Allow me to speak on behalf of the entire Page 2 staff.
Admittedly, through the years, we've been rough on the New York Yankees; in fact, some bloggers even call us "haters."
We're not going to deny that. In fact, Jim Caple once referred to the franchise as "the team spawned by a liaison between Hitler and the devil." The late Hunter S. Thompson once wrote that the Yankees "deserve a case of Legionnaire's disease." We've made fun of Don Zimmer's hemorrhoids, Zimmer's army helmet, Zimmer's beatdown from Pedro Martinez. We've rejoiced in their October flops, their bloated payrolls, Luis Gonzalez's single, Josh Beckett's shutout, Curt Schilling's bloody ankle and the stretch when they batted Tony Womack leadoff.
Heck, Eric Neel even once declared Derek Jeter "overrated."
But it's time to come clean: We are embracing the 2006 New York Yankees, this gritty, gutty, never-say-die collection of castoffs, rookies, has-beens and stiffs.
What other team could survive this onslaught of injuries: Hideki Matsui's fractured wrist, Gary Sheffield's torn ligament in his wrist, Shawn Chacon's bruised shin, Johnny Damon's broken bone in his foot, Mariano Rivera's bad back, Tanyon Sturtze's blown-out shoulder, Carl Pavano's bruised butt cheek. And now, Jeter's bruised thumb.
No team could; that is, except this group of Yankees -- a team that is in first place after whipping the hated Boston Red Sox again on Tuesday night. The collective heart of these Yankees must be bigger than the Empire State Building.
So, in admiration and praise of this team's hustle, toughness and desire, here are 10 Reasons We Are Adopting The Yankees As Page 2's Official MLB Team To Root For In 2006:
1. Jason Giambi's resurgence. Think of everything he has been through: the parasite, the tumor, the pressure of his contract, and, of course, the apology he had to make. But here he is, at 35, two years after hitting .208, and he's on pace for 49 home runs and 142 RBI. It's remarkable; most athletes would have packed it in, content to collect that $20 million salary, sit twice a week with a "sore neck" and not worry if they hit .246. But not the Giambino.
2. Scott Erickson. Here's another guy who could have packed it in, considering he hasn't been an effective pitcher since 1999. But he's grinding out innings in the Yankees bullpen and teaching his younger bullpen mates a thing or two about how to deal mentally with an ERA over 7.00.
3. They will not be intimidated. Take Monday night, for example: Facing Beckett, who memorably crushed them in the 2003 World Series while with the Marlins, it would have been easy to expect defeat, take their lumps and hit the town after the game. But not this team; the Yanks weren't scared in the least, pounding the Boston right-hander for seven runs in the second inning. How can you not admire that effort?
4. Without Sheffield and Matsui, the team must play a lineup that includes only five All-Star players. (Not including future All-Star Robinson Cano or former All-Star Bernie Williams.)
5. Andy Phillips. Who? Exactly. He's a 29-year-old veteran of the Triple-A wars; he's finally getting a chance to play; and he's producing numbers that would make Don Mattingly proud.
6. Speaking of Mattingly the Yankees obviously feed off their hitting coach, who undoubtedly inspires the troops with tales of how he played despite back pain that would have driven mere mortals into retirement or steroids use. How else do you explain Damon continuing to play -- and play hard -- despite the broken bone in his right big toe?
7. They never get down. For example, on May 26, they lost a 7-6 heartbreaker to the lowly Royals when they allowed three runs in the eighth inning. Did they let the loss bother them? No! They came out and beat the Royals 15-4 the next night! Then beat them again the next game.
8. Darrell Rasner, Matt Smith, Ron Villone, Mike Myers, Scott Proctor. Don't you think it's time we give this group of relievers a nickname? The Motley Crew? The Big Relief Machine? The No-Names? You get the idea. In the past, the Yankees have loaded up with $40 million worth of relief pitchers; just keep this group in mind when you automatically think the Yankees win just because they outspend everyone.
9. Alex Rodriguez continues to ignore the haters and produce MVP-caliber numbers. In case you missed it among all the anti-Alex venom, he is on pace for 39 home runs, 130 RBI and 145 runs scored. Not clutch? OK, sure, he's hitting .143 (4-for-28) in "late and close" situations, but he is hitting .421 against the Royals.
10. And, finally, we're rooting for the Yankees because well, people change. Maybe it's that simple. Angry people are unhappy people. We don't want to be unhappy anymore.
David Schoenfield is an editor for Page 2. Sound off to Page 2 here.