This will be Part 1 of a multi-part series on how I came to hate the Yankees and Love the Mets (in spite of the Wilpons). Keep an eye out for Part 2!
I grew up in New York in the 1980s, which largely made me a Mets fan. Today, I absolutely hate the Yankees and the majority of their fanbase. Part of it is that I’m a Mets fan and it’s harder for the Mets to “win over” the city. The Mets also struggle more often than the Yankees do. But the main reason I hate them has to do with how the Yankees handle business, which I believe has hurt MLB in many different ways.
In order to understand where I’m coming from, I have to take a step back in time. I didn’t really intersect with the Yankees until around 1993 when they stopped sucking and started being halfway decent, and then became a juggernaut after 1996. In the meantime, the Mets started getting good around 1997, which began what would eventually be called the Piazza era. The Yankees, under the tutelage of Buck Showalter, Gene Michael, and Joe Torre, built a really good baseball team (and shut George Steinbrenner out). I enjoyed their 1996 and 1998 World Series runs. But that’s where the fun ended, and the dislike grew until it became outright hatred.
The Yankees Forgot About How They Won
The Yankees in the late 1990s were a great dynasty because they build from within- Jeter, Bernie, Posada, Pettite, Rivera, and Mendoza all came from within their farm system. The Yankees also brought international stars like Irabu and El Duque to the majors. They augmented the team with a batch of good to great role players (O’Neil, Tino, Brosius, Cone, Wells, etc.) who provided balance to the lineup and rotation. It worked- their hitting often tired out opposing teams’ pitchers by the 5th inning and their starting pitchers kept the opposition from scoring too many runs. And Mariano Rivera was basically unhittable as their closer.
They threw all of this away after the 2001 World Series in part because the Yankees had no real way to rebuild internally the way that they did in the 1990s. Sure, guys like Alfonso Soriano occasionally came up through the system, but they had to buy players and chose the wrong guys to plug the holes in their lineup. They built a lineup with steroid monsters like Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, and Alex Rodriguez. They moved from a lineup that worked the count and took walks to one that struck out a lot and played bad team defense. Asides from the lack of homegrown talent, there are some key reasons for the Yankees shift away from a Sabermetrics-y team concept.
Their older core of players faded away with age and the franchise had to keep up with their divisional rivals lest they fall back too far. The Boston Red Sox had dominant pitchers and hitters after 2000- especially Pedro, Lowe, Wakefield, Manny, Nomar, Damon, and eventually also Ortiz and Youkilis. The Yankees got lucky to win over the Red Sox in 2003 and should have lost earlier in the series to the Sox in 2004. They also had to deal with the Blue Jays’ Halladay, Delgado, and Vernon Wells during this same timeframe. And then there was always the possibility of the Mets overtaking them locally in New York.
After 2001, the Yankees lineup was intentionally designed to beat up on the bad teams in their division and hope to win 50% of the games against the good teams in the AL. This gave them a good shot at making the playoffs, but once they played against above-average pitching they tended to get destroyed in the playoffs (usually in the 1st round). Since 2001 they have made the World Series twice (lost in 2003, won in 2009), and had to watch as the Red Sox won 3 World Series (and the Rays also went to the World Series as well). Plus, the Yanks had to deal with their entire division putting up good rivals that routinely made the playoffs after 2010. Competition leveled the playing field over time.
The team ultimately got away from what made it good, and then compounded it by giving out bad contracts to Giambi, A-Rod, Ellsbury, Headley and Tanaka that they’re only now starting to get out from under (but the Giancarlo contract isn’t going to help things). In the Luxury Tax era, this has created serious financial bottlenecks in maintaining and improving the team. Sure, the Yankees could draft really well, but so could everyone else. The Yankees could sign players to free agent deals, but after age 30 they’d badly age out of those deals pretty quickly.
Thus, the Yankees became a bloated franchise with players no one else wanted and a fan base that demanded perfection. They didn’t have the balls to rebuild from within until recently (and even that I’m not sold on) and they’re just throwing money around in order to hide their decline. I have my issues with the Mets, but I agree with most of their plan to build from within and augment from outside only where necessary. The Yankees just knee-jerk from bad contract to bad contract at this point- and yes, Giancarlo Stanton is another bad contract on their payroll.
Pitching wins championships. That’s why the Astros brought in Justin Verlander last year (while the Yankees, with their depleted farm system, only got Sonny Gray). The Yankees desperately need frontline pitching and they’re not going to slug their way out of every game. But they get a pass because the New York media won’t call them out for these problems as hard as they rag on the Mets and other franchises.
Until the Yankees get their heads out of their asses- and it’s been firmly planted there for over 15 years- I really have no reason to give a damn about them.
Check back shortly for Part 2 of the evolution of my Yankees hatred in a few days! I’ll update this with the link to the 2nd part (and vice versa).