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Microsoft of baseball should keep some humor

By HOWARD TROXLER
Published March 27, 2005


During the past eventful week, our house was filled with visitors from the North, relatives by blood and marriage. They came to renew our filial ties, but also to pursue their inexplicable yet fierce passion for the professional baseball team from New York City owned by Mr. George Steinbrenner.

I hope you will not think it is too trivial or disrespectful of other events to relate this adventure, given that neither Mr. Steinbrenner, nor the other owners of the baseball teams engaged in spring training in Florida, saw fit to reschedule their own activities during the week. Neither did the thousands of fans who filed into every game.

Thus we became temporary Yankees fans for the week, except for one game between the New York club and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, which the locals won.

Although I am descended from Yankees fans and share in the tradition, being a Yankees fan today is like being a fan of Microsoft Windows, or Donald Trump. Unlike the Tampa Bay team, which pays its players with barter and grocery coupons and trades them away to real teams when it is time to pay them a salary, Mr. Steinbrenner spends multiple hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire the services of any player he wishes.

One day we will see the headline:

BASEBALL SEASON CANCELED

Yankees sign every single player; opponents unable to field teams

Steinbrenner derides "crybabies"; demands World Series win by default

It truly is an impressive team both in dollars and names: Jeter, B. Williams, A. Rodriguez, Giambi, Sheffield, Sierra, Posada, T. Martinez, to name a few. Fans of the opposing team must face the weary truth that pitching to the Yankees is only a matter of minimizing the damage.

One thing I discovered is that Yankees fans, as a rule, have no sense of humor regarding their own team. As a Devil Rays fan, I am accustomed to shouting wry truths in the direction of the diamond; Yankees fans do not wish to be thus reminded.

Hence when Mr. Rodriguez, the highly paid third baseman, failed to reach a base when it was his turn at bat, or did not field the ball cleanly when it was hit in his direction, I was quickly hushed when I tried to cry out, cheerfully: "There's $50,000 right there!"

Neither was I allowed to express strong opinion upon the appearances of Mr. Giambi, who recently issued an apology to the public, although he did not say what he was apologizing for. One got the idea his apology was related to the "performance-enhancing" drug scandal. I offered to shout only encouraging words, such as, "Hit a 700-foot home run!" but was hushed even then.

One theme that recurred during the week was the surprising number of former Tampa Bay baseball players who now are in Mr. Steinbrenner's employ. A pitcher named Tanyon Sturtze, whose name, I distinctly remember, was mocked by Northern media when he played in Florida, is on the Yankee roster.

So is catcher John Flaherty, a favorite of mine, as well as several backup infielders. Tino Martinez is back with the Yankees after having spent last year as a Devil Ray; the New Yorkers prefer not to acknowledge this recent unpleasantness. Here is what it is like to be a Devil Rays fan: I was proud they all were Yankees.

During the week, we saw the sailboats beyond the left-field wall in St. Petersburg, presided in grand style over a game at the Yankee palace in Tampa, scooted down to the charming Ed Smith Field of the Cincinnati Reds in Sarasota (even more charming than the Pirates' old-style McKechnie Field in Bradenton), and ended up at the new park in Clearwater.

It should be related that the New York team lost three of these encounters and won one. Although officially the institution of spring training is for practice, these outcomes meant something to the home teams in each case. Certainly, they mattered to Mr. Steinbrenner, who, in exchange for his money, does not wish for his baseball team ever, ever to score fewer runs than the opponent. With these familiar rituals, the week passed.

[Last modified March 27, 2005, 00:33:11]


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