By George Dickie
Today's cuppa: overpriced ballpark beverage, any flavor
With just over two weeks to go before pitchers and catchers, it's time to start thinking about baseball. And when you think of the national pastime, how can you not think of the New York Yankees - and what will probably turn out to be the biggest sports distraction of the spring?
It's kind of life-affirming, actually, as the Bronx Bombers of the past dozen years or so had gotten quite blah. No Billy vs. Reggie, George vs. Winfield or George vs. any manager who suffered through the misfortune of getting swept in a three-game series in April. Just playoff berths and championships. Yawn. Sure, there was A-Rod and Madonna, and A-Rod and the stripper, but that's strictly National Enquirer/NY Post Page Six material. Our beloved Bombers had gotten boring.
That is, until this week, when "The Yankee Years," co-authored by former manager Joe Torre and SI's Tom Verducci, surfaced, in which Torre had some less-than-complimentary things to say about Rodriguez and Yankee GM Brian Cashman, among others. Not surprisingly, it's been all over the New York media and promises to be the topic du jour when the Yanks open camp in Tampa on Feb. 13.
But is this stuff really new or even particularly interesting? So A-Rod is self-involved. We knew that when he was in Seattle. Cashman didn't do Torre's bidding in the pivotal October 2007 meeting with ownership that resulted in Torre's departure? Quite a few people inside and outside the organization thought the Yankees needed a change at the helm after so many postseason failures. Not a surprise there, either.
What is a shame is that this "story" will obscure the stuff real fans want to know this spring: how C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett will assimilate to the Yankee culture; what some of the young pitchers learned from a rough 2008; and whether Joe Girardi can get more mileage from some of the old warhorses. And on the Dodgers' side, whether Torre can squeeze another playoff run out of a mediocre team that was carried by a slugger who may or not be there this year.
I say the "Yankee Years" story will only go away if we make it go away, and that means voting with our feet, so to speak. On the Web, don't click on the link that says, "A-Rod responds to ...," turn off the TV at the first mention of "A-Fraud," and for God's sake, stay away from talk radio. And don't even think about buying one of those tabloids.
It takes discipline, I know, but together we can defeat media sensationalism. We just have to be determined.
Now be careful out there.