Like most Yankee fans, I have a special feeling for the Joe Torre teams of 96-01. But I'm not one to constantly compare every subsequent Yankee team to those squads. It just doesn't interest me. However, I was reminded of how winning they were when I wandered across Roger Angell's 1996 piece, "One for the Good Guys," last night:
The burden of [the] relentless and irrelevant P.R. during the Yankees' long struggles to regain their October form can at last be thrown aside--what a load it was!--and we are free to celebrate the new champions not for what they represented but for what they were: a competent though far from overpowering amalgam of engaging young stars and gritty hired guns who absolutely enjoyed themselves and each other during a succession of hairbreadth escapes in the late going, and were almost as entranced as the rest of us when they won. The Yankees--who'd have thought it--had become lovable.
Who, indeed? But if the team was lovable in 96, and admirable for the next five seasons, it was hard for non-Yankee fans to embrace them when all they did was win. Hell, it was hard for many Yankee-haters to like them in 96. Angell continues:
I mean, sophisticated old baseball cognoscenti with a fully developed, long-standing coolness toward the club in question...were absolutely turned around by six weeks' worth of terrific hometown ball. Not every New Yorker came over to these Yanks in the end, but the holdouts were rare and flinty of heart. Encountered in the elevator on the morning after Bernie Williams's eleventh-inning homer had beaten the Orioles in the first A.L. Championship playoff game, an upstairs neighbor of mine held up a warning hand when he saw my face and announced, "I hate the Yankees."
"But this Yankee team is different," I insisted. "Last night--"
"Fuck 'em," he said, and we finished the journey in silence.
The Yankees are easy to hate these days. Of course, Joe Torre is still around and he commands respect. But Bernie Williams is in the final days of his career; Rivera, Jeter and Posada are all veterans. Tino Martinez and Mike Stanton are back, but they are both role players at best. I don't compare the current team to the 1996 bunch, but I think it's safe to say that the Yankees won't be lovable again for a long time.