Unlike the majority of Yankee fans I talk to, my appreciation for individual Yankee players came somewhat later in my fandom. When the conversation inevitably turns to favorite Yankee players, 90 percent of the time Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera are the answer. While I do vaguely remember Jeter’s rookie season, I was far too young to appreciate just how good he was. It wasn’t until Robinson Cano made his rookie debut that I could see young homegrown talent on an All Star scale.
For those that were either too young or didn’t follow the team in 2005, when Cano came up, he was never expected to be the player that he is today. Though he had success in the minor leagues in previous seasons, he never made any prospect lists, and his success in Triple-A could have easily been written off as small sample size. His early-season performance in 2005 was very much like what we’re seeing from Yangervis Solarte today, in that even months into Cano’s rookie season I remember telling myself that this just can’t continue.
Cano’s success did continue, and he became my Derek Jeter. I got my first Yankee jersey, Cano’s “24”, I got my first Yankee hat, and I went to my first Yankee game in old Yankee Stadium. I grew up as a Yankee fan with Cano as my favorite player.
As we all grow older, I think most of us become less impressionable, and now it’s hard for me to find the right mindset to have a favorite player. Now that he’s a Seattle Mariner, I don’t even watch him play anymore. I would never boo him, and I would probably even cheer for him if I was crazy enough to sit in the type of weather we saw last night.
Well, Cano was booed. The reaction was rather predictable, the media immediately tweeted narratives about how hypocritical it is to cheer “you sold out”, when the majority of the players on the field sold out to play in the Bronx. The broadcast booth spent the first 10 minutes of the game talking about Cano’s decision to become a Mariner and how fans should appreciate his contributions, and then after he was booed, they spent the last eight and a half innings talking about how Yankee fans shouldn’t boo. Suddenly, there were a lot of people telling me and the rest of the Yankee fanbase how we should feel.
While I found myself apathetic to the whole booing and cheering debate, the response by the media and booth was predictably pretentious. After a long day of work, after I’ve finished my daily chores and workouts, the Yankee game is my retreat, and having people tell me how I should feel is not gratifying, it’s laboring. Watching a baseball game should be fun, but having the media tell me that Yankee fans are disgraceful for going to a game and booing a player is too overbearing for me.
And after listening and reading countless hours of debate about steroids, pine tar, cheating, booing, money, and even the middle finger, the bulk of the baseball media has evolved into a morality police draining the fun out of baseball. The fans that spent money and went to last night’s game after a long day of work are simply trying to enjoy the game, and while Cano’s is being paid $240 million to entertain the crowd and the television audience, it’s ridiculous to demonize Yankee fans as sinful for booing. Baseball is a refuge for these people, and when the media starts generalizing fans as pious or blasphemous based on cheers and boos, it’s time for these writers and broadcasters to reassess their philosophy of the game of baseball.