Totally against basic instinct, I find myself sorry for Yankee fans these days.
These are not the Real Yankees but rather the Salary Cap Yankees, a grab-bag of players assembled with some prudence and parsimony, in familiar uniforms.
But I am not alone. My friend Mike Lindsley, talk-show host in Syracuse, emitted his own primal scream. You should read this:
(As we say in New York, my heart bleeds borscht. To continue my own take:)
It’s not just that the Yankees are off to their worst start in nearly a decade. It's that they are strangers to a baseball fan (me) who is familiar with every nuance of his own team, the Mets, but does not recognize most of these guys.
Fact is, when they are home, I don’t even recognize the great theme park of the Bronx, Yankeeland.
Warning: Yankee fans should not want my mawkish sympathy. I suffered terribly at the hands of this franchise as a young Brooklyn Dodger fan, and it is totally against my nature to care about the Yankees. Even as a young reporter, I secretly rooted for the Orioles, the Twins, the Red Sox, somebody, anybody.
But when the Yankees were bad in the late '60s, I had friends on the team -- Bill Robinson, Steve Hamilton, Ruben Amaro, some of the best people I have known, and after that, I could never feel the same way I did about my October tormentors.
Now we have been softened up by a wonderful generation of Williams and Pettitte and Posada and Rivera and Jeter, admirable players. I knew a devout Yankee fan whose Jewish mom noticed Pettitte’s facial profile and kind nature and adopted him. He was the prodigal son; he went away and returned.
Bernie sat in the corner and strummed his guitar. Posada was the straw-boss of the clubhouse. Jeter dove into the stands nose-first. Rivera made everything all right, almost all the time. Those core-five players lulled some non-Yankee fans into a neutral position.
I turned on the game Sunday night. Fortunately, there was Fenway and there was Papi and there was A-Rod, headed straight to the baseball Limbo known as Bondsville or Clemenstown, but still lofting balls toward the Green Monster. But after all his antics, many Yankee fans do not accept him as true Yankee.
There was Teixeira, one of those great mid-career Yankees, and Beltran, a great-late career Yankee, but the rest of the lot give the impression of just passing through.
Nobody to love.
Nobody to hate.
Just guys in Yankee uniforms.
I could almost work up a case of nostalgia.
In another decade or two.