A few years ago, Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit. It is hard to say if this is a cause for celebration. While Jeter is undeniably a great player, he is a Yankee. If he played for any other team, his 3,000th hit would have got some coverage and that would have been that. But the Yankees get more than their fair share of coverage. They get more coverage than they have earned. When the owner of a team huddles with his front office after a slow start it might not even get mentioned by any of the beat reporters covering 29 of baseball's 30 teams. When George Steinbrenner once called a conclave in Tampa after his team had a .500 April a few years ago, it was the lead story on almost every sports news show. Video of cars in a Tampa parking lot were played and replayed as news instead of highlights from games involving everyone else.
The reason for this is that the major broadcast media in this country is all centered in Manhattan. The Yankees are television's hometown team. When they win they get more coverage then other winners. When they lose the drama unfolds as a lead story. Their rivalry with the Red Sox became a central drama to the point that no other baseball rivalry existed and it ended up elevating Boston to a national prominence far more than the city's size would garner. The only story that the national media doesn't cover regarding the Yankees is the resentment that the endless coverage of the team engenders toward the media.
Enter the Angels. This is a team that is mocked by the national media for having a Rally Monkey mascot, for having a laidback California fan base, for beachballs in the stands and for having contractually-obligated geography accompany the team name. When they do get around to saying anything nice about the club, their ignorance of the basics shines in an instant. This weekend Fox's national baseball color man, Tim McCarver said he preferred Mike Trout in Centerfield over Peter Bourjos because Trout had a better arm, a demonstrably false assertion to anyone who has watched a few Angels games - which of course, national broadcasters simply have not done. Of course McCarver said this on a broadcast of a Yankees-Angels game. You can bet the lead team of the network would never be caught dead at an Angels-A's game.
And so, stuck with our second fiddle, the one thing Angels fans as well as the fans of 29 other teams can do is heartily boo the Yankees. Ironically, Boston fans should be the only other fan base cheering the Yankees - as the overdrive coverage of "The Rivalry" elevated Boston to its lofty status. But fans of all 29 other teams boo the Bronx Bombers and all they represent, all the frontrunner scorn their fans deserve and all the extra media coverage their ordinary news receives. It is all fair game and in the culture of baseball fans it is a time-honored tradition.
And yet, when a guy gets his 3,000th hit, it is a big deal. Even if you hate the team he is on, as a baseball fan you have to cheer for a great of the game. When the greatest relief pitcher of all time is retiring and comes to your stadium for the last time, why wouldn't you want your team to honor him and what he represents to the game of baseball?
Well when that great player is a Yankee, his greatness has contributed to the acidic ignoring of 29 teams in baseball for one. The New-York-centric media has elevated his greatness above and beyond its true impact. Would Craig Biggio have missed out on the Hall of Fame's first ballot if he had been a Yankee instead of an Astro? Of course not. And so fans of teams who are fans of the institution of baseball could be forgiven for feeling conflicted when the owner of their favorite team honored a Yankee great before an Angels-Yankees game.
When Jeter got his 3,000th hit the Angels honored him with a painting prior to a home game. Actually, news of the pregame ceremony leaked and created a fan backlash that caused the Angel to announce there was no ceremony scheduled. Then during that game, the stadium jumboscreen showed Angels players presenting a large, expensive oil painting of Jeter to "The Captain" himself. The reason there was fan backlash is because every single Angels fan - and every single fan of every other team - who ever turned on ESPN to see the highlights of their team's game all had to sit through what seemed like nightly Jeter-worship. Fans are tired of being talked down to. The backlash was predictable.
To my knowledge, the Angels were the only team to honor Jeter with a pregame gift but it would be safe to assume that the other 29 teams would have received varying degrees of backlash.
And so two years later the Angels honor retiring Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with an on-field pregame painting presentation (and to digress just a bit, Jeter's painting was about a million times more sophisticated and better-painted) on Saturday. Fans are given a Rivera collectible certificate when they enter the stadium on Sunday. He might be the greatest closer in the history of the game but he is also a Yankee. This fact does not seem to bother Arte Moreno. It bothers Angels fans, and it probably even bugs some purist "fans of the game" a bit.
The irony is that a funny thing happened to Arte Moreno on his way to making his team the west coast version of the Yankees. He overspent on bloated contracts without building in a short Left Field porch to ease the offensive struggles of his senior citizen billionaire bats. The result: He has stuck Anaheim with the west coast version of the Mets. Except the crosstown rivals of the Yanks have the decency to not join the media's Yank-centric cheerleading. It is pretty sad when we can definitively say that Arte could learn about relating to his customer base by paying attention to the front office of the Mets.