Fan Confidence Poll: October 18th, 2010

Record Last Week: 1-1 (8 RS, 12 RA) tied at one with the Rangers in best-of-seven ALCS
Season Record: 95-67 (859 RS, 693 RA, 98-64 Pythag. record), finished one game back in AL East, won Wild Card
Schedule This Week: ALCS Game Three (Mon. vs. Rangers), ALCS Game Four (Tues. vs. Rangers), ALCS Game Five (Weds. vs. Rangers), ALCS Game Six (Fri. @ Rangers, if necessary), ALCS Game Seven (Sat. @ Rangers, if necessary)

Top stories from last week:

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Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Winning the division in a roundabout way

Red Gatorade? The Cubs can have him! (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

As the Yankees stumbled through the final month of the season, going 13-17 with a .333 team wOBA and 4.56 team FIP, a division lead that once stood at four games vanished. Joe Girardi took perhaps more criticism than any manager of a playoff team in recent history, as fans and media alike chastised him for what they perceived to be mixed signals. Girardi claimed that he and his team still had their sights set on the division, but the actions often didn’t agree. Whether it was rest for regulars or yet another Chad Gaudin appearance, it just didn’t appear that winning the division was the priority.

In the end the Rays beat the Yanks out for the division, capturing the AL East by just one game on the final day of the season. Some were upset that New York failed to win the division for the second time in three years, others had accepted what seemed like an inevitable fate by then. Instead of starting the playoffs from the comfort of home against the Twins, they were forced to travel to Minnesota and start on the road. The Rays enjoyed some home cooking and had their opponent come to them.

Two weeks after the end of the regular of the season, none of that matters anymore. The Yankees crushed the Twins in the ALDS like the fat kid at the party eating the last piece of birthday cake, and the Rangers pushed the Rays to the limit before defeating them in five games, winning all three games at Tropicana Field. Winning the AL East didn’t hurt the Yanks any more than it helped the Rays. The first two games in the ALCS were then played in Texas, with the Yanks and Rangers winning one each.

So now here we are. After all the criticism and stress of September (and early October), the Yankees in the exact same position they would have been in if they’d won the division in the first place. They’re about to start a best-of-five series against the Rangers with home field advantage in their favor. The only difference is that the first team to win three games goes to the World Series rather than the ALCS. This is it, this is what everyone was rooting for when they wanted the Yanks to go all out to win the division. Everyone upset over settling for the Wild Card got what they wanted anyway, they just had to wait another week.

For a team like the Yankees, one that competes for the World Championship year after year, division titles are nothing more than window dressing. It’s nice in a “hey look at us” kind of way, but it’s just step one of the process. Instead of focusing on that goal, Girardi set his team up to be in the best possible position for the postseason, and so far it’s worked. They’ve won four of five playoff games despite playing just once at home, and everyone is as healthy and able to contribute as can be. For all the flack he took, there’s no arguing now that his moves last month were the right ones, Wild Card team or not.

No one remembers division titles, but they all remember World Championships.

ALCS secondary ticket prices on the decline

Our partners at TiqIQ comes an update on ALCS ticket prices. As the graph above shows, over the last five days, prices for the tickets at Yankee Stadium have gone down significantly.

I believe we’re seeing the impact of a long series coupled with what I call the A.J. Effect and the reality of a weekday day game. I’m surprised that the Cliff Lee/Andy Pettitte tickets are showing such a decline, but I know Yankee fans aren’t keen on seeing A.J. throw a pivotal Game 4. With Game 5’s 4:00 p.m. start time, too many fans with tickets can’t take off from work.

As always, we have plenty of seats at RAB Tickets. Check it out if you’re trying to get to the Stadium.

Open Thread: Back Home

He's going to his left, they must have given Derek a head start. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The end result of the first two games of the ALCS definitely favors the Yankees, though the starting pitching they received makes it feel like quite the opposite. For all intents and purposes, it’s a best-of-five series now, and the first three games will be played in Yankee Stadium. Regardless of who’s pitching when, that’s not a bad situation for the Yanks to be in at all.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. Game Two of the NLCS (Oswalt vs. Sanchez) starts at 8:00pm ET on FOX, and the late NFL game has the Colts at the Redskins (8:20pm, NBC). Talk about whatever, just be cool.

Freddy Schuman, long-time stadium stalwart, passes away

Freddy Sez takes a break during a trip around the new Yankee Stadium in 2009. Photo via flickr user storm2k.

Since 1988, Freddy Schuman, better known as Freddy Sez to Yankee fans, has traipsed around Yankee Stadium with his homemade signs urging on the Yanks to win. The familiar ping of a spoon hitting his pan fills the air, and as it grows louder, fans know that their chance to bang the pan is just around the corner.

Unfortunately, though, Freddy has made his last sign. The Daily News is reporting that Freddy has passed away today. Chuck Frantz, Schuman’s long-time friend, has conveyed the bad news to the paper and confirmed that Schuman suffered a heart attackthis afternoon.

Through thick and thin, Freddy came to the Yankee games at the old stadium in the Bronx. He would shuffle around the ballpark, and fans would stop to take pictures with Freddy. His pan and spoon are now in Cooperstown. “This is what keeps me going,” he said to Times reporter Manny Fernandez back in 2006. “This is why I’m doing it. Probably if I stopped, I’d probably be buried already.”

The 2006 piece is chock full of stories about Freddy. The Upper West Sider lost his eye in a stickball accident at age 9 and his teeth because he owned a candy store. The constant banging he endured as the holder of the pan left him hard of hearing, but he did it for love of the game. The Yanks even flew him out to Arizona for Game 7 of the 2001 World Series to serve as the team’s good luck charm. “If Freddy isn’t there with his pan,” Rudy Giuiliani once said, “it doesn’t feel right. It feels like there’s something missing.”

When the new stadium opened, Freddy at first had a tough time getting in, but the Yankees eventually found tickets for him. He hadn’t been as loud a presence at the new stadium, and his health, never strong in the first place, seemed to be failing him lately. He was 85 at the time of the his death.

After the jump, watch a short documentary on Freddy Sez from No Mas. [Read more…]

Yanks to stop homophobic crowd chants

A 1999 book by Dean Chadwin, called Those Damn Yankees: The Secret Life of America’s Greatest Franchise, introduced the world to the dark underbelly of Yankee fans at the height of the club’s late-1990s dynasty. Using the Yanks as his storytelling device, Chadwin explored the problems inherent in baseball economics, the way the team used its influence to secure the promise of a new stadium from then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and of course, the way Yankee fans are utterly ruthless in their taunting. For those who attend the games and follow the team, the short tome didn’t break new ground, but Chadwin’s writing highlighting some of the more uncomfortable aspects of Yankee Stadium.

As a highlight of the book, Chadwin goes inside the bleachers. Then holding court in Section 39, the Bleacher Creature at Yankee Stadium was — and still is — ruthless. Those who wear the colors of an opposing team into that section can be prepared for nine innings of taunts. One part, though, garnered headlines. Chadwin explored the homophobic nature of the taunts, and in the middle of the book, he republished the Creature’s version of Y.M.C.A. The chorus replaces the Village People’s line with “Why are you gay?” and the rest of the verse isn’t much better. It’s laid out on page 45 of the book for all to see.

When the book came out, the media focused a bit on this version of the song but eventually let the issue drop. Recently, though, with a rash of high-profile anti-gay incidents and a video from the bleachers on YouTube, the bleachers’ version of this song came under fire. Gay rights activists were up in arms over the song, and the Yankees quickly responded. Security guards, the team said, would no longer tolerate this version of the song.

GLAAD issued a statement on this little brouhaha. “We reached out to the Yankees, and were extremely pleased with their reaction. Yankees spokesperson Alice McGillion told us ‘the Yankees have zero tolerance for this and any kind of abuse.’ She said that security in the bleacher sections of the stadium will warn fans, before Y.M.C.A. is played, that any type of homophobic abuse ‘will not be tolerated’ and she assured us that any fans who take part in this ugly bullying will be ejected from the game.”

The Yanks’ decision to put an end to this practice is, in my opinion, about a decade too late, but while the club turned a blind eye to this practice, so too did anyone who covered the team. I’ve known about this chant for years and never wrote about it. Team beat writers or sports columnists could have chosen to attack this song instead of moralizing for the umpteenth time about steroids. But they didn’t. Homophobia has no place in sports, and while the Yanks should be applauded for vowing to stop it, albeit years too late, at their stadium, fans should not remain silent about it either.

Girardi: ‘We believe in A.J.’

When CC Sabathia lasted just four innings and threw only 93 pitches on Friday, many speculated that the Yanks would take advantage of this short outing to bring him back on three days’ rest and thus skip A.J. Burnett‘s scheduled start. Yanks’ manager Joe Girardi said today that A.J. Burnett would indeed be getting the ball for Tuesday’s Game 4 start. “I know its been a tough year for him, at times,” the skipper said. “But we believe in A.J.” The Yankees also said they believe in Santa Claus, leprechauns, the Easter Bunny, Big Foot, the Tooth Fairy and diet Dr. Pepper with no calories that tastes just as good as the original.

As Jack Curry noted, the Yanks’ decision to go with A.J. is more about the team’s unwillingness to use Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte on short rest. Considering Hughes’ innings limit and Pettitte’s fragility — he is just four starts removed from a two-month stint on the DL — the Yanks wanted to line up their pitchers to go on full rest. This move also speaks to one of the reasons why Phil Hughes threw yesterday’s game: The Yanks would prefer to line up Pettitte for a potential Game 7 with CC available in the pen. So Andy goes tomorrow, followed by A.J., followed by CC. And so it goes.