The most vocal of fans who bothered to show up to Yankee Stadium embarrassed themselves last night. This isn’t a hot take. It’s the truth — and one rational-thinking supporters of the holiest franchise in baseball should have a hard time accepting this morning. Not because it’s hard to believe. Because it’s sad.
And no, I wasn’t there. I didn’t need to be. It was plainly evident on television and painfully obvious to the Yankees players fighting for their season’s survival.
Long before the American League Wild-Card game was decided, boisterous Yankees fans decided they’d had enough. They booed veteran Brett Gardner — make that All-Star Brett Gardner — for striking out against potential Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. Or maybe they were booing manager Joe Girardi’s — make that World Series-winning manager Joe Girardi’s — decision to start Gardner over Jacoby Ellsbury. They booed pitcher Mashahiro Tanaka for the sin of surrendering two solo home runs in five innings to a power-hitting club in a homer-friendly park.
Then there’s Alex Rodriguez. It took all of three hours for the fans’ standing ovation to turn to a cascade of boos as the potential comeback player of the year fanned for the game’s penultimate out. Or perhaps they’d already turned on him when he flew out to center in the game’s most pivotal at-bat. I can’t remember. All the booing kind of blurs together.
Why? I don’t really know.
Perhaps they were under the impression a team that had overachieved for six months and trotted out a lineup with Chris Young, Greg Bird, Ron Refsnyder and Didi Gregorius was a lock to bring home the title. Perhaps they were under the impression the Core Four was suddenly going to emerge from Monument Park, circumvent roster rules and make it like old times again.
Whatever reality they were living in, it wasn’t the one the rest of the baseball world inhabits.
I shouldn’t be surprised.
I was at Game 2 of the 2012 American League Championship Series, the day after Derek Jeter broke his leg. As a Detroit Tigers fan, I was cautiously optimistic with a 1-0 series lead. Tickets were readily available. Front-row seats in the upper deck set me back $19. Upon arrival the place had the feel of a wake. A very angry wake. The sparse crowd that made it out to the Sunday afternoon game seemed more intent on bemoaning their own team than supporting them.
Anibal Sanchez breezed through the order. With every routine out, the frustration grew more palpable. The atmosphere made the impossible possible: I actually felt bad for the New York Yankees. I’d have been sad if I wasn’t so happy.
Many words have been spilled on the loss of mystique that came with tearing down old Yankee Stadium and building the sterile behemoth of a mini-mall just a bit north. Last night it appeared more a factory of misery than cathedral to greatness.
I understand my evidence is anecdotal and one shouldn’t categorize an entire fan base based on the actions of a few people at a disappointing playoff loss. The critical part of my brain gets that. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder what it must feel like for Yankees fans who enjoyed an unexpected run this year to see it melt away in front of a largely petulant crowd.
And I can’t help but think those fans — and the team — deserved better.