"Now, what is this site about, how Joe Torre ruined pitchers' arms? Is that it?"
-Michael Kay, August 18, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pinch hitting at The LoHud Yankees Blog

My post on Peter Abraham's blog was published this morning. Here it is:

Last season was tough for all Yankees fans to handle. Under a new manager and in the final year of the old Yankee Stadium, the Yankees missed the playoffs. This marked the eighth straight season in which the team failed to meet expectations. Once again, they proved that having the highest payroll doesn’t mean much in October.

But for me, this season was even stranger. Being a 20-year-old, my earliest baseball memory was the 1996 World Series. I was 8 at the time, and didn’t fully grasp what exactly happened. Not until I saw signs reading “World Champions” did I finally understand how big this moment was. After that, Yankees would continue to reach the playoffs year after year. One could say that winning was my birthright.

The words “winning” and “Yankees” were synonymous for an impressionable young fan like me. I began to think this success was normal. Another year would pass and another championship would be celebrated. After five years of following baseball, the Yankees had won four World Series titles and no one seemed to get in their way. Life as a baseball fan couldn’t be better.

But the loss in the 2001 World Series immediately brought me back down to reality. While I was upset, I realized the world didn’t end and life would, eventually, go on.

And life continued to go on for the next six years, though 2004 was the hardest. Even the oldest Yankees fans had to be shaken by what transpired during those four games in mid-October. Sometimes I deny it even happened.

I have almost grown numb to these playoff “failures” over the last few years. The older, poorly-constructed pitching staffs were no match in a short series. When the Yankees tried to go younger last season, injuries and ineffectiveness derailed another highly-paid campaign. It happens, but around the Bronx over the last 15 years, we’re just not used to it, especially fans of my generation.

Seeing the Yankees out of the playoffs for the first time as a fan was definitely a weird experience for me, but a lack of a championship is something I’ve been able to handle as I’ve matured as a person and as a baseball fan. I’ve begun to realize that winning is a privilege and not a birthright.

I wish the same could be said about some Red Sox fans I’ve encountered at school. You see, Quinnipiac University is located right between Boston and New York, the epicenter of the rivalry. After the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, one of my (former) roommates exclaimed, “It’s been three long years!” It’s amazing what a stretch of winning can do to a fan base. Needless to say, watching the Rays quiet this “dynasty” up at school was rather fulfilling.

The 2008 season was humbling for Yankees fans. It made me realize just how difficult and special it is to win just one World Series, let alone four in five years. Those teams of the late 90s were special indeed – I just wish I was a little bit older to fully appreciate them. We should all be grateful to have witnessed their performances on the field.

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I appreciate any feedback. Thanks to Peter for giving us bloggers this opportunity again this year.

4 comments:

She-Fan said...

You did great, Andrew. Bravo!

Andrew Fletcher said...

Thanks, Jane!

Rev said...

Teriffic post Andrew .. I was twice your age in 96 so I had a good 7 or 8 years of pro baseball consciousness under my belt before the dynasty. I was at game 1 of the 1990 World Series between Paulie O'Neill's Reds and the Bash Brother A's. That was always what baseball meant to me until Paul came over to the Yankees in 93 and I started following the team maniacally.

The playoff loss in 1995 was tough, but mostly for the Mattingly factor. Beyond that season, you've got all the feeling of exhilaration and glee covered, leading up to 2001 with the sense of entitlement many of us felt. We were blessed to be a part of that dynasty simply to feel the bliss and the despair, to experience the emotions that draw people from all cultures to competitive sport.

It truly is a privilege to follow a team that consistently spends money to make itself better. All the bitterness towards the Yankees from fans of other teams comes from the knowledge that their owners would rather line their pockets than put a winning team on the field season after season. Thank you for sharing your experience and your appreciation for what being a Yankee fan truly means.

Andrew Fletcher said...

Thanks for the kind words, Rev. I had fun writing it and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

As strange as it sounds, I wish I was old enough to watch the team struggle during the late 80s and early 90s. 1996 would have seemed even more special if that were the case for me.

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