The New York Yankees head into 2023 as favorites to win the AL East and the second-biggest favorites to win the World Series. Yes, expectations are high for this team, but that’s nothing new. When a brand as iconic as the Yankees fails to meet its lofty season goals, fans get mad. Despite consistently being an above-average team, solid regular season win totals aren’t enough to satiate folks in the Bronx these days. No, those people, much like Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans, demand perfection in every aspect of the game, day in, and day out.
Rodón is aware of that — and likely endeared himself to the fanbase in an interview with NJ Advance Media’s Bob Klapisch.
In the interview, Rodón said, “The fans [in New York] want to win. They care. They care a lot.” He expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play for a fanbase that would hold him accountable when he plays poorly, unlike the teams he’s been on before. “Giants fans are invested, but not like in New York,” claimed Rodón. “Win or lose, you’re not going to get booed in San Francisco.
“There was just something about the Yankees,” he added.
The way Rodón frames this statement makes it sound like he’s calling Yankees’ fans a superior fanbase, and from the responses I’ve seen from Yankees fans online, the fans are proud to be thought of in such a light.
Here’s the thing though. I don’t blame them. The Yankees have a reputation for winning. They have a reputation for spending big. They have a reputation for winning by spending big. Spending big is supposed to lead to winning. If that doesn’t happen, I’d be pissed too. I’m not a Yankees fan, but the expectations that come with earning a huge contract will lead to a litany of jeers and boos no matter where you go.
Everyone knows the Oakland A’s don’t like to spend money. Well, there have been times when they’ve circumvented that expectation. The most notable example in recent memory came in 2009, when the A’s blew everyone’s mind by trading for Colorado slugger Matt Holliday. The A’s owed Holliday $13.5 million that year, the highest of anyone on their payroll and more than double the salary of the third-highest-paid player on the team.
Now, if you think back on Holliday’s short time in Oakland, most people consider it a failure. People say he “struggled mightily” with the A’s. He couldn’t figure out what was wrong with his swing. He wasn’t living up to his salary. Now, with those statements in mind, what do you think Holliday’s numbers with the A’s were? How horrendous could they possibly be?
The truth is, they weren’t. Sure, they weren’t the numbers that Holliday had become known for but in 93 games with Oakland, Holliday still smashed eleven home runs, drove in 54 runs, and had a triple-slash of .286/.378/.454, good for a .831 OPS and 120 OPS-plus. In a ballpark as spacious as Oakland’s, those are all very solid numbers. For the entirety of the 2009 season, Holliday still finished tied for fourth on the A’s in WAR for the season, tied for third in home runs, and led the team in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. He was definitely more successful in Oakland than people realize.
Fans in San Fran are passionate, too
For Rodón to say the fans in San Francisco weren’t as invested as he wanted seems a bit disrespectful. Sure, the Giants had just come off a 107-win season, posting the best record in all of MLB, but even the most diehard Giants’ fans were aware that season was magic, and most likely wouldn’t be repeated, especially with the absence of Buster Posey and Kevin Gausman as well as injuries to guys like Anthony DeSclafani. Also, no one expected Brandon Crawford to repeat his career 2021 season at the age of 34.
Sure, Rodón was being paid the most of any player on the team, but he not only reached the expectations he carried, but exceeded them, finishing sixth in NL Cy Young voting. Yeah, the team may not have reached 100 wins again, but why would you expect them to boo you for doing a damn good job on the mound?
Concerning his time in San Francisco, retired southpaw Barry Zito wrote in his book “In the bad games, I was booed much more aggressively than even during my worst games in Oakland. Although I had some great years across the Bay, I had zero credibility with San Francisco fans and had to earn every cheer.”
This was before the Giants had won any of their post-2000 World Series titles. The reputation for winning was not there yet, and still, the expectations and price attached to Zito led to a much greater reaction from Giants’ fans. And that’s to be expected. Even Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow admitted that Rodón’s comments were partially true, claiming that while East coast teams treat their players like children, San Francisco treats them like grandchildren. That doesn’t mean the love and investment aren’t there, it’s just offered in a different way, and I wholeheartedly believe money spent plays a big role in that.
Let me put it this way. If you’re running a company, are you going to be more upset about the small section of said company that isn’t performing at the level you like, or the big section you just dumped a bunch of money into that is now costing you thousands of dollars? Odds are, the latter. The more you invest in something, the deeper your reality is ingrained in it, and nobody likes investing more in their team than the New York Yankees (historically speaking; the Mets have taken hold of that distinction recently).
Yes, Rodón, Yankees fans are going to be more invested in your success than Giants fans were. This fandom expects to win and they haven’t done so in years. They’re angry, and you’re supposed to be the guy to push them over the edge. Even though they’re expected to win the AL East, that won’t be good enough. Unlike in San Francisco, where you were only supposed to replace Gausman, you are now expected to be worth the money the Yankees gave you — aka the fourth-most for any American League pitcher, and one of the three ahead of you is Shohei Ohtani. Obviously, fans are going to be more invested. Don’t pretend the money and reputation aren’t the reasons why.