I know what it is to be hated. As a college student in Boston in the late '90s, I proudly, defiantly, often stupidly wore a Yankees cap almost every day while living literally across the street from Fenway Park.
All these years later, I'm still a Yankees fan, and I'm proud that my two daughters joyfully wave at Yankee Stadium whenever we pass it driving along the Major Deegan Expressway. The team has given me so many great memories shared with friends and loved ones, some no longer on this astral plane, that I'd never consider abandoning them altogether.
And yet, like the rest of baseball fandom, I increasingly hate the Yankees.
Personally, I've grown to hate them for their sustained contempt of the vast majority of their fanbase.
Last week, Yankees COO Lonn Trost confirmed what had long been suspected, that the team's decision to not allow paper tickets for admission to the Stadium is less about combatting fraud and more about keeping the plebes away from the elites. Never mind that one of the most embarrassing features of New Yankee Stadium (est. 2009) has been the pockmarked visage of empty seats behind home plate, the Yankees would rather keep the loudest and most passionate fans, who once made opposing players visiting Old Yankee Stadium tremble with fear, as far away from the action as possible, lest they sully the cushioned "Legends" seats with their subway seat-contaminated blue jeans.
Explaining the team's refusal to allow print-at-home tickets (commonly purchased below face value on the secondary market) in an interview on WFAN, Trost said:
The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It's not that we don't want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for their ticket and [another] fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it frustrates the purchaser of the full amount. [Trost]
Let me put it plainly: The person spending $1600 to sit behind home plate is a chump. The seat is not worth that much. If it were, the fan that scored the seat for a third of the price on Stubhub wouldn't be there. The Yankees built the new stadium before the 2008 financial meltdown and baseball's ultimate capitalists refuse to accept that the revenue projections they relied on back then have plainly failed. The "Legends" seats are simply not worth what the team is charging. It's called supply and demand, a concept apparently lost on the class of rich and entitled fans who Trost so fears will be "frustrated" by his/her fiscally irresponsible choice to buy a full-price ticket.
But Trost, the team's most vocal defender of the disgraceful physical barrier around the Legends seats known among real fans as "the moat," then went further, essentially admitting the team's real concern is that the fans smart enough to shop around for discounted tickets won't know how to comport themselves in seats a little closer to the playing field. "Quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that's a frustration to our existing fan base," he said.
Ever been bumped from a flight, only to win the lottery by getting a free First Class upgrade on the next flight? Ever had to endure the glares from a passenger who just knows from the way you wiped with your warm towelette that you just don't belong in the rarified air of the front of the plane? Trost feels that guy's pain.
From banning beer in the old stadium's bleachers to preventing fans who stick around during miserable rain delays from self-upgrading their seats, the Yankees class warrior posture toward the fans who pack the bleachers and grandstands every game is nothing new. What is new and shocking is how bad they have become at selling the brand to their own customers.
Yankees fans are used to an abusive but unbreakable relationship with ownership, but the whole tradeoff of the George Steinbrenner era was that you'd put up with all the awful tantrums and misbegotten trades of future stars for washed-up once-weres because he always invested his profits into the product. The Steinbrenner kids who inherited the team don't share The Boss' obsession with winning. Sure, the payroll is still high, but when you measure it against proportion of revenue, the Yankees are in the bottom half of the league.
I never minded being hated by other teams' fans for having an owner who made the personal investment in his team's success, but if the Steinbrenner progeny are more "committed" to keeping their mortifyingly embarrassing radio team of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman together than to putting out a winning team in 2016, and they're determined to keep loyal fans from getting favorable deals for good seats, you'll pardon me for parroting the familiar phrase "Yankees Suck."
Freddy Schuman (aka Freddy Sez) was Yankees fans' unofficial mascot for more than two decades. He would walk around the Stadium, nearly every game, with his corny but inspirational hand-painted signs and his shamrock-painted frying pan, which he'd encourage fans to bang on with a spoon. Freddy was such a sweet and earnest old man, as well as an organic phenomenon of fandom that even the Yankees couldn't figure out a way to monetize his presence. He was there with us through last place seasons and five World Series championships.
When Freddy died in 2010, the team paid a nice tribute to him on the video screen before a playoff game. But given Lonn Trost's recent comments, you have to wonder if the Yankees would let Freddy offer up his pan and spoon among the Legends seats today.
Anyone who would be bothered by a beautiful working class schlub like Freddy might think they know the proper way to act in a "premium location," but they sure as hell don't know how to act at a ballgame.