January 23, 2018

A 2017 Meme: "These Yankees Are So Easy To Like"

So I've had a draft post sitting around for months, in which I collected media mentions about how the 2017 Yankees were supposedly "so easy to like".

The claim is nonsense, of course. But if a few baseball journalists say something, other writers will quickly and unquestioningly mimic it, and, before you know it, the absurdity has seeped into the culture and acquired the status of "truth". But we can forget all about that now. The Yankees are officially unlikeable again.

First, Ryan Chichester (SB Nation) gives us the lie:
Somehow, the Evil Empire persona softened, and gave way to a Yankees team that was viewed as a young, gritty group that may even be (dare I say it) somewhat likable by baseball fans outside of the Big Apple. ... Fans of opposing teams didn’t foam at the mouth at the sight of the interlocking N-Y anymore ...
And then he informs us that sentiment (which (psst!) never actually existed) is now gone.
With the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees' theme song once again became the Imperial March, with everyone quickly reverting back to their default setting of hating the Yankees ... CC Sabathia discussed the return to normal on MLB Network ... and expressed his appreciation for once again being the hated team of the league.
The draft post follows:

The New York Yankees are likeable.

So the sporting media told us last year. But exactly when did the sporting media NOT fawn over the wonderful Yankees? Anyway, this meme was being broadcast far and wide throughout 2017 (both in print and over the airwaves).

Is This The Least Hateable Yankees Team Ever?
David Schoenfield, ESPN, June 14, 2017
The New York Yankees are back ... led by future first-ballot Hall of Famer Aaron Judge (what, too soon?), making an argument that they are the best team in baseball.

The thing about these Yankees–I kind of like them. I said it. They're not your typical Yankees team ... You can't help but like Judge, or at least admit his combination of power at the plate and grace in the outfield is pretty awesome. Luis Severino has been fun to watch. Brett Gardner is playing like an All-Star. ...

Is this the most likable Yankees team ever? ...
Hard To Hate These Yankees
Jason Keidel, CBS Washington, DC, June 19, 2017
The New York Yankees have been lamented by the media and MLB masses for being monetary marauders who flexed their wallets and poached your club's best players every winter. The Yankees ... were a mutation of a Super-team, the sports iteration of the IRS, impossible to root for.

Not really. ...

[A]s The Boss, the powerful, polarizing Steinbrenner, slowly lost his grip on the Yankee wheel, GM Brian Cashman slowly remolded the team into his likeness, and something more likable. ...

Now, the Yanks are coming back. Despite their recent, rugged road trip (six straight losses), they are still atop the AL East, and are doing it in a proper, respectable way, from the farm up. ...

Now that the Yankees are back to being the Bronx Bombers, it begs a couple questions.

Are the good Yankees good for baseball? We say no, but mean yes.

Can you earnestly and honestly hate these new Yankees? We say yes, but mean no.

Since 2002, you could toss a dart at a team photo and hit someone you hate ... But which Bronx Bomber dons the black hat these days? Judge? Sanchez? Brett Gardner? Luis Severino? Aaron Hicks? Didi Gregorious? [Keidel misspells his last name. Maybe that's who he hates.] ...

Other than [Aroldis] Chapman, these Yankees are rather hard to hate. While Joe Girardi is not overly kind or candid with the media, he's earned his pinstripes, even before he became skipper. ...

Surely the Yanks will do something impulsive and repulsive ... And you will despise them again.

For now, however, it's just hard to hate those Damn Yanks.
10 Reasons The Yankees Are Actually Likable This Season
Mike Oz, Big League Stew, Yahoo Sports, September 29, 2017
It feels odd and foreign for me to even write these words, but here goes: The New York Yankees are kinda–gulp–likable this season. ...

They aren't the Evil Empire of years past. They're not villains. They're, dare I say, an underdog. ...

I offer these 10 reasons you might also consider not hatable in 2017. ...

[Reason #2 is that the Yankees have a tall player and a short player on their roster. That's an adult reason to like a team? Really? ... Some other reasons: Their dugout celebrations are "fun". Didi Gregorius "seems incredibly nice". ... Gary Sanchez's hitting is "not bad at all". ... CC Sabathia "deserves some props".]

[T]his may only be a short-lived thing, as the Yankees will probably start getting back to their Evil Empire ways after 2018, when the free-agent market goes bananas.

Until then, you might actually like the Yankees.
The Yankees Are Suddenly Easy to Like
Andy Gray, Sports Illustrated, October 4, 2017
I've always hated the Yankees. When I first moved to NYC in 2004, I used to tell everyone that my favorite baseball team was whoever the Yanks were playing that night. I've maintained this hatred most of my life, but I think it's time to get over it. Because, as much as it pains me to say it, the Yankees are fun. ... So yeah, the Yankees are likeable.
These Yankees Are Likable And I Still Don't Like Them
Charlotte Wilder, SB Nation, October 5, 2017
Aaron Judge's smile makes me smile. I never want to smile when Judge smiles, because it usually means Judge has done something good, which, by the Transitive Property of Sports, means the Yankees have done something good. And it really grinds my gears when the Yankees do good things.

I grew up a Red Sox fan in the '90s. ...

Hating the Yankees was as much a part of being a Boston fan as loving the Red Sox was. ...

The only problem is that there's been a glitch in the Sports Hate Index algorithm this year. Some designer deep in the cubicles of sports engineers ... fucked it up when they let Judge and the rest of this young team take the Yankees to unimaginable places. Places known as Almost Likable. ...

[Wilder also misspells Gregorius's last name. Fortunately, she eventually remembers her hatred.]

No matter how much I like the players, I just still hate this team. It's one of those irrational parts of being a fan that I can't explain and don't really want to understand, for fear of finding out what it says about me as a human. [To Charlotte: It doesn't say anything bad, I'll assure you of that.] I just know that this resentment sits deep at the heart of my connection to the Red Sox and I can't dig it out. ...

The Yankees always have sucked, and always will suck, no matter what else is going on, or who they have on their team ...
Why This Yankees Team Is Likeable, Or At Least Harder To Hate
Mike Vaccaro, New York Post, October 12, 2017
"My whole life, I hated everything about the Yankees," says [Darren] Frank, who runs a landscaping company [in Texas]. "I mean it was all I had when the Astros were awful. I figured as long as the Yankees were losing–or weren't winning as much as they used to–then all was OK with the world."

He shrugs.

"What can I tell you, I really like this team," he says. "They came in here this year and played the Astros and I came looking for blood and ... I found that they're easy to like. The Yankees. ..."

This is not a unique case, and you know it, you can feel it. The Yankees are in one of their periodic reboots, and what's occurred, as much as anything, is the unveiling of a feel-good team that is … well, it's hard to hate. ...

I defy you to talk to Judge or Didi Gregorius or Todd Frazier, among many others, and find even one good reason to dislike any of them.
2017 American League Championship Series, Game 5: Yankees vs. Astros
Al Yellon, Bleed Cubbie Blue, October 18, 2017
It's kind of de rigueur among baseball fans to hate the Yankees if you're not specifically one of their fans.

But this Yankees team has so many likeable players that it's hard to hate them. I'm not specifically rooting for them, don't get me wrong. But they're certainly a fun group to watch play baseball. ...
ALCS Game 5: The New York Yankees Are Actually Likable
Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports, October 19, 2017
Nobody wants to accuse the New York Yankees of being likable, because they're the New York Yankees, and if ever Congress saw fit to add to the Constitution, surely the 28th Amendment would be: "The First Amendment protects all right to free speech–except in the case of the New York Yankees, who are overpaid, self-absorbed, carpet-bagging, mercenary bums and cannot be classified otherwise without penalty."

So long as it's still legal, though ... let it be said: Damn, is this Yankees team a joy to watch. ...

Perhaps eventually they'll return to the bloated, odious villain they've always been – large market happy to squash the small ones, narcissistic behemoth that believes the baseball world exists only if embellished with frieze. In the meantime, enjoy the respite. The New York Yankees are likable. It's worth saying because it's true.
Yankees Adjust To New Label: Likeable Underdogs
Reuters, October 19, 2017
The New York Yankees, traditionally one of the most reviled teams in Major League Baseball due to its long history of success, are adjusting to a new label–likeable underdogs. ...

"It's really unusual to hear a Yankee team to be described that way," manager Joe Girardi said Thursday when asked about the perception the side, nicknamed the "Evil Empire," is easy to support this year.
ALCS Game 7: New York Isn't A Regular Evil Empire, It's A Cool Evil Empire
Mina Dunn, SB Nation, October 21, 2017
It seems pretty easy to accept that the Astros are Good and Fun. It might take a little longer to get there with the Yankees. The Yankees are fun, even if they're still the villain. ... The fun piles up with Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, and always Aaron Judge.

Judge hits the kind of home runs that make you forget it's only a dumb ball of yarn arching through the stadium. ...

Let's not forget either that [Sabathia is] also living a story of courage and accountability, checking himself into rehab in 2015 before the AL Wild Card game.
Are The Yankees Likable?
ESPN Video
Highly Questionable wonders if these underdog Yankees are a likeable team but Katie Nolan says they are simply "less evil."
I hope this stupid theme does not carry over into 2018.

Also: Can I say something about the odious term "Baby Bombers"? That's what the team/fans used to call their minor league players. Now it is being applied to guys on the major league roster. And most of these guys - save Luis Severino (23) and Gary Sanchez (24) - are not really young: Aaron Judge 25; Aaron Hicks 27; Didi Gregorius 27; Masahiro Tanaka 28; and Dellin Betances 29.

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