By Jared Max
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The Yankees remind me of comedian Seth Meyers after he began his late-night talk show one year ago. Every time I tuned in, his guest was a former “Saturday Night Live” cast mate.
“C’mon, Seth,” I kept saying to the television. “Ya gotta break free.”
Whenever we dive into a new venture, instinctually we seek comforts from our past to ease our transition. Our progress, though, can be slowed if we carry too much yesteryear into tomorrow.
This is what I think about when I drive past a New York Yankees billboard. Who will the Yankees showcase on the cover of their media guide this year? What will be the team’s marketing slogan?
“Living in the Past?”
Sepia tones are stylish but rarely sexy. Derek Jeter is retired. Jorge Posada, too.
Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui are long gone. Even Jason Giambi called it a career on Monday.
The Yankees’ three highest-paid players — Mark Teixiera, CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez — are no longer hot sellers. They are like Al Jolson albums — still getting pushed at full price; A-Rod, Tex and CC’s baggage fees account for one-third of the Yankees’ 2015 payroll.
Teixiera’s greatest hits are more classic rock than today’s pop. Sabathia has been out of tune for years. Rodriguez is like that guy who keeps getting kicked out of the band because he cannot stay clean.
So who are the faces of today’s Yankees? Masahiro Tanaka? Brett Gardner? Jacoby Ellsbury?
If I was in charge of marketing our most storied American sports franchise this year, I would throw a curveball. I would use a line from “Hoosiers,” one of my favorite sports movies. I would tell Yankees nation and the rest of the world, “I would hope you support us for who we are, not who we are not.”
I would relegate images of Ruth, Gehrig, Ford, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Jackson, Guidry, Mattingly and the Core Four to the back cover of the media guide. No faces, though. The backs of the Yankees legends would face front, a la Paul McCartney on the back cover of the Sgt. Pepper’s album. I would present this lonely hearts club for what it is, not what it was.
Like an old baseball adage which says one cannot hit a five-run home run, the Yankees need to recognize that glory is not rebuilt with one swing. It may take a few seasons before they know their identity. This is OK
Who was Derek Jeter in 1995? Posada? Pettitte? Rivera? 20 years ago they were all seeds from the Yankees’ farm, just beginning to sprout. There was no expectation that these players would become legendary.
Yankees fans should be excited about the future. This is a time to watch the next crop of greatness grow. Will Didi Gregorious be special? Might Nathan Eovaldi become the Yankees’ ace? Time will tell. This is not the time to open the oven door every five minutes. We need to let the ingredients bake. Unfortunately, though, I think this Yankee pot roast that is cooking might be last night’s leftovers.
Less than one week until spring training begins, the Yankees made their largest announcement of 2015 on Monday. They let us know that Pettitte, Posada and Bernie Williams will have their uniform numbers retired this year. Each will be honored with a plaque in Monument Park. Willie Randolph, too. This is wonderful news, but it is yesterday’s news.
I love classic rock, but I cannot listen to the Yankees play the same Boston and Bad Company songs again. They need to become more of a progressive college radio station. Once the storied franchise finds the comfort to shake its shadows, it can add new pages to its rich script.
Jared Max is a multi-award winning sportscaster. He hosted a No. 1 rated New York City sports talk show, “Maxed Out” — in addition to previously serving as longtime Sports Director at WCBS 880, where he currently anchors weekend sports. Follow and communicate with Jared on Twitter @jared_max.