Tuesday, August 5

The word on the street from NYC...

A part of being a member of Red Sox Nation is being overly concerned with what the Yankees are up to and what they think about the Red Sox. With that in mind, I reached out to a friend of mine for over 20 years. Joe is someone who lives, eats, sleeps and stresses about the Red Sox just like me, but does so right in the middle of Manhattan, true enemy territory. That said; let’s see what he had to say about the current tone in NYC…

ITM: Joe, first things first, how do you feel about the Manny trade and more importantly (no offense), what do people in New York seem to think about it?

NY Joe: Strangely enough, I've gotten a lot of thoughtful, sympathetic responses from New Yorkers on it. Not to start off on the wrong foot with this blog by being generous with Yankees fans, but on a certain level, they understand the Sox and their players in a way that not a lot of people outside Red Sox Nation do. Manny is on one of those levels. This is my basic theory in analogy form --- Manny: ballplayers :: George Steinbrenner (and maybe soon enough Hank; and, speaking of, let's throw in Dolan) : owners. Meaning that Yankees fans know what it feels like to be subject to the whimsy of irrational lunacy, the joy and the pain of that kind of crap. And they understand that at a certain point, no matter what the upside, you'd love to be done with it for a while. You'd like to feel confident that your cleanup hitter isn't going to quit on you. You'd also like to feel confident that not winning the World Series isn't going to mean that one of the best coaches in baseball gets sacked. But, you just have to roll with the punches on these types.
Anyway, most New Yorkers I've talked to on the subject say the same thing that the Boston media is saying (note, I say the Boston media, since I think there's a real divergence between the coverage of the Manny situation coming out of Boston and that coming out of Bristol, even if they might both technically be in New England): they're saying it's too bad Manny made the Sox do it. Yankees fans are happy he's out of the AL East for now, they're happy they won't be facing him later in the season, but they also don't talk as though they would have done otherwise in the Sox position. Also, they're pretty sure Manny's gonna be hitting DH for them next year. But we can talk more about that another time.

ITM: Since you’re in Manhattan and neither the Bronx nor Queens, are the Yankees still the big brother team in NYC? Does anyone even care about the Mets?

NY Joe: I was just thinking about this today. In some ways, there's a big shift from last summer on this. Last summer, right up until the tank, there was obviously a lot of Mets talk, and this year, there's really almost no buzz that I can detect. I will say, though, that even last year when the Mets were hot, a ticket to a Mets game was never, never a tough score. Even in the middle of a great run and what looked like a sure-fire division crown, I felt I could call around the office on any given night and score a Mets ticket from someone. That was a real novelty to somebody who grew up with the Sox.
Yet despite all that, I'd say that more of the people I meet here in New York who are about our age are Mets fans rather than Yankees fans. I don't really know quite how to explain that, but it's been borne out time and again for me. Maybe it has something to do with coming of age during the Yankees most recent glory days. I mean, I can see how Paul O'Neill would have turned off an angsty teenager doing whatever it is kids in the last throes of puberty do in New York. I'm thinking they must huff glue, right? Because I never actually heard of anyone doing that, but I remember at the end of middle-school it being a huge concern in the health curriculum, so it must have been a big problem in some well-populated area. Anyway, no one wants to huff and talk about Paul O'Neill. That's a fact.
Also vaguely on topic, I was talking with a Yankees fan from Washington Heights the other day about the New York teams generally and he was thinking out loud that the Mets didn't go far enough in marketing themselves as the Latin alternative for New Yorkers. It looked for a while that they were really going to craft that image. You saw a ton of Spanish advertising for the Mets on the subway that you didn't see for the Yankess. Jose Reyes connected to that community here in a big way. But in the last year or so the team seems to have gone with this angle a bit less, I think. I imagine part of it is the David Wright phenomenon. He's maybe taken over the team image in a way that people didn't see coming. But who knows how to explain it, or whether it's just something we made up?

ITM: If you’re Tito, who do you go with right now, a struggling Jacoby, or the light-hitting Coco?

NY Joe: I stick with Jacoby and try to get him back on track. His ceiling is just higher to me. And by that I'm not referring to the skill set. I mean Jacoby, for all his struggles this season, showed last season a penchant for the clutch and the desire to be up at bat when it counts. Maybe Coco has it, too, but I haven't seen it. I'm a little worried in this regard that Jacoby's looking so much to the bunt to get himself back on track. I'd love to see him develop that, but I also don't want to him lose that Pedroia-strut he had in the playoffs last year. That's something that a guy either has or he doesn't, and if he has it, I'm gonna take him nine times out of ten, even if he looks like he's in a rough patch.

ITM: Given the Yanks made some moves at the trade deadline, is there renewed optimism that the Yanks can pull of winning the division?

NY Joe: As of this week there is. The explosion that Nady set off has got the papers reeling this week. When the deadline first came, though, all the talk I saw was about Pudge. I was surprised at just how little talk there was about Nady and Marte. Yanks fans I talked to about it spoke like it was just a clever chess move from Cashman: they appreciated it in an aesthetic way --- like I might think something you pulled off in GM Function for MLB 2K8 was quite a coup, but we were just messing around to see what trades we could make and not intending to actually play the teams or anything. Does that make sense? That's the way Nady and Marte were talked about, I thought, until this week.
But the Pudge trade they got all worked up about. I just didn't see it. I still don't. I liked Molina a lot, and it didn't seem to me that what the team was really lacking was pop in the bottom of their lineup (or that Pudge necessarily is going to bring that for them). In fact, I never hear anyone worried about their lineup, just the pitching. But for some reason Pudge seemed to fill this big hole they never knew they had. To me, for handling pitchers and general defense, I'd have preferred Molina. I'm gonna get called a pansy for this reference, but there's a great old Irving Berlin song that Nina Simone used to do called This Year's Kisses. The refrain goes: "This year's crop of kisses is not for me, 'cause I'm still wearing last year's love." For all the talk of renewed focus on the farm system (and granted Cashman himself has done a good job focusing on it), Yankees fans in my opinion can't stop falling in love with last year's All-Stars.

(ITM note: Yes you are indeed a pansy for that comment….)

ITM: Are people in NYC more concerned about the Sox or the Rays? (Can you believe we’re actually talking about the Rays right now? Next thing we know I’ll be blogging about Rocco Baldeli)

NY Joe: This could be the fact that most fans I talk to know me as the Sox fan in the building or the office or whatever, but I haven't heard much concern about the Rays this season. Still. That could change, since I think the Yanks have three series left against the Rays, but so far most of the anxiety in the AL East seems focused on the Sox.
That said, the biggest source of anxiety is the Angels. Just like it probably is in Boston right now. There's a sense amongst Yankees fans that their team's gonna make it into the playoffs one way or another (and I agree there). So the AL East seems almost like a formality, though that's not to say they necessarily think they'll win. They just assume the play-offs and worry from there. And just like Boston, they're seeing the Angels as a pretty gruesome team right now and want no part of it. Fortunately, they had them this past weekend and go out to LA for another round next weekend. So hopefully those fears will prove well-founded.

ITM: What are the best “Red Sox Bars” in the city?

NY Joe:
That's good to ask in case anyone's coming through NYC, because I've found a lot of supposed Boston hang-outs that in fact focus on one sport or another. Meaning I've planted my sorry ass in a bar stool and ordered my beer before finding out that the bartender doesn't actually know what MLB extra innings is and only puts the Sox games on when Steve Phillips and Orel Hersheiser are broadcasting it. So I'd recommend calling ahead wherever you go to be sure.
Riviera Cafe on W. 4th in the village is pretty good for the Sox, but for the Patriots or Celtics, you often have to ask for one of the screens to go on the game, and I wouldn't expect it to be the one with sound. That said, they do usually have the games available somehow. Lion's Head up near Columbia is supposedly a burgeoning Sox hang-out, but I'm not buying it at all. So unless for some reason you're that far uptown, I wouldn't bother making the trip. Hairy Monk was legit Sox last time I was there. They even had some Sox gear on the walls, so points for bravery in that respect. But it's in Murray Hill, so be prepared to rub shoulders with a lot of guys in their mid-twenties who you realized, the second you got out of school, you never wanted to run into again in your life. I haven't been, but I've heard Pat O'Brien's on the Upper East Side is pretty dedicated to all sports Boston. If at all possible, I'd avoid ESPN zone or one of those places for baseball season. It can be fun once in a while during football season, but it doesn't give you the kind of calm you need for baseball, not by a long shot.

ITM: Last question, and possibly the most important: Heidi Watney or Katheryn Tappan?

NY Joe:
Neither. You know I don't go for that all-American look. I had a peculiar reaction to growing up in Mass around all that pale skin and freckles. I just can't take it. So I'm gonna say Hazel Mae, for better or worse.

(ITM note: Going to have to completely disagree with you there Joe…I’ll take Heidi Watney 8 days a week.)

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Solid interview, could have used some more foucs on the acqusisition of Jason Bay; I'd consider myself gay for Bay.

Looking forward to the first podcast in fall 2008.

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