Ryan and I watched an inning or two of the Yankees-Rangers ALCS game tonight. Since we just went to New York City, Ryan said “Go Yankees!”, at which point I sternly told him that we don’t say things like that in this house. He seemed surprised when I told him that I wanted Texas to win. I told him that I’ve always hated the Yankees. My whole life (well, ever since 1977 when the Jays came into existence and I started paying attention to baseball), my two favourite teams on any given night were (1) the Jays, and (2) whoever is playing the Yankees. Ryan asked why, and I was a bit surprised to find that I had a hard time answering him.
I tried to think about Yankees players that might cause these strong feelings. Before my time, there was Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Maris. You can’t hate any of them. Back in the 70’s there was Reggie Jackson, but everyone loved Reggie. In the 80s they had players like Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly and Ron Guidry and Dave Righetti, all of whom I liked. Even non-Yankee Yankees like Wade Boggs – in my mind he never left Boston and he certainly never played for Tampa. I mean that would be like George Brett not playing for Kansas City or Paul Molitor not playing for Milwaukee. Oh yeah, um, never mind about Molitor. From the 90’s until now there’s been Derek Jeter, who I have all kinds of respect for, Mariano Rivera, one of the best closers of all time, and Andy Pettitte, a great pitcher and a classy guy. I have no problems with them or Posada, Teixeira, Cano, Swisher, or Sabathia.
Of course, there are Yankees players who I don’t like. Alex Rodriguez is one of the best players in the game, but a bit of a jerk. I have less of a problem with his taking steroids than others do; in fact I think it took some serious stones to come out and say “Yes I did them and I regret it”, knowing it might cost him the Hall of Fame. He has pulled a few dick moves though (and I’m not talking about his relationship with Madonna – heyo!), so I can’t say I really admire him. Similarly, I liked Roger Clemens when he was with the Jays, but he turned out to be a jerk as well. I don’t remember the details of the circumstances under which A.J. Burnett left Toronto (I hate getting old), but whatever they were, they made me not like him. David Wells was not the most popular player around, though I never really hated him. I think he fit in on the Yankees better than on the Jays, and after he was traded to the Jays from the Yankees in the Clemens deal, he publicly stated that he wasn’t happy with that trade and would have preferred to remain a Yankee. Way to make new friends in Toronto, Boomer. But I hated the Yankees long before any of those four donned the pinstripes.
I never really liked George Steinbrenner (did anybody?), but you gotta admit that what he did with the team was pretty damned impressive. He bought the Yankees for dirt in the 70’s and not only turned them into a baseball powerhouse (they’ve only missed the playoffs once since 1994) but more importantly for him, he turned the team into a multi-billion dollar enterprise and one of the most valuable franchises in any sport in the world. I found it amusing how often he changed managers, up until Joe Torre I guess. I believe he hired and fired Billy Martin five times. Martin himself was entertaining. I liked Lou Piniella and Joe Torre. I don’t particularly like Joe Girardi, but I can’t say that I hate him.
But because of Steinbrenner, it’s gotten increasingly easier to hate the Yankees over the last ten or fifteen years. Because the team rakes in so much money and because there’s no salary cap in baseball (just a “luxury tax” that the Yankees are only too happy to pay), they’ve been able to sign just about every big-name free agent out there. Whenever any star player becomes a free agent, it’s assumed that the Yankees are going to talk to him. What other team would have even considered signing ARod to a multi-gazillion dollar deal when they already had a superstar shortstop? There’s already talk of Cliff Lee signing with the Yankees in the off season, and that he has increased the amount that New York will have to pay him next year by beating them this year. But again, I hated the Yankees even before they started to outspend everyone.
So it’s not the players, ownership, or managers that makes me hate the Yankees. It’s not that they play in the same division as my favourite team, since I don’t hate the Red Sox or
Devil Rays. It’s not the city of New York, since I don’t hate the Rangers or Mets. So the answer to the original question “Why do you hate the Yankees?” would have to be: “I dunno. I just do.”