Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Philadelphia, Here We Come
2007-03-27 05:20
by Alex Belth

By Allen Barra

Hello. Some of you may know me as Allen Barra. Some of you may know me under my pseudonyms, Norman Mailer--check out The Naked and The Dead, it kicks butt--or Eleanor Holmes-Norton, the black congresswoman from D.C--I'm thinking of giving up that identity as it forces me to do too much writing from the bleachers while watching Nationals games.

I promised Alex Belth that I would do this blog, so here I am. I wanted to call him up this morning and say, "I'm not responsible for the decisions I make when I've been drinking." But then the horrible truth struck me: I don't drink, and I actually made the decision to do this while sober. This has to rank with the worst decisions I ever made in my life, right up there with not returning Angelina Jolie's phone call. So, here I am. I'm not really sure what it is I'm supposed to do.

To be honest, I'm not entirely certain of what a "blog" is. Before I met Alex, I thought a blog was a Danish breakfast treat. Now, after reading Alex, I've discovered it's really a device for baring your soul, like Dostoevsky, only more neurotic.

Myself, I have no soul to bare, so I'm kind of stuck for a topic. This site is about the Yankees, right? (If I post this on the Jessica Simpson official fan site, I'm going to be really embarrassed.) The one thing I do like about Bronx Banter is that, at least from what I've read, it allows for an immediate and intelligent response to the most important topics of the day – and on this site, the responses are certainly more intelligent than the column itself.

The Yankees...Wait, it just occurred to me, I'm not sure who's on the Yankees, Let me go check the roster and get back to you...

Okay, I'm back. Sorry, I forgot. Alex Rodriguez is on the Yankees. I just checked his stats. I'm telling you, this guy is very, very good. If you haven't paid much attention to him in the past, try focusing on him this season. This guy has averaged about 40 home runs, 120 RBIS, and about 20 stolen bases in each of his last three seasons – and yet, astonishingly, he gets almost no media overage at all. Hardly anybody knows who he is. I'm thinking that one day in a couple of years everyone is going to wake up collectively and say, "Hey, who is this Alex Rodriguez guy? Has he really been one of the best players in baseball over the last dozen seasons or so? And no one's noticed? Is this guy maybe a Hall of Famer? And we hardly paid him any attention?"

I think part of the problem is confusion – Yankees fans seem to think he's someone else. Every game I go to they react as if he's Lou Piniella. If I'm not mistaken, everyone yells out, "LOOOOOUUU! LOOOOOUUU!" Personally, I think Lou Piniella ought to clear up the situation by posing for a picture with A-Rod so everyone can see the difference.

What I wonder about Alex Rodriguez is this: Years from now, when Yankee fans think back on this time, will they remember that they had perhaps the greatest player in the game and didn't know how to appreciate him? Or will they think "I was at a game where he struck out in the ninth with two runners on base. And they pay him $20 million for that?"

Another guy I noticed who is on the Yankees roster is Bobby Abreu – I thought he was on the Phillies, so I must have missed something. (I think the Yankees traded Gary Sheffield for him.) Abreu's pretty good, too. He's not as good as Rodriguez, but he's very good. He's one of those guys that you can bat anywhere from one to five in the order and he'd be a tremendous asset. He sees a lot of pitches, hits lefthanders pretty good for a lefty, gets on base a lot, runs okay, and hits with much more than reasonable power. He's exactly the kind of guy the Yankees get criticized a lot for "stealing" from other teams. In this case, the Yankees didn't steal him – the Phillies left him out on the doorstep and the Yankee sent the van by to pick him up. I have family down in the Philadelphia-South Jersey area. I'm not particularly proud of this fact, but as there's not much I can do about it, I've learned to accept it. The reason I'm not proud of it is because as sports fans, my family are all jerks. The amazing thing is that I don't have to apologize for saying this. If they read what I just wrote, they'd all nod heir heads and say, "Well, yeah, we are."

They all booed Donovan McNabb even though the statistics show that he is the best quarterback in the National Football Conference. They booed Mike Schmidt years ago even when he was the best player in baseball. If you ask them, they all say, "Well, I was at this game when McNabb threw two interceptions" or "I was at a game where Schmidt struck to three times and left the wining run on base." For the last year and half, they mercilessly booed Bobby Abreu, even thought he was one of the best players in the league. At the family picnic last year, when I confronted them with their callousness toward Abreu and how grateful Yankee fans were to Phillies fans for chasing him out of Philadelphia, they all said, "I was at this game where he popped up in the ninth inning with the winning runs on base" – or even dumber, "I was at a game where we needed a hit in the ninth and all he got was a walk." It did not good to tell them that Bobby was a terrific hitter who not only produced runs but made the rest of the batting more productive by wearing down opposing pitchers and creating runs even when he wasn't getting hits. All they could remember was the game they saw where he didn't get the winning run home in the ninth.

Everyone knows that Phillies fans are the worst in baseball. But not enough, I think, has been said about the way in which they are the worst. Red Sox fans are the ugliest and nastiest, but only to players on other teams. Phillies fans treat heir own the way red Sox fans treat players on other teams. They read the papers and listen to the radio call-in shows and form judgments on players that have nothing to do with any rational modes of thinking. They cultivate a mindset that takes what happens in front of their eyes and transforms it into the failure they expected to see in the first place. That's why they booed Bobby Abreu out of Philadelphia and into New York.

And in some strange way, it seems to me, that is what Yankees fans are doing with Alex Rodriguez. For some reason which has not as yet become apparent to me, when Yankee fans see A-Rod, they turn into Phillies fans.

Allen Barra is currently writing a biography of Yogi Berra.

Comments (54)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2007-03-27 05:36:50
1.   Emy
Great post, Allen and welcome to BB.

I really hope the fans lay off of A-rod this year and just let the guy play ball.

2007-03-27 05:44:45
2.   dianagramr
Hi Allen .... welcome to the board.

(and thanks for the lift to the NJ Transit bus after the BP event on Saturday .... yes ... I'm that woman you helped out)

Allen skillfully caught up to the bus, then pulled it front of it to block its leaving, so I could hop out of his car and onto the bus.

2007-03-27 06:11:29
3.   Knuckles
Allen, welcome aboard. I'm familiar with your writing on Slate, WSJ, and elsewhere and look fwd to more posts here at the Banter. I'm really thrilled with the added elements Alex and Cliff are bringing on board this year- really fleshing out the Yankee coverage beyond their (superb) day-to-day observations and analysis.
2007-03-27 06:31:20
4.   rbj
Welcome Allen.
Nice piece. I could never understand the booers & haters.
2007-03-27 06:57:34
5.   Sliced Bread
Thanks for the laughs (plus Rodriguez and Abreu appreciation), Allen.

No one understood (or foresaw) the nasty bitterness of Boston and Philadelphia baseball fans than the City of Brotherly Love's favorite son, Benjamin Franklin who wrote: "Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do."

Wise old Ben was born in Boston and died in Philadelphia. Judging from what I know of the sports fans in these cities, I can not think of two places in which I would less rather draw my first and last breaths.

Come to think of it, Franklin might have invented Alex Rodriguez, tapping into the same curiosity that inspired his lightning rod.

"What say we take one of humankind's finest physical specimans, situate him above the towne square, or atop the church steeple, clutching a metal rod, or a $250 million dollar contract for his services? And what say we do this during a violent lightning storm? and invite the masses to witness, nay, cheer the spectacle. Yes, that would be fascinating, wouldn't it?"

Oh, and wise old Ben was a newspaper man, too. He most certainly would have invented Alex Rodriguez.

Bah! to the booers.

2007-03-27 07:07:17
6.   C2Coke
Thanks for yet another different angle of looking at the Yankees. I always thought the analyses by both Alex and Cliff were more than enough to get me completely hooked to the Banter. And now I wonder how much more dynamic can the Banter get? I can't wait!

Less than a week to opening Day, let the games begin!

2007-03-27 07:08:17
7.   Zuma Jay
Good article. I don't consider myself a boo bird, except from the comfort of my arm chair. I did think Alex played with lackluster and he seemed to strike out alot with men on base. I was suprised to read his year end stats in Sporting News, he actually did pretty well. Watching spring training he seems to be revitalized. I wish him well this year.
2007-03-27 07:33:37
8.   Shaun P
I hope the boo birds don't come back, I hope A-Rod stays in NY, I hope he and the Yanks have a stellar season, and I hope we get more fantastic writing from you, Allen! Thanks for the great post.

5 Nice quotes, Sliced. You (and old Ben) got it right.

2007-03-27 07:41:56
9.   Josh Wilker
Hi Allan,

I have been reading your stuff for years (most recently Clearing the Bases, which I thoroughly enjoyed) and felt honored to be debuting here on Baseball Toaster the day you toed the waters of blog.

My personal (biased) feeling, as a Red Sox fan who grew up in New England but who spent his 20s and 30s living in Brooklyn and steeling myself for periodic trips to Yankee Stadium, is that Yankee fans and Red Sox fans have generally been neck and neck in the ugliness-toward-the-other-team department. I'm sure I could be wrong about this, and I ain't saying the Bosox fans are any nicer. But I guess I feel this way [said in deep echoing voice]: may who is without sin cast the first battery at Jim Rice from the upper deck, or something.

2007-03-27 08:50:14
10.   Sliced Bread
9 Let he who is without obsessive hate wear the first "Jeter Is Gay" t-shirt, and lead the "Yankees Suck" chant at a basketball, hockey, or football game.

Ah, just being defensive there.

The Jim Rice battery incident was a hideous act. No player should be subjected to that. I always liked Rice. Fred Lynn, too. Had a Wilson mitt endorsed by Lynn.

Anyway, it's true that we Yankee fans can be as boorish and obnoxious as any baseball fan. Don't see it at every game, but when fans act like that it sucks much of the joy out of the ballpark experience.

Welcome to the Toaster.

2007-03-27 09:13:32
11.   Josh Wilker
You know, Sliced Bread, on second thought, I think you're probably right about the obsessive hate thing being stronger on the Red Sox side. I don't like that facet of the so-called "Red Sox Nation" (ugh, that term now makes me naseous) at all. Maybe it stems from a dynamic similar to the one I noticed years ago (late '80s) when a Knick fan friend of mine started going on with much venom about how strongly he hated my team, the Celtics. I was shocked, as I (with the arrogance of a teenager who'd seen his Bird-led team dominate most everybody year after year) didn't even consider the Knicks a rival, and so could bestow on them a greater measure of indifference than their fans could give to the Celtics.

Anyway, I apologize for veering the comments toward the tired ol' Red Sox-Yankee thing, and I'll shut up now. I just wanted to tell Sliced Bread he made a good point.

2007-03-27 09:34:18
12.   Chyll Will
9 Fweeep! In-coming!!! >;)

11 Being a, ahem Knicks fan, the outright hostility I feel towards my own team is admittedly borne of frustration at the ineptness of local management decision-making and the hoplessness I feel that any changes would make a discernable difference because of that. Is that what it felt like for RSN? Or (to Allen) as a Phillie fan?

I'm thinking no, considering that unlike the presently-constituted Knicks, these other teams at least had a good shot at winning it all at various times and the gnashing of teeth was likely borne of the frustration of coming close; the Knicks certainly don't have that problem. Just a thought to both of you...

2007-03-27 09:38:20
13.   Shaun P
11 Josh, its refreshing to hear a Red Sox fan denounce the obsessive hate part of Sox fandom. You're one of the few I've known to ever do it - and I live in Massachusetts!

As a Yankee fan, I am embarrassed by the A-Rod boo-birds, and those fans who think the way to respond to Sox fans' hate chants/clothing is retaliation in kind. IMHO, it all stopped being in good fun about 5 or 6 years ago.

2007-03-27 10:01:14
14.   joejoejoe
OT: Yanks vs. Twins on ESPN at 1PM.
2007-03-27 10:26:04
15.   Rob Middletown CT
Anybody able to watch? Work sucks.

As for the Sox/Yanks fan thing... having been around both, I don't see much difference in terms of how nasty they can be (or how cool). At games, I saw/heard more from Sox fans because when I've been to Fenway, I've had bleacher seats. At Yankee Stadium, I've often been up in the upper deck... with a bunch of Red Sox fans (who were mighty comfortable cheering their team loudly). But the bleachers, I imagine, are another animal.

2007-03-27 10:39:31
16.   Alex Belth
Josh, you never need to apologize for talking Sox over here. Boston fans are more than welcome. Hey, I remember a game in the 80s when Rice actually went into the left field stands after a guy. Anyone know what the date was on that?
2007-03-27 10:47:42
17.   joejoejoe
15 So far the highlight is a Josh Phelps bomb to straight-away center and a lengthy interview with Ron Guidry.
2007-03-27 11:05:24
18.   wsporter
Maybe it's just me (I'm sure it is) but when Pavano walks off the mound at the end of the 1/2 inning his gait seems to scream that he's looking for a hospital gurney rather than the bench. He just doesn't look happy to be involved in movement of any sort. Am I projecting?
2007-03-27 11:06:10
19.   Bama Yankee
16 Looks like it happened on September 13, 1986 after someone swiped his hat.

2007-03-27 11:09:56
20.   rbj
15 Yup, work does suck.
2007-03-27 11:29:00
21.   Rob Middletown CT
Thanks joejoejoe for the info. Phelps with another HR, eh? Well, he's certainly doing his best to earn a shot.

How does Rajah of Rehab look?

2007-03-27 11:42:30
22.   JL25and3
I went to Fenway for the first time a couple of years ago, sitting in the center-field bleachers. (It was the game where Schilling came in as a closer for the first time and Rodriguez hit a game-winning homer off, wait, I must be mistaken, that would have been "clutch.")

Anyway, I sat out there, not wearing Yankee regalia but certainly not hiding my sympathies. I didn't have any problem with the fans at all. We just...talked baseball. It was fun. But I think I was just lucky...

There is, or was, at least one major difference between RSN and Yankee fans. (I don't know if this is still true, since 2004.) Yankee fans may have hated the Sox, but the goal was always to win the championship. The Sox fans always seemed to consider beating the Yankees as the primary goal of the season.

2007-03-27 11:52:31
23.   Javi Javi
21 I'm not watching, but here is his line through 5, from MLB:

5 6 2 2 1 0 0

Not too bad.

2007-03-27 12:07:56
24.   Chyll Will
16 Yeah, but Knicks fans are buried in the neighbor's backyard, apparently >;)
2007-03-27 12:11:11
25.   YankeeInMichigan
23 Actually, it looks like Pavano has put on his best Chien-Ming Wang immitation: 6 singles, 1BB, 0 Ks, 14 ground outs, 4 DPs.
2007-03-27 12:11:47
26.   hoppystone
Anybody have Gameday Audio on? Who's this announcer? Between his excitability (for both sides!) and the grainy audio, feels like listening to a game from 1965 on a transistor radio. Good stuff!
2007-03-27 12:22:28
27.   joejoejoe
I think today is the day that Josh Phelps permanently passed Andy Phillips on the depth chart. I hope Cashman is shopping Doug Alphabet - it's crazy not to have Phelps on the big club and also crazy to carry 3 first basemen.
2007-03-27 12:23:10
28.   Sliced Bread
You see this?

Josh Phelps is Wally Pipping Doug Out right in his face.

.430 -- 14 for 32 this spring -- would be hard for Joe to ignore, no?

2007-03-27 12:23:59
29.   Sliced Bread
27 word
2007-03-27 12:27:57
30.   Chyll Will
29 born
2007-03-27 12:52:27
31.   Shawn Clap
27 Me too, but I don't think the Long Island Ducks have anything we want.

I say get used to Xyz, since he is wearing Bernie's pinstripes this year.

2007-03-27 12:54:49
32.   Chyll Will
Your kidding, right? Or do you mean he's here so that Bernie Isn't here...
2007-03-27 12:58:14
33.   Shawn Clap
Just saying, if we're gonna have a player who is under snuff, I'd rather it have been Bernie.

Yes, I know it would have meant like 6 outfielders.

2007-03-27 13:15:48
34.   Shaun P
33 And it would have meant the end of Melky's development as a major leaguer. If the choice is between that and Mientkiewicz, I'll take Mientkiewicz. Its not like its a multi-year deal.
2007-03-27 13:24:08
35.   Sliced Bread
34 ... but it is in dog years.

Fetch, Doogie, fetch!

2007-03-27 13:25:32
36.   Shawn Clap
34 Agree on Melky. But Melky's gonna get his development during the 60+/- days that Giambi, Damon & Abreu spend on the DL this year.

Let's just hope that those days don't intersect at any point.

2007-03-27 13:28:16
37.   Chyll Will
33 And yes, it would have been one more season of "GOB" and how the Yanks have to figure out a way to quietly put him out to pasture while maintaining his dignity, and Sterling singing showtunes about Bernie and Kay waxing political like a raging Sandinista about Bernie's waning skills, but enormous heart and hustle, and us on the Banter going, "WTF" and Jim Dean riding a missle dropped on Yankee Stadium bronco-style, hootin' and hollering as he's obviously about to carry the day... I ask you, do we really want THAT???
2007-03-27 13:33:52
38.   Shawn Clap
37 Hahaha! Tough crowd. A .281 batting average sure don't get you what it use to.
2007-03-27 13:42:12
39.   Chyll Will
38 Neither does $2.81 in Manhattan. Maybe a small sample of something >;)
2007-03-27 13:43:03
40.   Chyll Will
Umm, did everyone just back away from their keyboards again? Sorry...
2007-03-27 14:07:17
41.   joejoejoe
I forgot Mattingly was the bench coach this year and there is a new batting coach. Anyone hear anything good or bad about batting coach Kevin Long this spring?
2007-03-27 14:48:56
42.   C2Coke
41 It's funny how Kevin Long seems to be a little invisible at this point. I remember hearing about Mattingly quite often last season even during spring training. Then again, Donnie Baseball is obviously in a league of his own, no one else should or could be compared to him.
2007-03-27 15:49:37
43.   joejoejoe
42 Yeah, usually the batting coach gets one story on his theories.

OT: I saw an interview with Fred McGriff on my local cable sports outlet (Devil Rays, baby!) and he collects baseball books and read a lot of Charlie Lau coming up. He basically said any professional hitter needs to be his own coach because you can't count on having the same coaches and they all have their own theories. McGriff sounded knowledgable and fun. McGriff had a great career in hindsight - a lot better than I remember looking at the B-R numbers.

2007-03-27 16:44:35
44.   ny2ca2dc
41-43 Anyone else think Kevin Long looks a bit like our departed friend Cory Lidle? maybe it's just MLB.TV playing tricks on me...
2007-03-27 17:22:13
45.   rilkefan
Allen Barra. Incredible. Who's next, Roger Angell? Is John Ashbery going to post occasional baseball poems here? Is John Adams going to provide a blog score?
2007-03-27 17:29:46
46.   joejoejoe
45 Do you know of any baseball poems that were made in the format of lineups? I can't recall the author but I really enjoyed them. The poems each had a theme - What if plants played baseball, thistle would be catcher. It sounds odd but it was a great joy to read. It's hard to describe without the skill of the poet that wrote the poems.
2007-03-27 17:40:05
47.   rilkefan
46 - I seem to recall seeing those in some McSweeny's collection or perhaps in Harper's - or possibly in one of the Best American Poetry YYYY anthologies - no, that's too crazy. Probably easy to google.

This is already sufficient though:

2007-03-27 17:42:56
48.   rilkefan
Think I read that here:
Will check after work.
2007-03-27 19:39:08
49.   Chyll Will
45 John Adams you say? Well, it just so happens that Mr. Adamas had an interesting conversation with Ben Franklin here a couple of weeks ago. Does anyone remember what particular thread that was in?
2007-03-27 19:42:10
50.   Chyll Will
49 Ah yes, here it is:
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2007-03-27 20:23:05
51.   mikeplugh

How about back to back seasons of .331 and .332 on base percentages? That oughtta get you something in 2007. Like a ticket to nowheresville. ;)

2007-03-27 20:36:40
52.   rilkefan
49 Had in mind this John Adams:

I was wrong about Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms above (though people interested in poetry should check it out), and my one-minute google has failed.

2007-03-27 21:34:10
53.   Chyll Will
51 I grew up there, 65-70 miles north of Grand Central... had many interesting adventures and experiences from which I drew my first cartoons, the first these, the only only one in those... meh.

52 Aw, you're no fun anymore... >;) zzzzz....

2007-03-28 06:42:58
54.   weeping for brunnhilde
45 ha ha ha hah ah ah ha ha.


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