We all know who the best player was in New York in 2017, in any sport. It was the big kid, Aaron Judge, All Rise Judge, around whom the rising of the Yankees was built in October, the kind of baseball October that was once as regular a pageant around here as the tree lighting at Rockefeller Plaza, or New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
And the best of it for me, the best moment, wasn’t the Yankees coming back after they were down 0-3 in the Wild Card game with the Twins before they ever came to bat; or the comeback against the Astros in Game 4, when the new Yankee Stadium finally sounded like the one across the street. No, the best of it was after Game 5, when the Yankees had gone ahead three games to two, and were as close to the World Series as they had been in eight years.
The best of it was walking out of the Stadium that night with Yankees fans flooding out of the place in this loud, exuberant wave, down the steps at Babe Ruth Plaza, everybody heading towards 161st St. and the parking lots and the subway station, yelling “Let’s Go Yankees” and “—- Verlander,” meaning Justin Verlander, whom they knew their team was going to be facing in Game 6. These weren’t sounds out of the past on 161st St. This wasn’t about the last 100 years in baseball in the Bronx. This was about the last few weeks, against the Twins and the Indians and the Astros. It was about everything old being new again with the Yankees.
It all went wrong in Houston, of course. Verlander did to the Yankees what the chants said the Yankees were going to do to him. The Yankees couldn’t hit him and they couldn’t hit two guys named Morton and McCullers in Game 7 – a preview of coming attractions for the Dodgers in the World Series – and they didn’t go to the World Series. So the last best part of the Yankee season had come in the middle three games of the American League Championship Series.
Now they regroup, in such an expensive and showy and front-page way. They go get Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Jeters, and pick up the kind of contract they once lavished on Alex Rodriguez, everybody’s All-America. They are paying Stanton around $265 million over the next 10 years, and giving him a no-trade, and even an opt-out clause because, hey, you need to add sweeteners with a deal like Stanton’s. They get the big guy from Miami and immediately are the big, bad Yankees again. It is all covered as if order has been restored to Yankee Universe, even if there has been just one World Series title in that universe in the past 17 years, during which just one team with a payroll over $200 million has ever won the Series:
Them. In 2009.
Now we will see if the Yankees getting back into the big business of being the Yankees works out for them. You bet they made the big deal of the winter meetings. They got the big guy in Stanton, him and his 59 homers, which is even more than Judge hit. And you know how it goes around here, especially with the Yankee media: Every time they have ever made an expensive, showy play even close to Stanton, the rest of baseball is supposed to want to hide in the clubhouse, because that is how ferocious the Yankees are going to be. It was that way when they made the A-Rod trade in 2004, the same way now.
Maybe they will be a home-run powerhouse and beat the rest of the baseball world down. Maybe they will pack the new Stadium the way they once packed the old one with four million fans a year, this time to watch Judge and Stanton and Gary Sanchez abuse major league pitching no matter how good it is. Maybe it will be as exciting as last October was, when the Yankees weren’t just fun, they were a wonderful, New York sports surprise.
But maybe it won’t.
A friend of mine, a lifelong Yankee fan I know, joked to me the other day that getting Stanton was like “the rich kid in his freshman year getting a Corvette.” He is talking about a team that has now paid a whopping total of $341 million in luxury taxes over all the years since the tax came to baseball in 2002, even if it’s now as if we’re supposed to hold a parade in the Canyon of Heroes if they manage to keep this year’s payroll under $197 million.
In all the years when the Yankees continued to make the playoffs, they were old and expensive. Now they are young and exciting and expensive with the addition of Stanton. Brian Cashman built an incredibly appealing baseball team last year, even if they didn’t win it all in the end. Maybe they will be incredibly appealing next year. And win it all. And then order, at least in the eyes of their fan base, really will be restored to the universe.
But it was kind of wonderful in October, in a different way for Yankee fans. Truly it was a most un-Yankee-like October, when nobody felt entitled, and everyone seemed happy that the Yankees were back in play the way they were. They didn’t feel as if an October like this one was owed them, or some sort of baseball birthright. Maybe things will only get better in 2018, with a new home run hitter to go with the ones they already have, and a new manager in Aaron Boone, who knows a bit about Yankee home runs himself.
The rich kids have a new Corvette. Now we see how it goes. See if this year’s cool kids are even cooler than last year’s.
Bad hits, Jets QBs & Arthur Browne, newspaperman . . .
– The Thunder clearly didn’t do themselves much of a favor when they traded away James Harden, but they sure did one for Harden, right?
Capt. Jeter doesn’t seem to be enjoying south Florida so far nearly as much as he probably thought he would.
It’s going to be real hard for the Knicks, who have been such a feel-good story so far, to make the NBA playoffs without winning any road games.
– Thomas Davis of the Panthers was originally suspended for two games because of a cheap-shot, blindside hit against Davante Adams of the Packers.
The suspension, of course, was reduced to one game.
But he should have had to sit out for the rest of the regular season, whether he is a former winner of the Walter Payton Award or not.
When Davis finally talked about the hit that concussed Adams and could have done worse, he said he was just trying to make a block.
All players who turn into dirty players in moments like that say they were just trying to make a play.
Not only did the Seahawks need a 12th man last Sunday when they were getting embarrassed at home by the Rams, they clearly needed a 13th.
You can’t say they hung an innocent man in Sen. Al Franken, but they sure didn’t give the political death penalty to someone who deserved it.
I keep wondering how we could combine the two greatest Christmas movies – “Love Actually” and “Die Hard” – into one feel-good sequel for both of them.
– Who would have thought in another season when the Patriots look like a Super Bowl Express that a story about a personal trainer – Tom Brady’s – would make this kind of soap-opera news in Foxboro, Mass.
And speaking of the Patriots?
You hear the expression “why not us, why not now?” in sports all the time.
But I keep looking at the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo and asking it a little differently:
Why him, and why now?
Trump really is a great old line from Jimmy Breslin, the one about how if you don’t blow your own horn, there is no music.
It is worth noting that after a dozen games in this season, the LeBrons were 5-7.
And when I looked at the standings the other day they were a grand total of four games behind the Golden State Warriors.
The two UCLA kids who got caught shoplifting along with LiAngelo Ball had their suspensions from the UCLA basketball team extended for the entire season the other day.
But probably won’t think the next exciting step for them in their basketball lives is an exciting opportunity in Lithuania.
– My guy Pete the Jet Fan was watching Bryce Petty play last week and wondering just how bad Christian Hackenberg must be.
It makes you wonder all over again how in the world the Jets could possibly have passed on Deshaun Watson.
I don’t know what plan Mike Maccagnan has at QB for the NYJ next season.
But I sure do hope, for the sake of Jets fans, that he has one.
There’s a woman named Kelli Ward from Arizona effectively campaigning against the great John McCain for his Senate job while McCain is battling brain cancer.
So Ward, whoever she is, makes you think Roy Moore would be a better U.S. Senator than she would.
– Merry Christmas to the great Pete Hamill, a giant of newspapers and a poet of this city, who made me want to do this kind of work for a living, and who is still writing away in Brooklyn.
If you have never read his wonderful book “The Gift,” about his childhood in Brooklyn and his father, I urge you to buy it and read it now, because there has never been a lovelier Christmas tale ever told.
And finally today:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year today to all who continue to take such pride in their work and who continue to put out this newspaper.
– And a special thanks today to Arthur Browne, who prepares to depart as the editor of the Daily News, and end his own proud career here, one that began a long time ago as a Daily News copy boy.
Arthur’s real job, over all the years, was simply this:
Somehow, through it all in this business, through everything that has happened to the business and not just at the Daily News, it is still a title that means something honorable.
And always will.
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