It was a good day.
That’s how I’ll preface my attendance at Saturday’s Yankees game against the Red Sox. Sure, some of the big names on both sides (Teixeira, McCann, Ellsbury, Ramirez to name a few) were missing because the night before the teams played an epic 19-inning game that ended somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 am. And sure, the Yankees team that did play was thoroughly out-matched by our rivals, losing 8 – 4. Nonetheless, the weather was perfect and I was there with my 15-year-old daughter Kristen, who was at the stadium for the first time in her life (the last of my three kids to do so).
For me, it doesn’t get better than that.
I love New York City. Always have, always will. It just oozes life - in every form. Some of it is good, some of it is bad, but it’s always alive. You’ll never have the exact same experience each time you go. The sights, sounds and smells differ in any direction you turn. I truly enjoy sharing that love with my kids, and there’s nowhere better to start than Yankee Stadium. It is the home of the team I have followed and loved my entire life, and it is a microcosm of the city in which it resides.
Kristen isn’t a big baseball fan, and honestly could care less whether the Yankees win or lose on a daily basis - other than a win or loss may greatly determine her father’s mood. She had never been to New York and this was a golden opportunity for her to experience a part of it. I could see as we drove closer to the city that her interest and excitement grew. The view of the city from the George Washington Bridge had her hooked, and before we even reached Manhattan, she was fervently campaigning for a return trip. The stadium would be icing on the cake.
Before the first pitch could even be thrown by Adam Warren, I knew this day for the Skinners was a “win”. No decision by manager Joe Girardi or foolish acquisition by GM Brian Cashman was going to ruin it. God knows they tried.
The game itself I fear is going to be representative of what we Yankee fans should expect this season. Warren and the relievers that followed him deserved much better than what the result reflected.
The offense put forth by the Yankees is handcuffed with over aged, over-paid players that show very little life in their legs, bats, or hearts. From our vantage point in the second deck along the third base line, even I could see how slow Carlos Beltran’s bat has become, yet Girardi’s match-up strategies put the 37-year-old veteran third in the lineup. I’m assuming that the advanced age of our other “star” veterans was the reason that they couldn’t even be used as substitutes later in the game? They apparently needed to be rested in spite of the fact that we aren’t through the first week of the season. As a systems analyst who’s been responsible for support of applications that run 24 x 7, I’m used to late night / early morning calls. I’m pretty sure I’d either be laughed at, or fired if I asked my boss for a following day off simply because I worked very late the night before.
I can’t help but get the feeling that this team is already just going through the motions. It lacks energy, and I could feel that being reflected in the fans. One of the most disturbing things was that there were nearly as many Boston fans in the stands as there were Yankee fans. Attendance was over 46,000, yet cheers for every Red Sox run were nearly as loud as the ones for each Yankee hit. I didn’t feel the “electricity” in the stadium that I have in years past. The volume of the crowd really stayed at one level and never changed. By the eighth inning, with the team down 8-1, people were streaming to the exits.
Kristen noted all the empty seats late in the game and couldn’t understand why fans would leave early, given the fact that they paid good money to be there.
In my opinion it’s a reflection of our GM. In spite of some exciting players in the minor league system (Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, etc.) who out-performed their counterparts at the MLB level during the spring, he dictated who would be brought north. The “Baby Bombers” might not have fared any better through the first week of the season than the veterans, but at least they’d provide energy and hope on the field – and I’m certain we’d have seen more offense. That energy and hope is what cascades up into the stands. The fans feed off the effort and reactions they see on the field – even if the end result might not always be positive.
We don’t want to see one of our hitters strikeout, but we’ll root a little harder for the guy who slams his bat down and clearly shows he HATES to lose (why do you think Paul O’Neill is so endeared to the Yankee fan base?), rather than one who drops his head and shoulders and shuffles back to the dugout with all the emotion of a store-front mannequin. If we’re going to lose, let’s lose with guys who wear their hearts on their sleeves and show us that they aren’t there just to collect a paycheck.
Other observations I have are a little more positive. I’ve decided that Chase Headley is my favorite player on this year’s squad. His play at third base reminds me of Scott Brosius and Graig Nettles, and while the average doesn’t reflect it yet, one can sense he’s close to breaking out at the plate.
Didi Gregorius is the one other player on the field who hasn’t already seen his ceiling collapse. His range and skills at shortstop are second to none, and clearly he has enough talent to develop into an above average hitter. He’s young enough that with a little more experience and work, the hitting will come around.
Our pitching – both at starter and reliever – is deep. Yeah, the starters had a bit of a rough week, but I’m not giving up on them yet. Warren actually pitched well yesterday, and hopefully will be kept in the rotation even when Chris Capuano (one of Cashman’s aging veterans with very little worth) is healthy. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the team that our GM assembled will only go as far as its pitching staff can carry it. There are very few other teams in MLB that put the kind of pressure upon their staff as ours does. One of the reasons fans are leaving games early is that they know this team isn’t capable of a big-inning rally to overcome a deficit.
In spite of this, Saturday was a brilliant success in my eyes. I was at Yankee Stadium with my daughter on a picture-perfect afternoon. Baseball has always been my favorite sport, but this day wasn’t just about the baseball. It was about sharing a passion for a city and team that I love with Kristen and I can’t wait to do it again.
It just goes to show that sometimes a good day at the ballpark doesn’t always mean a win.