It’s a Strange Time to Be a Yankees Fan
As the Yankees transition from a perennial favorite, with a roster full of highly paid stars, to a mixture of tenured veterans and exciting prospects, loyal fans find themselves with an ever-growing optimism.
Over the past few seasons, the Yankees and their fans have bid adieu to a number of beloved players, ones that raised this franchise from the ashes to where we stand today–expecting to win each and every game.
In 2012, Jorge Posada was unceremoniously shuffled off into retirement. The following season saw not only Andy Pettitte throw his final frame, but also the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera hang ’em up.
And even though we knew heading into the 2014 season, that it would be Derek Jeter‘s last, I don’t believe any Yankees fan was truly ready to say goodbye on the magical October evening against the Baltimore Orioles.
With Jeter’s exit, the Yankees were still in good–yet aging hands. So when the remaining veterans from the 2009 World Series team excelled above all expectations in ’15, the fanbase was put at ease. But in all honesty, who were we kidding?
Did we really expect Mark Teixeira to stay healthy for an entire season at age 36? For Alex Rodriguez to play 151 games and smack 30+ home runs for a second consecutive season?
The Yankees and their fans were playing with house money. Since 1996, we were on top of the baseball world. No team struck fear into the hearts of their competitors the way the Bronx Bombers did. You think you’re going to come into our house and take three out of four games? You got another thing coming, pal!
As for 2016, Yankees players, management, and fans for that matter expected to be in contention from game one through 162; but something changed.
The pitching staff struggled to find consistency; the less than stellar offense from the previous campaign only added the likes of Aaron Hicks and Starlin Castro as reinforcements, and no longer could the club count on premiere production from their most trusted vets.
It was time for a drastic change. Never did I think it would actually occur in my lifetime, but it did. The Yankees began to rebuild. Gone were the impending free agents, and the club-controlled resources that other teams would overpay for. At one point, hours before the trade deadline, it seemed no one was safe. The general manager in Brian Cashman was finally set loose, free to wheel and deal; to mold this franchise into the vision of his own grandeur.
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Up came the kids from the farm system, ready to get their feet wet at the expense of those previously mentioned veterans. Shocking, yet understanding, Teixeira announced he would retire at season’s end. Then only a few days later came the impending announcement of doom and gloom; a must see TV press conference was set for the one and only A-Rod. thiscategory=”no”]
Would he retire right then and there? At the end of 2016? Would the Yankees outright release him and eat the remaining $27 million on his contract? Well, the two sides saved a bit of face, giving Rodriguez a modest send-off on Friday night that brought with it all the emotion this organization had tucked away, hoping no one would see for a very long time.
In the span of a week, Joe Girardi went from a players manager to the most hated man in New York; while A-Rod went from the most villainous creature in baseball history to someone we all suddenly felt empathy for.
Now, of course, someone reading this will disagree with me, and lash out obscenities at their computer screen or smartphone; but if you honestly listened to the genuine words Rodriguez spoke postgame, watch his weary face well with tears, the touching way he interacted with his children, and still tell me he’s a total jerk who premeditates every single moment of his celebrity life, then maybe you should check your pulse to see if you still have a heartbeat.
Now that Rodriguez is finished wearing the iconic pinstripes, there is still plenty of work for Cashman to do, to remake this roster for the next epic Yankees run to greatness. While I won’t name names of who needs to be sent packing, it’s likely someone you’ve watched over the years and grown an affinity for.
That’s the funny thing about Yankees fans, we often latch onto a player or two that resonates with us. It’s usually not even because he’s that great a player, but there is something we like about his game, his style of play. Something we feel is vital to the Yankees staying relevant.
The truth is, you may want to pick a new player ASAP to put your faith behind, because if this week has taught us anything, it’s that the future is coming sooner than any of us expected.
That’s the beauty of the situation we find ourselves in. By steadily improving the farm system over the past few seasons, the Yankees won’t be down for very long.
Yes, 2017 will be a weird combination of infusing a lot of young talent, still playing the household names, and then inevitably trading those familiar faces. But come 2018, the Yankees should find themselves as the team everyone is talking about. They’ll be the sexy pick to return to dominance because of events like those that transpired on Friday night.
Next: Is Joe Girardi Still the Man to Lead the Yankees?
So whether you’re happy or sad right about now, just be patient, Yankees fans. Today may feel strange, but it’s the beginning of a whole new generation of winners headed our way. Stay the course.