The 2010 World Series will be a unique one for many Yankees’ fans because the two teams involved do not really inspire a passionate rooting interest, either for or against. Of course, there are the traditional “root for the American League” or “root against the team that beat the Yankees” rationales to consider. Also, for the politically minded, the World Series could be used as the latest battleground in the nation’s “culture war” (after all, you can’t get more “red” than Texas or more “blue” than San Francisco). That’s not what we’re interested in, however. In order to truly become engaged in this series, Yankees’ fans will need some genuine rooting interest, and that is exactly what I am here to provide.
To help clear up some of the confusion, below are three factors to consider before picking sides. Think of it as the Yankee fan’s guide to the 2010 World Series.
1) Cliff Lee Factor
The Yankees’ offseason plans will likely revolve around signing Cliff Lee, but if the Rangers win the World Series, he may decide to mosey on back to Texas. After all, Lee was recently traded from the 2009 Phillies’ pennant winning team, so the ace lefthander may be reticent to pack his bags once again. Defending a championship could be the impetus that convinces him to set down roots. However, if the Rangers were to lose, Lee might be less prone toward sentimentality. With that in mind, Yankee fans pining for Lee would probably be wise to root for the Giants.
2) New York Factor
As most baseball fans know, the San Francisco Giants trace their roots back to New York. In fact, they were the Yankees’ first rival, both on and off the field. If Giants’ owner Andrew Freedman had his way at the turn of the last century, there never would have been a New York Yankees, so for those inclined to hold long grudges, well, you know what to do.
Along the same lines, there is small segment of former Giants fans that view the franchise’s World Series drought since bolting for San Francisco as a kind of punishment for the team’s decision to abandon the Big Apple. Not too many Giants fans likely converted over to the Yankees (and even fewer are probably still alive), but for those who did, the continuation of this curse could provide a very compelling rooting interest.
This factor could work both ways, however. As the old saying goes, time heels all wounds, so a Yankee fan with an appreciation for New York’s golden baseball past might take pleasure in seeing one of the city’s runaway franchises enjoy a return to glory.
3) Ex-Yankee Factor
Neither the Giants nor the Rangers will feature a former Yankee player between the white lines, but more than a few coaches will bring back fond (and not so fond) memories to older Yankees fans.
The San Francisco Giants’ coaching staff reads like an invitation list to Yankees Old Timer’s Day. However, this crop of alumni played for the team when championships were no longer in vogue. As a result, each is in search of his first ring, which might tug at the heart strings of Yankees fans who suffered along with them during those trying times.
- Baserunning coach Henry Cotto played as a backup outfielder from 1985 to 1987, a three year stretch in which the Yankees won the second most games in the American League, but never made the playoffs.
- Batting coach Hensley Meulens, or “Bam Bam” as he was known, was a highly touted prospect during the lean years of the late-80s/early-90s, but never lived up to his potential.
- First base coach Roberto Kelly was another homegrown player from the “lost years”, but unlike Meulens, he did enjoy some success in pinstripes. In fact, he was probably the team’s best player from 1989 to 1991. Kelly is most known, however, for being the key component of the November 1992 trade with the Reds that brought Paul O’Neill to New York. Interestingly, Kelly also has another tie to the Yankees dynasty that followed shortly after his exit. As a product of Panama, it could be said that Kelly’s success helped fortify the Yankees’ interest in the region, which would later yield the immortal Marian Rivera.
- Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of the more beloved Yankees who played in the 1980s…almost a pitching equivalent of Don Mattingly. As a starter, he won the Rookie of the Year award in 1981 and pitched a Fourth of July no-hitter in 1983, and as a closer set the then saves record with 46 in 1986. Although it seemed as if “Rags” was destined to be a Yankee for his entire career, General Manager Gene Michael allowed him to leave for San Francisco after the 1990 season. The defection would have never been allowed if the Boss hadn’t been suspended earlier that season, but the decision turned out to be dead on in terms of player evaluation, serving as yet another example of Michael’s knack for making the right move as he built the next dynasty.
The Rangers also have an ex-Yankee on staff in bullpen coach Andy Hawkins. Perhaps no one player epitomized the Yankees’ down period more than the Hawk. Over his two-plus year Yankee career that spanned from 1989 to 1991, Hawkins went 20-29 with a 5.21 ERA (ERA+ of 76). Dubbed the “anchor of the staff” by manager Dallas Green, a reference that served as an endless source of ridicule for the media, Hawkins’ ultimate infamy came on July 1, 1990, when he no-hit the Chicago White Sox…and lost! Unfortunately for Hawkins, three errors in the eighth inning led to four White Sox runs, giving the hard luck pitcher the most lopsided no-hitter loss in history. Adding insult to injury, MLB even took that distinction away from Hawkins when years later it ruled that all no-hitters had to be complete nine inning games.