ST. PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 15: Shortstop Derek Jeter #2 (right) of the New York Yankees is examined by the team trainer with manager Joe Girardi looking on after he is allegedly hit by a pitch during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 15 2010 in St. Petersburg Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
It's not that they win. It's not that they spend. As the Yankees and Twins open the 2010 ALDS, here's one fan's opinion on just what makes the Bombers so hateable.
I hate the Yankees. I cannot remember not hating them. I think I hated the Yankees before I really understood hate, before I could adequately express visceral and total dislike. But I've been thinking about why - and it's not for the classic reasons.
The easy way out is to state payroll statistics. From 2000 to 2009, New York spent over $1.6 billion on player salaries - more than half a billion more than the next team. To put that in perspective, the Yankees spent as much as the second-place team, the Red Sox, plus the entirety of the Twins' payroll.
But that's not why I hate the Yankees. The Dodgers, Braves, Cubs and Mets all spent north of $900 million over the same span; I don't hate those teams any more or less than any other National League team.
I don't hate them because they win. New York made the playoffs nine out of the past 10 years, winning two World Series, but that's not why they've earned my enmity. The Angels and Red Sox both made the playoffs six times in that span (and they both spent oodles of cash, too), but I don't hate those teams. The Sox won two championships, the Angels one, and Anaheim even turfed the Twins out of the playoffs in fine style in 2002. I don't hate the Angels.
They're not a rival of the Twins in any real sense. They've knocked the Twins out of the postseason a bunch, but so have the Angels, A's, and White Sox, and I don't hate those teams any more or less because of those events.
Yet, I hate the Yankees more than any other team, with the exception of the White Sox. And I'm not alone: 70% of Twins fans, earlier this year, named New York as their favorite team to beat.
I've been thinking about this, and I think I've figured out why: the Yankees don't have to win the way they do - but they do anyway.
They don't have to spend outlandish amounts on players from other teams. With the cash flow they have, they could put together a development and scouting operation that would blow every other team's out of the water. They could sign every international prospect from here to Vanuatu. They could develop wave after wave of young talent, bring them up to the bigs, and win the way most other teams have to win. But they don't; they lean on their disparate sources of revenue.
Fair play to them, you might say; they have the money, and they can roll it up and cut out Benjamin Franklin paper dolls if they want. But they do all of the little annoying things, too. They've become the masters of the goofy, absurdly slow pitching change. Earlier this year against the Twins, they sent Andy Pettitte out to the mound to warm up for an inning, let him throw all his warmup tosses - and only then had Joe Girardi wander out to the mound at the speed of a lost Alzheimer's patient, to take Pettitte out
They will stretch out the seventh-inning stretch with 45-minute renditions of "God Bless America," in order to ice the opposing pitcher down for the bottom of the seventh. They will make up un-needed regulations about bringing bottled water into the stadium, so that they can charge you for the same bottle inside. They will get taxpayers to build them a billion-dollar replica of their old stadium, just because they wanted a shinier one.
In a way, Alex Rodriguez is the most perfect Yankee ever. A-Rod didn't need to take steroids to excel at baseball. He almost certainly would have been a Hall of Famer without them. He hit 125 home runs in the three seasons prior to the period he says he was on the juice. In five full seasons, he was a four-time All-Star, won four Silver Sluggers, and finished four times in the top 15 of the MVP voting. Nobody in the league needed steroids less than A-Rod. But he took them anyway. He wasn't a Yankee then - but he already knew how to act like one.
Remember earlier this year, when Derek Jeter cheated his way to first base? I can't think of a better play to sum up the Yankees. Here's a Hall of Fame shortstop on the most powerful team in the league, and he's cheating his way onto first like he's an irritating Little Leaguer.
The Yankees are like a Harvard graduate who has connections through his dad, that gets the plum job on Wall Street or wherever that everybody else wants - and then games the system and backstabs his way to the top anyway. They're the team that was born on third base but refuses to sprint to home. They have everything, but they cheat anyway.
And that, my friends, is why I hate the Yankees.