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The Yankees Eat Their Own

The upside of playing for the NY Yankees is immense. The downside? Hell

By J.R. Gamble October 19, 2012, 05:44 PM EST

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Over the years the Yankees have built a reputation for lavishly outspending other teams for a player’s services.  It’s part of the allure —­ along with 27 championships — that makes people pinstripe stupid.  George Steinbrenner made Yankee land the home of big wallet superstars who dare to embrace the challenge of playing in the Rotten Apple.  If you can swing it, mega-contracts, endorsements and ridiculous fame follows.  See Derek Jeter.

Like deals with the devil, being a Yankee also comes with a huge price. Intertwined within the visible glory and crazy loot generated by those championships—is a wasteland of broken spirits, rich failures, shamed players, young never- beens, stubbornly unpredictable ownership, venomous fans and a gossip-driven media. See Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees are the worst organization to play baseball for even if you win. But, especially, if you lose.  

Here are some of the classic examples of why playing for the Yankees just plain sucks. 

 

$30 Million Man Benched in Crunch Time

Manager Joe Torre embarrassed MLB's money boss player in the prime of his career. Torre dropped a struggling A-Rod to eighth in the lineup during the '06 playoffs. This was the first time a hitter of A-Rod’s ilk was dropped that low in the order. It was a slap in the face and an example of how quickly you can go from first to worst with the Yankees. It also labeled A-Rod as a big-money playoff choker.  Girardi’s recent flip the script job on A-Rod has once again soiled his Yankee legacy. First, the 9th-inning pinch-hit incident against Baltimore. Then, with some prodding from GM Brian Cashman, he benches A-Rod for most of the Tigers series. The move triggered an all out character assault on A-Rod by fans and media, which culminated in the Yanks getting swept and trade rumors swirling about A-Rod’s baseball home for 2013. 

 

 Boo Birds Spook Cano

Cano has had a great career and is considered a stud.  He enjoys all the benefits of being a Yankee star. The flip side of that is Cano getting relentlessly booed during playoff failures, and at the 2012 Home Run Derby at MLB All-Star weekend in Kansas City. All-Star weekend is usually a neutral event where fans enjoy seeing MLB’s best players. The fans in Kansas City let Robinson Cano know how they felt about the Yanks, and he was so rattled, that he couldn’t jack one out of the park. Cano learned a powerful lesson about the double edge sword that is the Yankees. Just as many people hate them as love them. And if you rep that organization and find yourself in the wrong part of town, you will get what Cano got.

 

Mr. May

Dave Winfield was one of late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner’s first big fish, signing a $23 million contract in 1981, which made Winfield the game's highest-paid player. Sound familiar? Winfield was a perennial all-star with the Yanks and led them to the AL pennant in 1981, before slumping in a 6-game World Series loss to the Dodgers. Other playoff struggles prompted George Steinbrenner to refer to him as “Mr. May,” sealing Winfield’s negative legacy as a Yankee.

To make matters worse, throughout Winfield’s Yankee career, Steinbrenner regularly leaked false stories about Winfield to the media. Steinbrenner also directed Yankee managers to move Winfield down in the batting order and bench him. Sound familiar?  Steinbrenner went as far as to pay Howie Spira, $40,000 to dig up dirt on Winfield, an act that got Steinbrenner a life-time ban from baseball, before being reinstated in 1993.

 

Moon Over My Hammy

It’s hard to accuse MLB’s all-time stolen base king of  “dogging it,” but that’s the picture the Yankees tried to paint of Rickey Henderson during his four and-a-half year Bronx stint. Henderson was an all-star four times, but a nagging hamstring injury during the 1987 season forced Rickey to miss some games. Steinbrenner doubted the severity of the injury and sent out a bizarre press release stating that Yankee manager “Lou Piniella says Rickey is faking it and should be put on the disabled list." Media types began implying that Rickey’s hamstring was fine and he just didn’t want to play. It scarred Henderson’s NY legacy forever. Never winning a chip didn’t help either.

 

Mr. October Not Good Enough

Reggie Jackson is known for the greatest postseason feat in history; hitting three homers on three pitches. And he did it while winning the ’77 World Series with the Yanks. He had already been a World Champion with Oakland.  Steinbrenner liked Reggie, but allowed a combative relationship between Jackson and manager Billy Martin to fester and blow out into a full-scale dugout brawl. Reggie Jackson had a tumultuous Yankee career. Billy Martin had the press in his pocket and used them to berate and clown Jackson. Martin did things like yank Reggie off the field in the middle of a game for not hustling. He also benched him in a playoff game, and humiliated him by dropping him in the batting order. Sound familiar?

 

The common theme here is no matter how great a player is, if you don’t produce when Yankee nation wants you to, you become an enemy of the state.   

Jr_gamble

J.R. Gamble writes for The Shadow League. He's been covering pro sports as a radio host and journalist since 1996. He's written for The Raleigh News & Observer, Newsday and SLAM Magazine. He has co-hosted Sportsrap Radio with A Tribe Called Quest legend Phife Dawg. Follow him @fanalyst1 & find him on Facebook.

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