"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Philadelphia, Here We Come

By Allen Barra

Hello. Some of you may know me as Allen Barra. Some of you may know me under my pseudonyms, Norman Mailer–check out The Naked and The Dead, it kicks butt–or Eleanor Holmes-Norton, the black congresswoman from D.C–I’m thinking of giving up that identity as it forces me to do too much writing from the bleachers while watching Nationals games.

I promised Alex Belth that I would do this blog, so here I am. I wanted to call him up this morning and say, “I’m not responsible for the decisions I make when I’ve been drinking.” But then the horrible truth struck me: I don’t drink, and I actually made the decision to do this while sober. This has to rank with the worst decisions I ever made in my life, right up there with not returning Angelina Jolie’s phone call. So, here I am. I’m not really sure what it is I’m supposed to do.

To be honest, I’m not entirely certain of what a “blog” is. Before I met Alex, I thought a blog was a Danish breakfast treat. Now, after reading Alex, I’ve discovered it’s really a device for baring your soul, like Dostoevsky, only more neurotic.

Myself, I have no soul to bare, so I’m kind of stuck for a topic. This site is about the Yankees, right? (If I post this on the Jessica Simpson official fan site, I’m going to be really embarrassed.) The one thing I do like about Bronx Banter is that, at least from what I’ve read, it allows for an immediate and intelligent response to the most important topics of the day – and on this site, the responses are certainly more intelligent than the column itself.

The Yankees…Wait, it just occurred to me, I’m not sure who’s on the Yankees, Let me go check the roster and get back to you…

Okay, I’m back. Sorry, I forgot. Alex Rodriguez is on the Yankees. I just checked his stats. I’m telling you, this guy is very, very good. If you haven’t paid much attention to him in the past, try focusing on him this season. This guy has averaged about 40 home runs, 120 RBIS, and about 20 stolen bases in each of his last three seasons – and yet, astonishingly, he gets almost no media overage at all. Hardly anybody knows who he is. I’m thinking that one day in a couple of years everyone is going to wake up collectively and say, “Hey, who is this Alex Rodriguez guy? Has he really been one of the best players in baseball over the last dozen seasons or so? And no one’s noticed? Is this guy maybe a Hall of Famer? And we hardly paid him any attention?”

I think part of the problem is confusion – Yankees fans seem to think he’s someone else. Every game I go to they react as if he’s Lou Piniella. If I’m not mistaken, everyone yells out, “LOOOOOUUU! LOOOOOUUU!” Personally, I think Lou Piniella ought to clear up the situation by posing for a picture with A-Rod so everyone can see the difference.

What I wonder about Alex Rodriguez is this: Years from now, when Yankee fans think back on this time, will they remember that they had perhaps the greatest player in the game and didn’t know how to appreciate him? Or will they think “I was at a game where he struck out in the ninth with two runners on base. And they pay him $20 million for that?”

Another guy I noticed who is on the Yankees roster is Bobby Abreu – I thought he was on the Phillies, so I must have missed something. (I think the Yankees traded Gary Sheffield for him.) Abreu’s pretty good, too. He’s not as good as Rodriguez, but he’s very good. He’s one of those guys that you can bat anywhere from one to five in the order and he’d be a tremendous asset. He sees a lot of pitches, hits lefthanders pretty good for a lefty, gets on base a lot, runs okay, and hits with much more than reasonable power. He’s exactly the kind of guy the Yankees get criticized a lot for “stealing” from other teams. In this case, the Yankees didn’t steal him – the Phillies left him out on the doorstep and the Yankee sent the van by to pick him up. I have family down in the Philadelphia-South Jersey area. I’m not particularly proud of this fact, but as there’s not much I can do about it, I’ve learned to accept it. The reason I’m not proud of it is because as sports fans, my family are all jerks. The amazing thing is that I don’t have to apologize for saying this. If they read what I just wrote, they’d all nod heir heads and say, “Well, yeah, we are.”

They all booed Donovan McNabb even though the statistics show that he is the best quarterback in the National Football Conference. They booed Mike Schmidt years ago even when he was the best player in baseball. If you ask them, they all say, “Well, I was at this game when McNabb threw two interceptions” or “I was at a game where Schmidt struck to three times and left the wining run on base.” For the last year and half, they mercilessly booed Bobby Abreu, even thought he was one of the best players in the league. At the family picnic last year, when I confronted them with their callousness toward Abreu and how grateful Yankee fans were to Phillies fans for chasing him out of Philadelphia, they all said, “I was at this game where he popped up in the ninth inning with the winning runs on base” – or even dumber, “I was at a game where we needed a hit in the ninth and all he got was a walk.” It did not good to tell them that Bobby was a terrific hitter who not only produced runs but made the rest of the batting more productive by wearing down opposing pitchers and creating runs even when he wasn’t getting hits. All they could remember was the game they saw where he didn’t get the winning run home in the ninth.

Everyone knows that Phillies fans are the worst in baseball. But not enough, I think, has been said about the way in which they are the worst. Red Sox fans are the ugliest and nastiest, but only to players on other teams. Phillies fans treat heir own the way red Sox fans treat players on other teams. They read the papers and listen to the radio call-in shows and form judgments on players that have nothing to do with any rational modes of thinking. They cultivate a mindset that takes what happens in front of their eyes and transforms it into the failure they expected to see in the first place. That’s why they booed Bobby Abreu out of Philadelphia and into New York.

And in some strange way, it seems to me, that is what Yankees fans are doing with Alex Rodriguez. For some reason which has not as yet become apparent to me, when Yankee fans see A-Rod, they turn into Phillies fans.

Allen Barra is currently writing a biography of Yogi Berra.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver