Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bad Day for '90s Yankees Class Perception

The '90s Yankees, loved and hated as they were, were perceived to be classy around the league. They played the game the right way. A sacrifice fly in a key situation was valued as much as a big home run. They played the game with one goal: to win. So anything that devalues that perception of class and determination affects everyone's perception of that dynasty, and two new stories have emerged that threaten that glamor.

Much of the respect the organization received emanated from manager Joe Torre. He is seen in baseball as a player's manager, a calming presence that managed to shut down the sensationalism of the New York media market. But apparently Torre has forgotten that important part of his image and has opted to publish a tell-all book about his time with the Yankees. While the book isn't viewed as a smear campaign, he tells some hard secrets about Alex Rodriguez and vents about his relationship with General Manager Brian Cashman.

Apparently A-Fraud, as the book claims the Yankees called Rodriguez in the clubhouse, is unfazed by Torre's going public. I, on the other hand, am fazed. I am up and down on A-Rod myself, and frequently have referred to him as "Sally Girl" when he strikes out or grounds into a double play in a clutch situation, but that doesn't make it okay for his former manager to tear him a new one for trying to fit in in New York. The guy isn't Pacman Jones. He may be phony, and he may be sleeping with a woman almost twice his age who peaked in the 1980s and early '90s, but I never got the sense that he was a particularly bad guy.

This book should undermine Torre's credibility throughout the game, particularly with former Yankees players and his current Dodgers' roster. You don't want to be Jose Canseco, and this move feels more like something he would be more likely to do than Torre. Nobody likes a snitch, especially one who has built a reputation as a trustworthy authority figure. There was simply no reason for him to go "Deep Throat" on this issue.

As for the players, well Dwight Gooden and David Justice have both been accused by former Mets' clubhouse assistant and George Mitchell darling Kirk Radomski of taking steroids. They both have refuted his claims. I don't mean to cast doubt on either of them, and we should wait for more information before we assume anything, but it definitely has been the case that this type of accusation has usually turned out to be true so far.

"Doc" Gooden was the redemption story of the 1996 Yankees. He came back from a well-publicized addiction to crack cocaine to win 11 games for that World Series team. He pitched a no-hitter along the way. That Radomski claims to have taken urine tests for him is an upsetting blow. It isn't specified when this occurred, just that it was 1990s.

As for Justice, he was a midseason acquisition for the 2000 Yankees who carried the left-handed power hitting role for that team. He hit 41 home runs for Cleveland and the Yankees that season, on the way to 305 dingers for his career. And Radomski claims to have sold him steroids.

Justice was mentioned in the Mitchell Report. He claimed he received HGH from Brian McNamee, not knowing what it was, after McNamee told him it would help him recover from an injury. Once he saw that the drug was administered by needle, he claims, he could not do it. He admitted that he probably would have done it if it were a pill.

These new allegations by Radomski make that version of the story seem less credible. The fact that he claimed his transaction with Justice happened right after the 2000 World Series puts his whole season in doubt. No one likes to think that one of the Yankees' key players was juicing in a historic season that saw the Yankees beat the Mets in the Fall Classic.

The fact that Justice has popped up twice like this leads me to doubt his version of events. I feel a little more sympathy for Gooden because he has been so forthright about his addiction to crack. It seems to me that he has already owned up to his mistakes, and he may be more likely to be honest in this type of scenario. Either way, it hurts the reputation of the entire organization and that of the gritty teams that won four championships in five years to end the last decade.

Between this and Joe Torre's bush league, kick 'em where it hurts book, the '90s Yankees lost some luster today.

No comments:

Post a Comment