The dirty little secret about the Yankees this postseason is that these games are not sellouts. Not only that, but according to Yahoo Sports, Yankee fans were being moved to better seats last night to cover this up.
There are a variety of reasons for this, of course -- the original ticket prices were too high (although StubHub has pushed the prices down; on both Friday or Saturday, I saw tickets for as low as $21, and I'm sure they went even lower), people can watch the games on big-screen TVs and get arguably a better view than they would at the ballgame, going to a playoff game can be a big time commitment, Friday's game was at a weird time, and Saturday's was scheduled at the last minute, etc.
But I have to wonder if the fan atmosphere, or lack thereof, is a turnoff. I have watched a lot of baseball over the past week, and Yankee Stadium appears to be the only place where fans boo their own players. Not only that, but the atmosphere, at least from what I have seen on TV, has mostly been pretty bad. With the exception of Game 3 of the ALDS, when Raul Ibanez made history, the crowd doesn't seem all that into it when it comes to rooting for the home team. Oakland and St. Louis and Washington and Baltimore and San Francisco and Detroit and Cincinnati had raucous crowds really into every pitch. New York, not so much.
Look at last night. A-Rod, of course, was booed repeatedly. But Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano also got some boos, too. What was up with that? I get the frustration that fans feel -- I feel it myself -- but the booing is not helping. And when the Tigers went ahead, 4-0, many of the fans fled the ballpark and went home.
I have to wonder if part of the reason for the crummy attendance is the lousy fan atmosphere. I have some non-baseball related work assignments I am doing this weekend, but even if I didn't, do I really want to sit next to somebody who is yelling anti-A-Rod stuff the whole evening, or booing other players? That's not exactly a spirit of fun. And I'm the type of person who will say something in response, so it's not going to end well!
Where is the Eric Winston of the Yankees? Who is going to step up and say that it's counterproductive to boo your own players? I'm not saying that people should cheer strikeouts, but just don't say anything then. Sure, we're all disappointed in the hitting. But booing A-Rod or Grandy or Swisher will not make any of them magically play better. It could make them press, though, and be even worse! It's not that complicated!
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Speaking of pressing players, I am really tired of what Joe Girardi is doing with Alex Rodriguez these days. He is basically putting a target on A-Rod's back and making him the scapegoat for the Yankee failures.
Look, before you think I am reflexively defending A-Rod here, hear me out. I wrote before Girardi moved A-Rod down the lineup that he should be batting sixth, behind Ibanez. I also thought that pinch-hitting him with Raul Ibanez was the right move. How could it not be? Ibanez had two homers in the spot! I was even okay with benching A-Rod Friday, assuming that Granderson and/or Swisher would also be benched.
That being said, what Girardi is doing to A-Rod now is unfair. First of all, he was the only one benched in Game 5, which is singling him out in a time where his teammates have played just as poorly, if not poorer. Robinson Cano, who is supposed to be the best player on the team at this point, is now hitting worse than Rodriguez, batting just .071, and going 0 for 22. Swisher isn't just hitting poorly; he also helped cost the Yanks the game with his poor fielding last night.
Second, it's not like Eric Chavez is setting the world on fire. He is 0 for 11 with six strikeouts in the postseason. Yet he is replaciing A-Rod over and over? It's ridiculous.
Third, the only way A-Rod is going to bust out of the slump is to get some playing time. Pinch-hitting for him when the Yankees are losing 4-0 is silly, especially when it's with Chavez. (Oh, and lost in the shuffle in last night's loss is that Girardi did one of his dumbest moves of the year in bringing in Derek Lowe with a 2-0 deficit to face the heart of the lineup. And guess what? The game became 4-0 in a hurry!)
Cal Ripken Jr. was saying that A-Rod needs to get mad about this. But aside from the fact that Rodriguez is trying to be a good team player here (something Cal should have done by taking a day off here and there), A-Rod getting ticked off will just reinforce some people's reputation that he's a diva.
More to the point, somebody in Yankeeland, whether it be a player, a coach, Brian Cashman, or a Steinbrenner, needs to tell Girardi to stop jerking A-Rod around like he's a yo-yo. Put him in the lineup in the same spot every day and leave him alone already. (This is what happened in 1977, when Billy Martin tried to get cute with moving Reggie around the lineup and benching him. It took several Yankee leaders to go to Billy and tell him to knock it off. What will happen now?)
Oh, and no, I don't think Rodriguez should fill in for Jeter at shortstop. He hasn't played the position since 2003, he has a bad hip, and, as a friend pointed out on Facebook, he's not built the same way as he was then, and he's old. And the haters will boo him the moment he makes an error. This would be a good idea why, exactly? Because the Yankees must have a former All-Star at shortstop? I don't get it.
What do you think? Tell us about it!