The modern New York Yankees are no strangers to creating embarrassment for their fans where there previously was none.
Typically, said embarrassment is a result of the front office being either too thrifty or too stodgy.
It’s embarrassing, for example, to root for a team that’s willing to trade for Giancarlo Stanton when his high-priced contract falls into their laps, and is also perfectly content to drop a record-setting contract on Gerrit Cole, but has zero intention of spending an additional dime or two on ancillary pieces to help supplement both players’ primes. Selective spending could rightly be described as embarrassing.
And then there’s the organization’s complete unwillingness to have fun. Occasionally, this modern band of Yankees has managed to create on-field joy by pushing boundaries, like in 2017 when the clubhouse seemed looser than ever.
Even then, though, it was difficult to watch the clean-cut Yankees face off against the reckless, bearded Astros and think, “We have the upper hand in mojo here.” No matter how gleeful the players might be in any given year, they’re still not allowed to grow a lick of facial hair. No funky hair. No experimentation. They’ll never win the “fun” battle until that changes.
Which brings us to the Pizza Rats, which was the Yankees’ Short-Season Single-A affiliate’s attempt at marketability and humor (temporarily) back in 2018. Though rebranding as something as goofy as a pizza-dragging rodent sounds like classic minor-league baseball to us — and got the Yankees affiliate a good deal of notoriety! — it’s not at all shocking that New York’s stuck-in-the-mud brass felt otherwise.
Again … embarrassing.
The Yankees sent a furious and embarrassing email to the Staten Island Pizza Rats.
The Boston Red Sox dance like wild men to Robyn’s “Dancing on my Own”. The Yankees send their own affiliates angry emails when they successfully produce and sell Pizza Rats hats. Easy to understand why people hate us.
Reading Yankees COO Lonn Trost’s 2018 email to Staten Island’s management is an exercise in cringe comedy. The idea of taking yourself this seriously should be left in the 1950s.
"“Regardless of the fact that it is to be used during the 2018 season on a limited basis, the STATEN ISLAND YANKEES’ ballplayers, drafted by the New York Yankees and part of the New York Yankees’ player pool (and future New York Yankees players) are to be publicly displayed in ‘Pizza Rat’ uniforms and hats,” Trost said in the email to Staten Island Yankees President Will Smith.“This is not only an embarrassment to the New York Yankees franchise, it flies in the face of earlier contracts between both sides.”"
Almost too on the nose. This type of email is exactly what haters would invent if they intended to parody the Yankees’ grossly out-of-touch attitude.
Also, it should be mentioned that:
- The Yankees had allowed their Trenton affiliate to dress up as the “Pork Roll” prior to the invention of the Pizza Rats (though perhaps that’s why both affiliates have now been shed…)
- The promotion … worked! It got plenty of national attention!
Clearly, that’s what made the big-league Yankees most uncomfortable. God forbid the Yankees organization be known for something other than being buttoned-up and eliminated after the first week of October.
Regardless of reasoning, Staten Island was eliminated as a big-league affiliate in the great purge of 2020, which led to a very public and vicious counter-suit. Perhaps no minor-league ownership group was as infuriated by the league-wide shakeup as Staten Island’s braintrust, and this embarrassing backlash certainly further explains why such a chasm grew here.