It was Easy to be a Yankee Fan While Growing Up
When I was growing up if you ran into someone who said he was a Yankee fan you kind of knew he didn’t love baseball for what it was, he just wanted to root for the team that won all the time.
It was easy to be a Yankee fan.
They pummeled everyone in the American League, and when the World Series rolled around they were tested a lot more, mostly by the Brooklyn Dodgers, but you knew they ultimately would be popping the corks at the end of the Fall Classic.
Why wouldn’t you cheer for the men who wore the pinstripes?
Long before my love affair with baseball began in 1951, the Yankees were the team of Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Dickey, Ruffing, Gomez, and I could go on and on.
When I started following the game, the Yankees were in the midst of winning five consecutive world championships.
It was the end of the DiMaggio era, which included Rizzuto, of course, but the start of the next dynasty.
That would be Mantle, Maris, and Ford leading the way with several others.
Berra was the veteran who was there when I started, and Ford was just a fresh-faced rookie in 1950.
We know that the dynasty somehow would always return, even if it took a vacation once in awhile.
Reggie Jackson, and Thurman Munson were the headliners when I was covering the Red Sox in the mid-70’s, and later on, Yankee dominance was led by the likes of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Other than Munson, who shockingly died in a plane crash at the age of 32, every one I’ve mentioned is in the Hall of Fame.
The Yankees have always had their moments, but it looks like they’ve having one right now.
They have established the best record by a significant margin and people are talking of ranking them with the Yankee great teams of the past.
That’s a tall order, as far as I’m concerned, but as a football coach, named Bill Parcells once said, “you are what your record says you are”.
Baseball’s panorama changes every day.
They do play 162 games, so you can’t zero in on the right now, and make a big deal of it.
But you can see the big picture, and go from there.
The one thing I never do is project a team’s record based on what it is right now.
Say, the Yankees are 35 games over the .500 mark, which is the break-even percentage.
I don’t believe in estimating their final total number of victories, but you can see that if a team is 35 games over the break-even point at mid-season, they have a chance to do great things, such as win well over 100 games.
When you’re talking about a team like the New York Yankees, that’s saying plenty.
And that’s who we’re talking about.
It hasn’t been rosy for the Bronx Bombers in recent years.
They’ve been knocked out the playoffs repeatedly, and have disappointed their followers almost perennially.
Their last World Series Championship was in 2009.
And that was nine years after the last dynasty which saw them finish on top four times in five seasons.
1998 was the special year. With a mind boggling 114-48 mark, the Yankees established the record for most regular season wins by a team that won the World Series.
The face of the current Yankees is Aaron Judge, a big slugger, who is keeping the Bronx Bombers reputation alive.
Judge is on pace (didn’t I just say it is foolhardy to project?) to break Roger Maris’ true home run record of 61 home runs.
There you go, I’m doing it anyway.
True record because it didn’t come in the era of enhancement drugs that tainted home run records that were out of sight.
They are at the top in scoring the most runs in the game, and in allowing the fewest.
That’s a pretty good combination, don’t you think?
More than anything to this observer, the pitching is solid.
Without good pitching, you’re going to get in trouble sooner or later.
The bullpen, which is always the great barometer in analyzing teams, is deep, which is a testament to the way they have produced, even without injured reliever Chad Green.
I’m always amused when people focus in on a small number of games and begin to wave a red flag when an obviously powerful team falters for a bit.
All teams in all sports have their slumps.
Sure, some never recover, but pressing the panic button quickly is foolish.
Recently, the Yankees stumbled for a couple of games against the Houston Astros, including being victims of a no-hitter.
The alarms rang out.
There had never been a no hitter thrown in the current version of Yankee Stadium.
Of course, no pitcher is allowed to go the distance and fire a no-hitter anymore. You have to “go by the book” as all managers do and go the bullpen sometimes early, but always often.
Thus, three Astros hurlers did what no teams had done to the New Yorkers in over 19 years. Hold them without a base hit.
The last time it was done, was also by a group of Houston pitchers.
Remember earlier this season, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was taken out in the 7th inning with a perfect game on the line.
No base runners reached against Kershaw, but out he came.
That’s one of a million things about today’s baseball I think tarnishes what was once the national pastime.
After the Astros won the first two games of the series, Aaron Judge hit a booming home run in the 10th to salvage the final contest and all was right in the Bronx once again.
There are no automatics in sports.
How far the Yankees go this season still remains to be seen.
Strange things do happen.
The Seattle Mariners won an American League record 116 games in 2001, tying the Chicago Cubs for the all time mark, but fell to the Yankees in five games in the Championship Series.
It also should be noted that the Astros who gave the Yanks trouble recently, are also the teams that has eliminated them three times in the post-season since 2015.
So, perhaps there is something to be said of having the road to the World Series Championship going through Houston.
If you watch the way the Yankees win, and how devastating they can be, you have to be impressed with their chances.
Like the dominant Yankee teams of old, they crush the weaker teams, and hold their own against the stronger ones.
That was the Yankee way, for many of their past dynasties.
As long as you bring your best against the best when it counts in post-season, you’ve got the right formula.
In any event, the Yankees are the talk of baseball once again.
Somehow, things always come full circle.