How do you feel about the New York Yankees? How do you really feel? It seems that for most baseball fans (the abbreviated form of the word "fanatics") it is on one of only two sides of the issue. They either love 'em, or really loathe just the mention of 'em. That makes me think of the collegiate world of basketball and the Duke Blue Devils. Love or hate. Very few, if any, fans of the game are on that narrow strip of middle ground, somewhere between the two.
As seen on the CBS boards, most loyal posters, myself incuded, hide our real identities behind a manufactured screen name. Anonymity brings it's benefits. For one, you can rant and rave, scream and shout, and express how you really feel about the other team and it's players. Why not? That shelter behind a name other than your birth name, and keeping all other contact information private, makes it real easy to let it all out.......within the guidelines of the boards, of course. As for the players earning a salary on our favorite teams, providing soundbites revealing deep-seated feelings about "the other guys" can be relayed worldwide within minutes. Not only that, those words find their way posted to "those guys' " lockers, providing some fuel and fodder the next time you square off with them on the opposite side of the diamond. They may end up eating those words, being shoved down their throat by "those guys" the next time around.
Listening to post-game interviews rarely gives me much more than the feeling that the sentiments are well-guarded, the comments scripted, and the "company line" being followed. Either that, or the editorial "no comment" followed quickly by a tangent leading to some ambiguous meanderings about the field conditions or the bus ride over to the ballpark. Managers probably cringe when something is said by his player that can be taken either out of context and sounding ridiculously hateful, or used as motivation for the opposing club. That's why I really liked what came out of a couple of interviews with Detroit Tiger's relief pitcher Joel Zumaya.
While completing his rehab assignment with the triple-A Toledo Mudhens last week, he was quoted as saying "I'm ready to face those Yankees." Alright. Some fiestiness and self-assuredness coming from a pitcher that was lock-down effective and fearless for a 95% chance at closing out a game regularly when? In 2006? However, it sounds like his confidence level and bravado, which really never have taken a large dip throughout the past two tumultuous seasons, is now being caught up to by some solid performances and consistency once again. We'll see as he makes regular appearances for the Tigers. This past Wednesday night he was called on in relief during two innings of the game where the Yankees tore into young starter Rick Porcello for six runs in the fourth inning of a once tight game. In those two innings, Zoom-Zoom Zumaya gave up one solitary hit to the visitors from NYC, and his fastball touched "100" on the radar gun. Lock-down, shut-down pitching, no more runs scored. In a loss by the home team.
"I think (Leyland) wanted me to show the Yankees I still have a little gas", stated Zumaya.
"The ball was coming pretty good out of my hand. You know, I can't stand the Yankees, man. I'm going to go right after them. But that's just part of this game. I like to go after guys."
Right on, Joel! Tell it like you feel it. But be sure to back up those words on the field. Else, you will sound like an unbelievable gum-flapper like Rasheed Wallace of the Pistons. I think for this outing, he did just that. Nice work out there against your nemesis. In being asked what he did not like about the Yankees, he added a bit more to the soundbites.
"There are little things about them I can't stand. They're just the Yankees."
Yes, I have to agree with Zumaya's feelings about the Yankees. I don't like 'em either. Why not? It's the aura, the reputation, they have built up over the decades. Is it jealousy over the dominance they have held for so long over so many teams, and the grand success they have had in garnering almost countless World Championship pennants? Not really. I believe my pet peeves have been fed by the media. While living in New York City for over 10 years, I read the New York Post and Daily News every day. Looking at the back cover, with the headlines about the Yankees, I just rolled my eyes. They were haled as God's gift to mankind on Monday. Tuesday, after Monday nights' close loss on an error, they were touted as the Worst Team of the Century. New York media. Love 'em or hate 'em, they know how to sell papers. In attending many games in the Bronx and Queens, and watching the teams, my team of choice was the New York Mets. I grew up and went to school in Michigan, so have deep down connections with the Detroit Tigers. While in New York, I did what New Yorkers do. Cheer wildly for one of the home teams, while in the open. Of course, when the Tigers visited Yankee Stadium, I donned the olde English "D" and heckled every Yankee hitter. To the point of being mobbed and threatened to get tossed on my * * * by the fans.
Passion is good in the game. For the 2009 Tigers, I just hope that they can back up any feelings they have, and statements made, with some superb play on the field. If Zumaya can continue to go after guys, pounding the strike zone with that 100 MPH heat, so much the better.