We are now less than two weeks from Opening Day. It’s great and wonderful and fun to move slowly towards Opening Day. I can’t wait!
The following are some of my thoughts about the Yankees (and baseball in general) thus far this spring:
The other day, the Yankees played the Philadelphia Phillies. In this game, some (many?) Yankees fans booed Bryce Harper. This made no sense. Harper is now the enemy? What did he do? The reason he’s not a Yankee is the fact that the Yankees had no interest in him. As such, he signed a great deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Of the people booing, how many of them would turn down $25m+ dollars a year for 13 years? I don’t understand what the fans are holding against Harper. Should he have come to the Yankees for free?
Aaron Judge hit another homer in yesterday’s game against the Red Sox. He has now hit five homers this spring. This is FANTASTIC! It demonstrates that his wrist injury is definitely behind him. This is great news for the Yankees. Great News.
Here is a big confession - I haven't watched much of the spring training games this year and I usually don’t in any year. March is always a very busy month in my life and I usually don’t have hours on end to invest in watching a ballgame. I wish I did, but I just don’t. But, to be honest, it’s more than that, baseball, to me, is compelling when I am emotionally invested in the game. I care about the Yankees so much that for 162 games (during the regular season), I almost live and die with each win and loss. Because of this, I just can't get emotionally invested in games that don't count. It is fun to see the young players and the return of old favorites, but, for the most part, these games just don’t hold my interest. I also don’t like watching the Yankees without their regular uniforms. Wearing the “practice jerseys” makes it seem even more uninteresting and unimportant - like a pick-up game on the sandlot.
I love baseball, but the game today, in so many ways, is taking much of the fun away. The trade deadline being now firm on July 31 with no chance for trades after that date is horrible. Part of the fun, for me, is speculating how new players can help the team. I always like to ask, "Who might the Yankees get?" After July 31, that'll now be gone. That's not good. It takes away talking points and ways to generate interest in the game. This is true even for teams already out of the race or the ones who fall out of the pennant race in August. Those teams get to consider trading big league talent for future talent as their fans ask, "What prospects might our team get?" Fans then start looking at prospect lists and talking about players and hopes for the future. That’s now gone. I don’t play fantasy baseball, but from the discussions I hear, the trading of players is a big part of the fun. That’s now gone. Is there a fantasy league that prohibits trades for the last 40% of the season? I can’t imagine there is. How fun would that be? That’s what real baseball just did though. It’s short-sighted and will hurt the sport. In addition, this decision comes on top of the new austerity approach that the Yankees are showing which already took most of the the fun out of the free agent market. Did the Yankees get the new Japanese pitcher? Nope. Did they sign the late 20's ace pitcher? Nope. Did they go for any of the young superstars? Nope. This all makes rooting for a team less compelling. "Player X is doing badly" always generates discussions, ideas, trade proposals and such, "Who can we get to replace him?" Whether or not it happens, at least it generates interest. The same is true with free agents. Now we'll get, "Player X is playing poorly. We're stuck with him.” We will also get, “Who will the Yankees acquire to help now that Player Y is injured? No one.” As I stated, this follows a winter of, “Will the Yankees go for the new big Free Agent? Nope." Nothing to see here.. Move along. BORING. All of this takes away interest in the game.
In fact, I would surmise that most fans spend more time talking about trades (and free agents) more than they do about the individual games themselves. There’s only so much to talk about after a game. “Wow, what a win!” “Yup.” Speculating on players a team can or should acquire is much more compelling. It’s always been that way. Baseball just took a month of that away from the fans. August will now just be about the games. There will be nothing else to talk about. And, again, with the Yankees now not being players in free agency, we’ve now lost that as a talking point as well. None of this generates extra interest in the game.
Next year’s rule for a pitcher to face a minimum of three players is also a rule I dislike greatly. Baseball’s decision makers keep trying to fix things that are not broken. Too many times when one tinkers and tinkers and tinkers with a product, he ends up making that product worse rather than better. Just leave the game alone, let it evolve naturally. It’s interesting that this rule is coming because the LOOGY was already dying out. Baseball itself didn’t need to do anything about that. There is an ebb and flow to a sport. Just let it be and the product will be better than if all of these rules are made and tinkered with year after year.
All of this also hurts the history of the sport. It becomes hard for fans to watch and understand games from previous generations. The game loses its timeliness because it becomes, over time, a totally different game - like football. A big part of baseball’s allure and majesty is its timelessness. The decision makers keep tinkering with this. Over time all of this will hurt the sport rather than help it.
I’ll be back tomorrow to talk more with a post about a former Yankee I am rooting for and some non-Yankees games that I can’t wait to watch because of that player…