On Saturday afternoon, a perfectly good walk-off turned to a discussion of morality, though it was hard for Yankees fans to make heads or tails of the discourse when every barb was delivered from the highest possible horse.
From what we can gather objectively, a group of fans in the left-field seats went too far in jeering Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan, who seemed woozy after smashing into the wall trying to save the game-tying hit. Center fielder Myles Straw was set off by the behavior, and climbed all the way up the fence to jaw at the offending fans face-to-face. From any other vantage point, it appeared he was considering a Malice at the Palace in a scene that easily could’ve veered into further violence.
That became more obvious seconds later when Gleyber Torres lined a game-winning hit into the right field gap, leading to a shower of trash, cans and bottles from a group of fans in the opposite bleachers. Suddenly, “some Yankee fans” became YANKEE FANS, and voices from Toronto, Cleveland, Houston and Boston (all with some fan problems to deal with in their own backyard) teamed up to inform us all anecdotally that Saturday’s actions were more than enough reason to call any supporter of the league’s most successful franchise classless.
In other words, every Yankee fan must answer for the knee-jerk actions of 20 people they’ve never met and don’t endorse.
To be clear, the hooligan behavior from the right field bleachers — taking their cue from the left field bleachers — wasn’t completely out of character for Yankee Stadium. We have seen bouts of nastiness before from the wasted-since-10-AM crowd just waiting for the gates to reopen so they can hustle downtown to The 13th Step. The legend of the fearsome Bleacher Creatures stems from some outright motorcycle gang-esque behavior from the lowly ’80s and dynastic ’90s.
There can be no doubting that the fans in the stands — universally decried by the rest of the fan base, no matter what Ben Verlander and Co. want to believe — are responsible for their actions that marred a near-perfect comeback victory. And those actions have no place in sports, though they feel quite commonplace these days as fans return to polite society post-COVID and throw water bottles at basketball players, assuming their behavior will go unnoticed in an era where 80,000 cameras are always tuned to every section of public space.
It’s also true, though, that none of the postgame action takes place if not for Straw taking offense to some jeering and scaling the left field fence to scream face-to-face at some obnoxious jockey who wasn’t worth his time.
Guardians outfielder Myles Straw climbed fence to scream at Yankees fans, incited violence
Again, it cannot be overstated how weird this looked to everyone else in the crowd and at home. While Straw believed he was handling his business on a personal level, it shouldn’t be so shocking that his actions seemed like a personal challenge to the most-easily-riled-up people elsewhere in the stands. He seemed to completely ignore the optics of crossing the barrier. Only he knew that he wouldn’t vault himself all the way over the wall and start something truly messy. Nobody watching knew where he would stop.
Of course, Straw also knew what all Yankee fans knew: the rest of baseball would be on his side. So, in essence, he got what he wanted.
Not a single Yankee player smiled or smirked at the obviously dangerous postgame actions of their own fans. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton rushed the premises, trying to calm down the trash shower (which stopped mere seconds later). After the game, Isiah Kiner-Falefa told the gathered media, “That can’t happen … I love the fans, love the atmosphere, but we win with class.” The Yankees don’t want to win that way. The Yankees don’t claim those fans or those actions. The Yankees cannot be held responsible for neither side of an argument being able to handle their emotions, and neither should you, the singular fan.
Unless, of course, you threw garbage. Don’t do that.
And yet, Straw’s postgame comments threw more fuel on the fire, after he initially chose not to comment, then commented just enough to stoke the flame. Though eventually he justified the pursuit by explaining he was defending Kwan, it will not shock you that that’s not the quote that went viral. At first, he just echoed the rising tide nationally, calling Yankee fans “classless” and the “worst fan base on the planet,” an appropriately measured reaction to fighting with one man.
If you’d like to impugn an entire fan base (and you know you would!), at least look yourself in the mirror before doing so and check out all the Red Face in your crowd standing behind you.
In a fitting capper to the saga, Straw and the Guardians showed up Sunday with the chance to right Saturday’s wrongs emphatically, which every Yankees rival from Toronto to Boston has done over the past several years when given the opportunity. Straw could’ve led an inspired rally, pounding his chest while standing on second base and showering in the boos. Postgame, he could’ve tweeted the graphic the Guardians posted on Saturday night of the whole team linking arms as trash rained down on the warning track behind them.
Instead, Straw went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and 39,000 Yankee fans got to go home happy, enjoying a victory intended for them and not whoever cocked back their right arm to throw cans at human beings.