Monday, October 09, 2006

Where Have You Gone, Paul O’Neill?


I’m unabashedly a huge New York Yankee fan. I have been since the days of Mattingly and Winfield during the 1980’s. Those were some lean years, and as a guy born in 1976, I’m part of the only generation that can remember a time when the Yankees really had no chance of winning. If you were a Yankee fan from the 20’s-60’s… you saw so many championships and great players that it’s mind-boggling. The early 70’s were tough, but by the end you had the “Bronx Zoo”, with Billy Martin at the helm, that was as entertaining a team as you can find in the history of baseball. A dysfunctional family that was a perfect a team on the field… a great starter in Guidry, Goose Gossage closing, Munson behind the plate, Nettles catching everything on 3rd and Reggie Jackson hitting 3 home runs on 3 pitches in the World Series.

Then came the 80’s. My generation. Watching Mattingly become a Yankee legend. Dave Winfield walk to the plate seemingly 2 feet taller than everyone else. Ricky Henderson stealing 100 bases. They had a solid offense but their pitching was just atrocious. I would read books about the great teams of the past, Yogi Berra winning 10 rings. I couldn’t even imagine even watching the Yanks in the series let alone winning 10 of them.

In ’94 Yanks were on top and looking to be a playoff team. Then the strike hit and I turned to basketball for a few years. But the Yanks were always around. I still followed the team and by the 1996 championship I back on board. I moved to New York City in 1999 and during the 2001 playoffs, the Yankees were a huge part of New York City during the aftermath of 9-11. They were the perfect form of escapism and the only thing I could cling to after seeing unimaginable horror days earlier. That team, even though it lost to Arizona, solidified my love of the New York Yankees. They’re more than a baseball team to me, they’re part of the fabric of New York City. You can walk into any bodega in the city and talk Yankee baseball with a total stranger for hours. I just talked about trading Arod with a drunk stranger yesterday.

They’re the Yanks. They play in a section of the Bronx that you would never visit if it weren’t for the Stadium, there’s nothing like walking under that elevated subway track, as the 4 Train rumbles overhead, it’s New York. The upper deck is where the real fans sit, no emotionless suits and celebrities, just like NYC it’s a melting pot of different people… hard-working men and women coming out the Bronx after work to see the Yanks, a place where the vendors are lifetime New Yorkers with Yankee tattoos on their arms. It’s where Arod gets booed and Jeter is God. Where thousands of fans wish Melky Cabrera were playing instead of Bobby Abreu and Bernie was in Center instead of that guy from Boston. Where fans won’t wear the number of a Yankee if he’s not “Home Grown”.

After this latest debacle it’s grown blatantly obvious that the Yanks and their fans miss guys that play hard. During the 90’s we passed on high priced free agents, opting instead for guys like Paul O’neill and Scott Brocious. Cast off pitchers like David Cone and Jimmy Key. Today’s Yankee teams don’t have the potential for an unexpected triple from a catcher like Joe Girardi. No surprise big home runs from a Jim Leyritz. Or pitch hit home runs from Tino Martinez, a 100 RBI guy who didn’t start a big playoff game.

I hope the Yankee upper brass sits down and watches some tape of those guys. Guys who had fire and wanted to win more than anything else.

Well, there’s always next year. I only hope the team if far different.

2 comments:

DGM said...

If the Yankees do the following, as a Yankee hater, I'll be upset:

1) Trade A-Rod for Ervin Santana and Chone Figgins.

2) Let Gary Sheffield go.

3) Sign or trade for a Molina and drop Posada

4) Retire Bernie Williams

5) Trade Jason Giambi (pay his salary) for Nick Johnson and Tony Armas Jr.

6) Drop Pavano amd Randy Johnson. Keep Mussina. Sign or mortgage farm hands for a proven pitcher.

Lineup after all this:

1B Andy Phillips
2B Robinson Cano
3B Chone Figgins
SS Derek Jeter
C Molina
RF Bobby Abreu
CF Johnny Damon
LF Hideki Matsui
DH Nick Johnson

RandyG said...

Trading Arod to the Angels is a tricky one. The Yanks have trouble with them, and giving Arod to them could come back to bite them. But getting good pitching, and a guy like Figgins, who can play literally anywhere, would be a good move. Plus Damon and Figgins on the basepaths would be insane. Forcing them to steal bases, hit and run and get back to small ball.

Sheff is gone. He doesn't have a spot here with Abreu, and they need to think defense on first. The outfield is good now, with Melky able to backup anywhere and Bernie as a cheap 4th outfielder/pinch hitter.

Giambi has 2 years left and is probably making too much to get traded. If they pay his salary, maybe, but thats alot of cash to eat, even for the Yanks. If they can get a solid defensive 1st basemen, or even go with Phillips, moving Giambi to full-time DH is a good move. He's still good for 35 and 100+ rbi's.

I still think they can hang onto Pavano and see what happens when he's healthy. He's a good pitcher and with Wright gone, he can move into his spot.

Johnson has to be considered a #4/5 guy now. Down in the rotation you can skip starts with him and hopefully keep him healthy. And he still doesn't miss alot of starts. Hardly any, really.

I don't know what'll happen with Moose. I dont want them signing him for 3 more years and get stuck. Sign him for 2 max, or one with and option for another. I think he's 50/50 to stay. I've heard he's got it narrowed to the Yanks, Mets, Baltimore and Philly... we'll see.

The rotation is interesting because they need a #1 guy. Wang is great, but he's more suited as a #2 guy, at least for now. Plus, if you're able to make him your #2 guy, your pitching staff is in great shape.

So a new #1 starter, Wang #2, Moose #3, Pavano 4 and Johnson 5, that's not bad at all. Health is an issue, but when isn't it with pitching.

They won't move Posada, ever. The guy is really the vocal captain of the team and had an great year last year.

If they can pick up a a young starter and hard throwing relievers, be it in a trade for Arod or whatever, I think they'll be in good shape. Phillips Hughes is their big gun in the Minors... they wouldn't trade him and he supposedly throws in the high 90's. I think he'll be given a shot at the rotation in the spring.

It'll be an interesting off season.