I was a little behind on my reading last week (nevermind how far behind I was on my blogging the last two weeks…), so I only got to the once-famous, now-way-in-the-past New York magazine interview with Gary Sheffield. Forget about his comments about the leaders of the team and his own ability; Sheffield’s always been an arrogant blowhard out to get what’s best for Gary, and if that happens to help the team for which he plays, then good for them. I thought Stephen Rodrick’s assessment of the Yankees themselves was an accurate yet often overlooked — or ignored — by those who talk about the Bombers:
Sheffield is also the Yankees’ most entertaining player. Maybe it’s the glut of world championships, maybe it’s the pressure to win still more, but Joe Torre’s troops play baseball with all the passion of the Hessians squaring off against the Continental Army. Whether it’s A-Rod’s or Jeter’s vacant eyes (illuminated only when the red light comes on) or the unrelenting march of night-of-the-living-dead pitchers, this is not a fun team to root for.
This may be the first article in a New York publication that didn’t bow down and grovel before the majesty that is the New York Yankees. I’m not talking about the day-to-day coverage of the team, because those stories always look for the smallest chink in the veneer and focus on what wasn’t working yesterday. The way I read it, Rodrick isn’t talking about whether the team is winning or losing games; he’s commenting on how they play, how they go about winning or losing games. And he’s right. The Yankees never look like they’re having fun out there.
The Mets may be maddening. They may lose games they should win and be so inconsistent that you figure if they could just put forth the same effort every night, they’d be a decidedly better team. They can dominate a game for all but two pitches, and walk off the field as 2-1 losers, like they did yesterday. But what makes the Mets so much fun for me to watch is when they do come back from a four-run deficit, when they do post a six-run inning to blow a game open. They do it with Jose Reyes sprinting first-to-third with his tongue hanging out. They do it with David Wright unable to hold back a smile after a stellar defensive play at third base. They do it with Pedro dancing in the sprinklers.
For some reason, Derek Jeter can take what would otherwise be an innocent display of emotion — that little spring-loaded down-and-up fist pump that he does after an RBI double — and make it appear choreographed rather than spontaneous. A-Rod will drive a ball to the gap and clap his hands while giving a little “Woo!” but what I take from that is not, “This game is fun!” It’s more, “Add another notch to my stat sheet!”
I guess I’m just one of those fans who looks at the Yankees as 10 guys on the field, 10 all-stars, playing for themselves. The games that are really fun to watch are those made up of two teams, nine or 10 guys at a time putting the team first, playing to win.
And clearly, Gary Sheffield is right where he belongs.