"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky: Full Circle

The last time a sense of newness and expectation this powerful converged with the New York Yankees was 2002. The YES Network had been clear for takeoff — it launched on March 19 on Time Warner Cable and RCN in New York (Cablevision would be left out until March 31 the following year). The major signing was a power-hitting first baseman brought to New York from an American League West stalwart.

This year, a massive new stadium — in size and cost — sets the backdrop for a Yankee team that has brought in another powerful first baseman from the AL West, but two stud pitchers to solidify the starting rotation.

The Yankees opened the 2002 season on a Monday afternoon in April, in Baltimore. The same scenario comes to the fore today. Seven years ago, Roger Clemens took the hill and was tattooed in a 10-3 loss. Clemens injured his pitching hand trying to snare a hard-bouncing ground ball with his bare hand.

What will the outcome be today? Will history repeat itself? Will C.C. Sabathia, the highest-paid pitcher ever, try to barehand a line drive and damage the investment the Yankees have placed in him? Will Mark Teixeira, the topic of much discussion over the weekend, particularly after Saturday’s two-home-run performance, do what Jason Giambi couldn’t: get off to a great start in New York and convince the fans that he can hang in New York?

The greatest differences: the 2002 team, while starkly different than its predecessor, was coming off a Game 7 loss in the World Series and a potential four-peat. This Yankee team, at least in the makeup of its core players, is not that different than last year’s, and is coming off its first playoff absence since 1993.

How about the season? Will history repeat itself there also? The opening-day loss didn’t faze the 2002 group, which went on to finish 103-58 and coasted to a fifth straight AL East title only to get complacent and lose to the Angels in the first round. A 103-58 record is possible, but the intradivision competition is tougher. The Angels lurk again.

From everything I’ve read, seen and heard, I sense the air of purpose from this team is as strong as the Joe Torre championship teams. I’m as curious as the rest of you to see how it all plays out, and I can’t wait.


1 teomcdohl   ~  Apr 6, 2009 11:21 am

Well said.

I'm looking forward to sitting on the couch with my dad and watching this Yankee team (hopefully) get off to a good start.

I haven't been this excited for a baseball season in a long time. Being a fan since 1995 will do that to you - spoiled, spoiled, spoiled.

2 PJ   ~  Apr 6, 2009 11:52 am

Nice Will! Well spotted! Those were great analogies between Clemens and Sabathia, as well as Giambi and Teixeira, which nobody has brought up in that fashion to date. I think the new players are significantly better people with much less baggage and many more productive years left than their predecessors, and I believe they will handle themselves and produce more accordingly as well.

I think it all boils down to trying to do too much instead of focusing on doing your best. Smaller minds can't seem to get around that philosophy, can they?


3 seamus   ~  Apr 6, 2009 12:24 pm

Yeah that is an interesting analogy. I'm pretty excited for the season. I wasn't sure I would be but I am. GO YANKEES!!

4 Will Weiss   ~  Apr 6, 2009 1:49 pm

[2] Thanks, PJ. I was at Camden Yards that day on my first-ever professional baseball assignment, so I have some very vivid and distinct memories from the whole experience. ... Teixeira is even wearing the same number Giambi did, which initially made me nervous, but since he is a better all-around player, I think he'll be fine.

I agree with your points about the new players. Even though it will be argued that there is more pressure on this Yankee team than any previous group, I think they're presenting themselves as much more carefree, which is great to see.

5 PJ   ~  Apr 6, 2009 3:18 pm

Well certainly within this lineup, without the benefit of Alex in it right away, there is a sense of rallying around each other rather than a few putting additional unnecessary pressure on themselves. That's what I've noticed recently in those "meaningless games" over the last week or so in any event. The reality of being without him has more than sunk in, as it's already been a while, and the sense of urgency is palatable for them to get off to a very solid start, which has been missing from them for far too many Aprils now.

I just feel badly that the Yankees have been doomed to finishing in third place by so many before the first pitch has been thrown after such a great camp. Perhaps that will rekindle unity by them being the underdog as they were when their last title run began. In fact, I think I would enjoy them "sneaking up" on other teams the way Tampa did last season very much!

Until proven otherwise, I contend that the Cubs were overwhelmed by YS2.0 to the point of being distracted facing our pitching, as well as while playing in the field. I mean, it sure doesn't look and play like Candlestick Park to me, but the Cubs play indicated very similar fielding problems as though they were playing at the Giants former home in San Francisco and we got the bonus of Zambrano begging for management to pony up some similar amenities for them! I mean, crushing them twice and getting clubhouse discord too??? Manna from Heaven! Undoubtedly that will be the case for most every other team as well. This will make it all the easier for them to get off to that good start. See? I found another great new thing about YS2.0! It's going to serve as a distraction to opponents! It already has and the games didn't even count!


6 PJ   ~  Apr 6, 2009 3:30 pm

We simply must come up with a new statistic for that!

I give you YS2.0DF! To the uninitiated, that's the Yankee Stadium 2.0 Distraction Factor. It is comprised of a teams' road record multiplied by how many times their jaws drop open, divided by how many "suggestions" they give their management, plus how many times the team's manager tells them to "Shut up and play!"


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