Thursday, August 10, 2017


I've watched Yankee games from first pitch to last out in the best of times and worst of times; sat through one-sided losses and meaningless massacres; endured coma-inducing west coast extra-inning marathons and stuck out bizarre weather and technical delays that left more team personnel on the field than in the stands or watching at home by the game's conclusion.

But in two weeks, I'm afraid, there's going to be three home games played against the Mariners I simply won't be able to bring myself to watch.  That's because for the first time in Yankee history, the team is going to toss aside what I consider one of its finest, most distinctive traditions in the name of yet another misguided money grab by MLB.

I'm speaking, of course, of the tradition that  the Yankees always play for the name on the front of their jerseys, making the need for names on the back unnecessary.

In some bizarre head fake toward personal expression and making the game more fun for players and fans  (as if making a fortune playing a kid's game and watching the best in the world make a fortune play it  wasn't enough fun for players and fans), a Players' Weekend will be marked by alternative unis with nicknames on the back, among other things.

The Yankees, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, have never, ever resorted to alternative game jerseys in a bald-faced grab for additional revenue from their fans before. Not that they weren't above charging their pound price for everything. But they always seemed to understand who they were and what they're brand represented and grasped the concept that, no matter how illusory the idea of tradition may be, it was a crucial component of their product no other team could match and they zealously protected it. Because once you do something you've never done before, you can never go back and say you never do it again.

Photo: New York Daily News
And this one hurts all the more because it not only has the wholehearted endorsement of the player's union but, in fact, has a Yankee player -- CC Sabathia -- playing "a central role in the conceptualization of the inaugural event" according to MLB's official press release.

Note the use of the word "inaugural" well, by the way. That's how the commish Rob Manfred learned to do things from his mentor Uncle Bud Selig. Once you get your OK try out an idea, label it a tradition from the word go so any attempt to change, backtrack or question it later makes it seem like you're attacking an accepted status quo -- which of course, it isn't and I'm not.

Want to know who number 99 hitting all those dingers is? Look at the scoreboard or buy a program, bub.

Want to know where all the players with the single digits are? Get the hell out of that seat, go visit Monument Park right now and don't come back until you have their names and numbers memorized.
Want to know why they don't have names on their backs?

Because what good would it do you anyway? It's easier to see a number from a distance than a name.  If you know the team,  a number's enough. And if you don't, a name doesn't tell you anything that matters.

Don't go telling me this is all about charity either just because they'll be auctioning off the MLB players' game-worn jerseys from that weekend for youth baseball, because it isn't. It's not about charity. Not by an Aaron "All Rise #99" Judge long shot.

While the scam may be camouflaged by running it concurrently with the Little League World Series being held the same weekend, there's virtually no connection and 100% of those auction proceeds are  getting hoovered directly into the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, which is a slushy fund with about as broad and self-serving a set of criteria for what the money can be spent on as can possibly be drawn-- including defraying expenses of players  and former players making personal appearances in almost any capacity as long as it involves youths who play ball; offsetting costs for current and former players who make a profit from running baseball camps and "academies" in foreign countries that serve as scouting combines for MLB; and  paying for "elite" prospects to get to MLB showcases.

No, to find out who the real beneficiary of this weekend really is, all one has to do is take a gander at MLB's online Yankees merchandise shop (or any other team's) and you'll see they're already pushing the Player's Weekend crap along with their standard fare  -- and at premium prices some might  expect to pay for an actual game-worn jerseyOr maybe $200 is a reasonable price for the jersey of a  two-month rental named ToddFather or J Gar, I don't know. This is a whole new market for the Yankees.

With cool nicknames like that on the back, maybe enough kids who can afford them will decide to buy matching season ticket packages to go with them and make the whole idea worthwhile.

To be clear, I have no problem whatsoever with teams selling stuff with cute nicknames stamped on it to anybody who wants to buy it.  But I have a very big problem with Yankee players wearing it in actual games where I have to see them model it like it's the kind of thing kids should aspire to wear when they make the Bigs.

Judge, sad to say, was initially of the same mind as me on this issue, but got turned around by ToddFather. He's still a bit too wide-eyed and dewy around veterans and needs to go with his gut more, me thinkst.

I'm pleased to report, however, that Brett Gardner, the "oldest" Yankee in time served, turned out to be the only player with the pride and the balls to stand up for himself and for fans like me.

No nicknames on his jersey. He worked too hard and too long for it to treat it like something commonly found in any ballpark on any given weekend  -- and I feel I've done precisely the same with my time and resources on behalf of this team over my lifetime.

So when the Yankees face the Mariners that weekend, I'll be watching and rooting for the Orioles to beat the Red Sox when I can instead.

I trust my tweeple will keep me well-posted on my Yanks and won't give Brett and me too hard a time for bucking what we believe to be a bad precedent.

For those that might, though, I  have just two things to say:

1) Don't be a Gardy party pooper
2) Go To He#11.

--Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

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