. What does it mean? A little bit of the inspiration for the dream might come from the fact that I recently did my first work for a major league team, writing a piece on Derek Jeter for the Colorado Rockies Magazine (which will be sold at Coors Field when the Yanks and Rockies hook up in a few weeks). Part of it is a question that's been on my mind a bit lately--how do people deal with the fact of having to change sports alliegances because of work? I assume most pro ballplayers were fans of a local MLB team growing up. Most of them don't wind up with the team they loved so much as a kid--do they abandon their fandom of the old team? Do they stop being baseball fans? Are my assumptions that they were fans before they were pros flawed?

To give a more concrete example: my former Baseball Prospectus colleague Keith Woolner is an ardent Red Sox fan. He recently took a front office job with the Indians, the team that's battling the Red Sox for best record in the AL, and may eventually face down the Beantowners in the playoffs. How does it feel at a time like this week, when the two teams faced off (and the Red Sox took two out of three)?

There's another, more obvious interpretation to my dream, which has to do with the current standings in the AL East. The ones which have the Yankees in last place, thirteen and a half games behind first place Boston, as the Yanks go to yet another weekend showdown in Fenway. The Beantowners have the best record in the majors, the Bombers are closer to the worst record in baseball than they are to .500. So it's possible that my dream represents anxiety about the possibility of living on Planet Red Sox Nation--that bizarro dimension where the Red Sox are perennial winners, the Yanks choke on their bloated payroll, and everyone acts as if this was the natural order of things.

Regardless of my dream, the fact is that, as Brian Cashman understated in the quote that's the title to this piece, "it's been extremely difficult times" for the Yankees faithful. Bobby Abreu, one of the most consistent players in recent baseball history, suddenly looks like he lost all his skills at once. Andy Pettitte, who used to be the Yankees' top win scavenger--picking up wins when he didn't really pitch well enough to earn them--has been brilliant, but has had tough luck. Robbie Cano, who came close to winning a batting title last year, is struggling to maintain a .300 OBP this time around. Even old reliable Mariano Rivera has been vulnerable, converting only four saves so far this season--against three losses.

All the iffy things coming into this season--Kei Igawa being a useful starter, Mike Mussina maintaining any semblance of his 2006 form, Carl Pavano staying healthy, Melky Cabrera continuing to be a sparkplug--have failed to pan out. And it just keeps getting worse. The latest thing is that Jason Giambi's hitting the DL with an injured plantar fascia. Earlier in the week we learned that the Yanks' Golden Boy, Phil Hughes, has sustained a horrible ankle sprain while rehabbing his injured hamstring. Depending on who you believe, he's out either 4-6 or 8-10 weeks. Seeing how pinstriped luck is running these days, I'd say don't count on seeing Hughes until September. And we're not even going to mention Alex Rodriguez's off-field, and possibly marital, issues.

Things have fallen apart, and the result has been the greatest collective outpouring of schadenfreude this side of Barry Bonds getting a career ending injury the night he hits homer number 754. Everyone loves the fact that bad things are happening to this team, and to its fans. On BTF, the crowd's positively orgiastic about the prospect of the Yankees finishing the season under .500 and Roger Clemens "closing out his career in front of 16,000 fans at Yankee Stadium."

Lovely. I'd have an easier time arguing about the 16,000 fans if it wasn't for articles like this one, with a couple of shopkeepers and a whiny so-called Yankee fan claiming that fans won't bother going to Yankee Stadium if the Yankees aren't winning. So be it. I hope we prove them wrong--but then again, there's still an irrational piece of me that thinks that this 22-29 record is just the opening act for an epic comeback.

If this is it for the Yankees' dynasty, let me be the first to say that I'm thankful for the great run of baseball Yankee fans have experienced. For all the talk about how disappointing the Yanks have been in the 21st Century, the facts remain: over six years, they've given us 592 wins, six division titles, and two pennants. That's just in the time since Buster Olney declared the Dynasty over. Overall, since 1995 it's 10 division titles, twelve straight Octobers in the playoffs, and four World Series championships. That's a nice bit of work, and if the price is a bad season--or even several--at least I can say that I saw a great team.

If some of the bandwagon types stop coming to the Stadium, that's probably for the best. It's about time to clear away some dead wood. Too many folks spend the game chatting away on their cellphones, giving their Red Sox fan pals tickets, and jacking up ticket prices for the rest of us. Don't let the turnstyles hit you on the way out.

All told, despite the ugly present and uncertain future, I wouldn't trade places with Red Sox fans. I lived in Boston, and I actually like Bostonians, but it skeeves me out a little bit that even though their team--and it's a damn good team--is playing inspired baseball this season, the Red Sox Nation seems more psyched about watching the Yankees possibly lose 95 games than they are about seeing their own team win 95 games. Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but waiting around for some other team to have a run of bad luck just isn't my idea of fun.

3 comments:

Patrick O'Keefe said...

That dream is hilarious.

jake said...

I can point you yankee blogs that celebrated the sox falling to third late last year behind the jays. All while winning the division.

Or would that ruin your little, neat generalization of the two fan bases?

DJ said...

Jake:

In the last paragraph of the post, I wasn't speaking for all Yankees fans, just for myself. I'll be the first to admit that there are plenty of jerks on both sides of the divide. But I also think that if you want to do a fair comparison between how many Red Sox sites obsess about the Yankees and how often (particularly when the two teams aren't playing, or even close in the standings) against the other side of the ledger, it would likely favor the Red Sox Nation's blogs, handily. You might also consider looking at Red Sox fans posting on Yankee blogs or discussion group threads, against the inverse. But I haven't done either of those studies, so my impressions are anecdotal, and yes, they are generalizations. Neither of those words, however, means I'm wrong.

So I guess the answer to your neat little rhetorical question is a neat little "no". A couple of posts from last September wouldn't negate the idea that there's a gap in which team is more obsessed with the other, which team pays more attention to the other's losing streaks, and such. At any rate, feel free to count up posts and send the links, if you seriously feel that I'm wrong about the RSN's tendency toward schadenfreude. I'd honestly be interested to see what you turn up.