Saturday, July 17, 2010

As it often goes in New York, much ado about nothing.

The Yankees said their official goodbye to George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard last night, and as always, the Yankees do these things in a way few other teams can match. The ceremony was followed with a thrilling walk-off win as Nick Swisher delivered a game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth. Earlier in the day, New York papers made an issue out of the fact that none of the current or former Yankees players attended the funeral of Bob Sheppard, and have made a particularly big deal out of the fact that Derek Jeter did not attend the service as the team's representative.

I understand the point, and while I'm mildly surprised by it, this is just one of those things that proves that players in New York deal with media pressure that few other markets can match. Especially in the case of Jeter, you are a little surprised, because he's crafted a public persona that exudes class and he always seems to know the right thing to do. At the same time, we tend to forget that its not at all uncommon for people to deal with these types of situations in their own way, as Jeter and Joe Girardi both suggested before and after yesterday's game. So I agree that it is a little surprising to see the franchise that does ceremony so well not send at least one player to the funeral, I really don't see why its the big deal that it is being made out to be.

In the same article about Jeter, the point is made that the game was a fitting tribute to the Boss, but that it would have been even more perfect if Jeter had been the hero of the game. Personally, I think it was more fitting that Swisher was the hero, because he is a perfect metaphor for what has been so right about the latter half of the Steinbrenner reign and what was so off about the lowpoint in the 80's. For all the talk of the Yankees buying their championships, they have had their greatest success when the team is built around homegrown players and guys that were acquired through shrewd trades. You've got the core four players (Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera) along with other farm products like Cano and Gardner. There are the big names of A-Rod, Teixeira and Sabathia -- the Yankees have always signed big name players -- but its moves like Swisher that really make this a team that I root for. The same could be said for the Torre lead dynasty. Swisher, to some degree, reminds me a bit of Paul O'Neill. I don't mean to suggest that Swisher is as good as O'Neill was, but when the Yankees sent Roberto Kelly to Cinci for Paulie, O'Neill wasn't an every day player. He wasn't one for his first season or two with the Yankees, either. Swisher wasn't supposed to be one, but became one after an injury to Xavier Nady opened up more playing time.

Swisher has responded to playing in New York, and you can bet that the Boss would have had kind words for his play over the last season and a half. He's far from the best player on the team, but he's been as important to the Yankees success in 2009 and 2010 as any player out there.

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