I’ve partially watched and followed baseball since the early 2000s but it wasn’t until 2013 that I started watching MLB in earnest. Despite all that, I have known for decades that the Yankees were the dominant team of MLB.
It was in whatever US media I consumed, be that music, film or television, that the Yankees were the best but also the big bad bully of MLB. The heavy spenders who sign the best players from their rivals to big contracts that other teams could not compete with. This was still true in 2013 when my gazed turn to the sport, with Alex Rodriguez earning close $30m and another 10 players earning more than $10m. They had the biggest payroll in MLB and had done so since 2000 (how far Cot’s Contracts go back).
When choosing a team to support they were the first team I crossed off; I was not being a glory hunter fan to the big evil team. It didn’t take much time for me personally to generate a similar opinion on them and the media circus that went with them. A-Rod’s part in the Biogenesis scandal was the big talking point of that season and with the Yankees somehow getting the suspension put back because of an appeal, I was all aboard the hate the Yankees train.
But if you were to ask me now what I think of the Yankees, the word hate wouldn’t even cross my mind. They are still one of the top spending teams but have only topped the spending list once since 2013 (last season). Their last World Series was in 2009 and even though they were the best team of the last decade (by regular season record) they don’t have that evil dominance/presence anymore. To me the Yankees aren’t the evil empire, even if they do try and make jokes about their line-up being a fully operational death star.
They still have spent big and have stars/generational talents like Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton but they aren’t the same media pull as some of the big names in the past. But that isn’t just a Yankees thing, MLB doesn’t seem to have the same place in the minds of the public as it did historically.
I guess it does not help that these individuals seem relatively strait-laced and are not involved in international drug scandals, dating pop/movie stars or having public extra-marital affairs. So, they won’t make the national newspapers and TV stations for the wrong reasons. In doing so, increasing the profile of the Yankees and MLB by proxy.
They aren’t evil but doesn’t make them boring.
If you think the current Yankees are boring, then maybe you got more off on the ancillary aspects of the Yankees of old and not the product on the field. And you should maybe self-reflect on that or become a Real Madrid fan if that is the type of club that entices you.
In Gerrit Cole, who has been on fire to start this season, they have one of the top two pitchers in world. They have the most lights-outs bullpen in all of MLB led by a monster who has an average pitch velocity on his fastball close to 100mph. Giancarlo Stanton hits the ball harder than anyone else who has ever lived of this planet, regularly hitting baseballs at velocities other major leaguers only dream of. And in Aaron Judge they have a player with talent and style who can be the face of the franchise for a decade and the face of the sport if he so wishes. If you are actually interested in watching baseball, then watching the Yankees won’t bore you.
Does this team potentially have an identity crisis? Maybe, the team themselves aren’t the most hated in MLB anymore as the Astros have taken that, and they aren’t viewed as the big spenders or the behemoth everyone has to beat, as the Dodgers probably have taken that. Without these identifiers the Yankees aren’t what they once were.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the fans and ownership are willing to take the Yankees in a new direction. They should both be happy to let the dysfunctional Mets take the lead pages with whatever ludicrous thing they manage to do next, but I am not certain that either fans or owners want that. Some seem to crave their team being the talk of the town no matter what the reason.
What’s next for the New York Yankees is a big unknown, they are at a crossroads they’ve never been at before. The next moves or lack of moves will set the mode of fans and rival fans.
Who knows maybe even the Yankees can become a team most people like.
Photo by Mike Stobe
Russell is Bat Flips and Nerds’ resident analytical genius, and arguably Europe’s finest sabermetrician. If you’re not following Russell on Twitter @REassom then you’re doing baseball wrong.
While we have you, check out the MLB review podcast with a special appearance by Jon Mackenzie of Absolute Bunts fame. Click on Mr Rowdy Tellez’s happy, smiling face