This morning I mocked Joel Sherman of the New York Post and others who talked up all of that “Berkman will never be able to hack it in New York” junk at the time of the trade. A close relative of that specious line of thinking is the little game in which New York columnists and radio people decide who is and who isn’t “a True Yankee.”
It was a meme that sprung up around the time the Yankees traded for A-Rod. He was better than Derek Jeter, you see, and the tabloid guys just love, love, love Derek Jeter, so they had to find a way to elevate Jeter and diminish Rodriguez. The “true Yankee” thing was great for that. It was so malleable! It could be about leadership. It could be about championships. It could be about character. Whenever there was a need to distinguish between heroes and villains on the Yankee roster, the designation of “true Yankee” did the trick.
I thought that all went away last year, but I guess not, because Sherman and the Post trotted it out again today for Lance Berkman. The headline: “Crucial hits make Berkman true member of Yankees.” Sherman:
Lance Berkman resided
in an interesting place as he came to bat in the fifth inning last
night. Technically, he was a Yankee. He had the uniform, drew a paycheck
signed by a Steinbrenner, enjoyed the company of a clubhouse saturated
with All-Stars. But even Berkman admitted he wasn’t really a Yankee.
I think that’s stretching it, by the way. He acknowledged that he wasn’t all that helpful down the stretch and that his teammates were the ones carrying the team to the playoffs. He said that he didn’t feel “part of the team” due to his lack of contributions. That’s reasonable. But that’s a different thing altogether, I’d argue, than admitting that he was not “a True Yankee” as that loaded phrase has come to be used. That there was some performance threshold that must be exceeded — in terms of numbers, clutchness, character and dramatics — before one can be a True Yankee.
Thankfully, however, none of that matters now:
spending the majority of his career as a play-against-everyone No. 3
hitter and first baseman for the Astros, Berkman has been relegated to a
platoon, eighth-place-batting DH — an accidental tourist on the world’s
most famous traveling team. Yet, he considers this heavenly
nevertheless . . . . the
homer and double last night were particularly sweet. They allowed him
to step inside the velvet rope and really join the Yankees.
While I’m tempted to ask whether Sherman realizes just how much of a self-parody this kind of thing has become, I won’t. Rather, I’ll congratulate him for finding a new use of the concept of “True Yankee.”
Rather than merely be deployed to keep someone out of the club, now it’s far more versatile: it’s a means of covering the writer’s butt when his original take on a guy (Player X can’t hack it in New York) proves inoperative and a new, slightly less-ridiculous take must be deployed.