30
Oct
07

Of Legend Replacement, New Joe, and Mr. Optober.

Let me start off by saying that I am not yet a good enough writer to consolidate all the happenings of the last two weeks into a meaningful direct concise column. My four dedicated readers may have wondered what I was thinking as the most crucial two weeks in the last 8 years played out. As a fan I was sad to see Torre go. I thought George believed it was the 1980’s and that he was still a man with half of his faculties remaining. At first I was angry. I didn’t want to see Torre go. I thought it was a mistake that would come back to haunt the Yankees. Recent developments have led me to believe that maybe it was time. They faced the single most difficult decision a franchise can be forced to make. How to let go of a legend. I thought it was simple. Sign Torre to a 2-year $12 million deal and that way you get the year where Yankee Stadium closes and the first year at the new ballpark with Joe, Derek, Andy, Jorge, and Mo. As a fan it seemed so simple. But its not. At all. And there’s a reason we are fans.

As much dislike as I have towards the Red Sox(moreso the fans who still want to be underdogs. Hey, you guys still underdogs next year? Second highest payroll? Pink Ortiz shirts as far as the eye can see. Anybody? Too busy agonizing over the Pats being disrespected? They got caught cheating and they’re the victims?[i’m a little bitter]) you have to respect the successful roster changes they made. Like the Yankees they can afford to make mistakes but after they won their first championship in ages those players could have all been signed to lifetime deals and NO ONE would have complained. Dave Roberts, Pedro, Derek Lowe and Orlando Cabrera could have justifiably been brought back. Epstein went for the youth movement and the Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs last year. But there they are. Celebrating their second championship in four years. That is of course until their fans go back to self-imposed misery for no reason whatsoever.

So the Yankee decision makers deliberated. Which is funny because of the self-importance the Yankees possess and everyone is used to. The Yankees have George, Hank, and Hal Steinbrenner, Cashman, Randy Levine, Gene Michael, and probably 3-4 minions cramped in a room. Do other teams do this? Does George have a staff he points at someone expressing the desire to speak? Or is he like the crazy guy in another room watching playoff tapes from the glory years wondering aloud why he can’t just hire Billy Martin and trade for Albert Pujols. But I digress. I was wrong here too. I was sipping the Mattingly kool-aid. I liked his demeanor but the fact that he was still fiery. He reminded me of Jeter in that way. The biggest reason I thought a Mattingly hiring made sense was because I could see the veteran Yankee team respecting him and saw it as the best chance for Rivera, Posada, and Pettite to return. In the end the Yankees decided two things. One, that Mattingly was a little too much like his predecessor. I mean I questioned if Mattingly could guide a 21-29 team in May, to the playoffs like Torre did. But secondly they decided that Girardi not only stood in contrast to Torre but that he was a better fit to coddle a young pitching staff. Many catchers become managers for a reason anyway, they used to hit and they worked with pitchers on a daily basis.

But one thing that came out about Girardi excited me the most about his hiring. Everyone describes him as the most prepared person they ever met. Don Zimmer said he graduated from Northwestern with an engineering degree. He can be whatever he chooses to be. He could have been an engineer. He could be a coach or a manager if he wanted to be. Michael Kay, an announcing partner with him last year spoke of Girardi’s need to prepare as well. He said that if Girardi knew he was doing a Mariner’s game he would watch their games and chart their pitches for a week before the series. He was also careful not to second-guess Torre and make it seem like he wanted his job, so instead he painted the picture of all the possibilities before Torre made his move. Now I’m getting pumped about the ’08 Yanks!

Which unfortunately brings me to Mr. Optober. Excitement wanes. Let me give credit to Newsday for the Mr. Optober line, who attributed it to a reader rant. Where do I start. Oh I know. I wrote a defending A-Rod piece. Ouch. My four readers just cringed. Let me explain. The following isn’t even me trying to backtrack. I swear on the Yankees future success. I actually wanted to recant many of my feelings in that article a week after writing it. I was caught up in feel-baditis. Everyone was destroying the guy as if he was seen high-fiving Osama. I didn’t think he was that bad a guy. Extremely flawed. Extremely rich. But why the level of venom? It was like when Giambi got killed all around the country for his steroids use. Do people realize he wasn’t the only steroid user? There is going to be a profoundly impactful document released during the off-season about the Mitchell steroid investigation(this is another article, coming soon so people don’t think I stole my ideas) that is going to reveal as yet unnamed star players who took steroids. But Giambi and Bonds and the few who have been named have been killed by fans and the media alike. Its ludicrous. So I felt the urge to be a different voice. Boy was I wrong.

And I wasn’t even wrong because of what happened recently. A couple days after my article came out in the paper a classmate spoke to me before class and told me he enjoyed my article to which I responded by doing a fist pump in my mind. He continued that his aunt works at Yankee Stadium and routinely says hello to Cano and Melky. She says “Hi Robby” and “Hi Melky” everyday when she sees them. One day she saw Mr. Optober and said “Hi Alex”. He looked at her with disdain and said “It’s Mr. Rodriguez to you.” Now anyone that thinks like this is just a bad human being. It immediately brought to mind a story which I am positive I repressed. I did a little searching and realized it was from one of my favorite writers, Peter Gammons. Talking about Jeff Franceour’s personality in a piece written on March 5, 2007 he included this example:

“Team USA players like to tell the story of Francoeur confronting Alex Rodriguez during the WBC for trashing a clubhouse kid who brought him the wrong sandwich.”

So Alex Rodriguez deserves all the criticism he receives. I think I’m a better person for being able to admit that I was wrong. Horribly wrong. With this backstory it isn’t shocking that Rodriguez, faced with the possibility of winning some people over and resigning with the Yankees without a big fuss, opted to instead commit one of the most self-centered acts in sports history. Now instead of going into Cooperstown with an obvious choice for the hat he will don he will instead have to choose from at least 4 hats. Here’s hoping he wears this logo on his cap: $

I have an urge to bash Mr. Optober until the cows come home but I take solace in this. When he hits the home run that breaks Barry Bonds tainted record sometime in 2013, he will be showered with adoration and adulation and make a really nice rehearsed in-game speech. He will smile and talk about how happy he is. Then he will go home and once he’s alone he will sit on his expensive bed and take in a little Sports Center to bask in his achievement. They will lead with him and he will watch the coverage and his interviews and mouth his eloquent words. But as they go to commercial they will mention how it was a night of achievement. Derek Jeter the Yankees all-time hit king, had hit number 3515 to pass Tris speaker for fifth on MLB’s all-time list. His smile will fade away. He’ll sit there expressionless for a moment and then creases will appear on his forehead as the beginnings of a frown take shape. He will be empty. Angry. And jealous. Because no matter how full his bank account and trophy case, Alex Rodriguez will always be nothing compared to players that truly define greatness.

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