The New York Yankees, the most revered and most despised team in all of baseball, perhaps across all sports. They are the most successful franchise ever after all, so it’s natural that they would have many followers and many enemies. While their most mortal enemy resides just to their north in the Boston Red Sox, many teams across the nation like to consider themselves a rival of the Yankees. For the Oakland Athletics, it’s always been a simple fact that the Yankees are the ultimate “haves” and the Athletics are the ultimate “have nots.”
Personally, I used to subscribe to the notion that the Yankees were the epitome of everything I hated about baseball. They constantly won, they spent money wildly, they get all the press coverage, and they’re just smug. While all of that remains true, I find myself having a tougher and tougher time maintaining my disgust for the men in pinstripes.
Why is that?
The Yankees are the best team ever, period. Their 27 World Series titles are significantly more than any other professional franchise in any sport. While their fans may attempt to take over opposing team’s ballparks, and do so in a brash manner, it’s hard to argue with them. Of course many of those fans may or may not have ever even travelled to the Bronx, but that’s an entirely separate discussion. Bottome line, their fans are cocky but they have every right to be. That notion took me quite some time to come to grips with, and it’s made me able to truly appreciate the history of that franchise.
The wounds from the days of Jason Giambi leaving for New York, or Derek Jeter‘s ridiculous flip to nail Jeremy Giambi at home in the 2001 ALDS have healed by now. I find Derek Jeter to be everything a ballplayer should be, and while that play haunts me to this day because of the fact it helped prevent a possible World Series run for the A’s, I can appreciate the play for what it was. I learned to embrace Jason Giambi as he entered the latter stages of his career and made his brief return to the Athletics, I even bought a Giambi shirt. Time truly does heal all wounds.
I’ll admit, I love Robinson Cano. He’s a phenomenal player, and could certainly go down in history as one of the top second basemen we’ve ever seen when it’s all said and done. We are all about to get perhaps our last chance to see Mariano Rivera in Oakland, barring a playoff matchup this year. We’ll see an aging Ichiro Suzuki, who will undoubtedly find a 3 game fountain of youth because he’s facing the A’s. I still do dislike Mark Teixeira, although I can’t honestly determine why other than the fact that he’s an A’s killer over the years. I can’t even hate Alex Rodriguez anymore because he’s become such a non-factor and his career may very well be over at this point. The rest of the team is littered with the likes of Lyle Overbay, David Adams, Jayson Nix, and a familiar foe in Vernon Wells. None of them really move the needle. Other than it being weird that Kevin Youkilis is a Yankee now, I don’t really care about him either.
So while technically the Yankees are and always will be the Evil Empire, it’s really hard to hate them anymore. Besides, there are a ton of better alternatives to direct your baseball angst as an Athletics fan. I for one direct the bulk of my anger towards the Texas Rangers, the team that the A’s are currently battling for AL West supremacy. The Los Angeles Angels, while they’re a bit down in the dumps this year despite throwing money at their problems, I take special comfort in each and every loss. The Detroit Tigers, the team that has bounced the A’s from the postseason each of the last two times they made it to October. Even the Boston Red Sox themselves for their hypocritical blue collar underdog mentality when they spend almost as wildly as the Yankees do. Or there’s always the San Francisco Giants, that other team in the Bay Area that we all have to put up with. I don’t think I have to describe why you should dislike them, even though the A’s only cross paths with them for 4 games.
While I’m advocating directing your baseball hatred elsewhere, don’t think for one second I don’t view this as a big series. Playing the Yankees is always a big deal, and is a perfect opportunity for the Athletics to prove themselves against a team that always seems to find itself in the playoffs. The Coliseum will be packed for the next three days, and without a doubt it will be rocking. It’s time to show what Oakland A’s baseball is all about.