Lost in the craze of college basketball championship games and Tiger Woods’ highly anticipated return to the Masters, a particular moment on the baseball diamond stole my attention this week.
The New York Yankees were up by a single run in the seventh inning of their home opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. Giancarlo Stanton — last year’s National League MVP, who New York acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins this past offseason – struck out swinging for the inning’s first out. The strikeout was Stanton’s fourth of the game.
Yankees fans were counting.
Suddenly, boos penetrated the wet, cold air in Yankee Stadium as fans vocalized their disappointment in the supposed star.
In the very next inning, Stanton had another chance to prove himself. This time, New York boasted a 9-4 lead. But when he struck out for a career-worst fifth time, the crowd lost sight of its quickly approaching victory and reprised its angry boos as Stanton returned to the dugout.
It was gleeful to watch.
Less than a week before, Stanton rocketed two home runs in his Yankees debut. And with a measly four-game sample size heading into the series against the Rays, his season batting average of .286 exceeded his career mark of .269.
But New York fans lacked any appreciation and were entirely unforgiving. That’s partly why the Yankees are one of the most hated franchises in American sports.
And I love it.
The more Yankees fans give us a reason to hate them and their team, the better it is for sports. The re-villainizing of New York after the years of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez might be the best thing that’s happened to professional baseball in a while.
We often forget that the green fields and hardwood floors are really just a stage. Every stage needs a story, and every good story needs a villain.
Having a team to root against is just as exciting as having a team to root for. Baseball is simply more fun when everybody hates the Yankees. With more reason to care, people will watch more games, hoping the three-headed slugging monster of Stanton, outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez will crumble miserably.
Yes, it’s still April and the marathon-and-a-half that is the MLB regular season has only just begun. Baseball will continue to swing in and out of the spotlight until the fall.
But while you may be watching the NBA playoffs or keeping up with offseason football, the Yankees will only be getting better, and their fans meaner. So when you do pay attention, they will be everything you want to hate and more.