I think I understand the three reasons why baseball fans hate the New York Yankees.
1) They play in New York
2) They spend a lot of money on free agents
3) They are consistently good year after year
Well, now you should only hate the Yankees 2/3 as much. Because they are no longer good.
For the first time since Derek Jeter came to the majors nearly 20 years ago, New York is nothing more than a .500 team. And that isn’t a coincidence. The Yankees have been relying on aging stars for years now, and this is the season where age has finally caught up to them.
Jeter broke his ankle during the playoffs last year and vowed to be ready to play on opening day. However, the Captain has never been this injured or this close to age 40 before. The rehab has taken much longer than planned. He has played fewer than twenty games this season and he still doesn’t look like he has fully recovered.
Similarly, veteran first baseman Mark Teixeira suffered a wrist injury in March and expected to miss a month or two. In reality, he only played for a few weeks this summer before being shut down for season-ending surgery.
As if Father Time hadn’t been cruel enough to the Yankees, Lady Luck decided to turn against them, too. Slugging outfielder Curtis Granderson was hit by the first pitch he saw in spring training and broke his wrist. He returned to action in May only to have his pinkie bone broken by a pitch 11 days later.
The injury bug promptly transformed the Bronx Bombers into anaemic underdogs. They went weeks during which they didn’t get a single home run from a right-handed hitter.
If you’re angry at Yankee fans for being so willing to accept Alex Rodriguez back into the fold, let me try to explain why. It is not because we are okay with everything he has done. It’s because we need him!
We are so desperate for offensive competence that we are ready to embrace anyone who can hit the ball hard occasionally.
Make no mistake: if opening day 3rd baseman Kevin Youkilis was still on the active roster, Yankee fans would be telling A-Rod to take a hike. But Youkilis – in predictable Yankee fashion – has been out with a back injury for months and isn’t expected to return.
If you saw the parade of powerless peons who played 3rd for us this summer, you’d understand why Yankee fans are willing to forgive A-Rod’s off-field transgressions.
Thanks to the return of Rodriguez and Granderson and the recent addition of Alfonso Soriano, New York’s offense is no longer boring and painful to watch.
But it’s too late. The team is in fourth place and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
The Evil Empire has fallen. And with the $100s of millions that the Yankees still owe Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A-Rod on their long-term contracts, it will not be easy to rebuild.