The press does not cheer

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I was at the press conference at Citi Field on Monday when Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer were introduced as the All-Star starters. The conference was hosted by Brian Kenny. It took place in an area of Citi Field which, at the time, was restricted to press and baseball officials, so there were no fans there.

After introducing the pitchers and managers, Kenny — standing at a lectern in front of the assembled press, in a setup that is very much like some sort of dinner event with guest speakers or a Dean Martin celebrity roast or something — said “let’s hear it for Matt Harvey and Mac Scherzer.”

Dead silence.

Which was absolutely predictable, as “no cheering in the press box” and its corollary “no cheering by the press” is a Cardinal rule of baseball writers. Really: you cheer in the press box and you will likely be expelled. If not, you will certainly be mocked and shunned. It’s like a Klingon Discommendation ceremony. Even I, who often thinks of ways to be subversive in situations like that, would never mess with that rule. Not because I think it’s necessarily an important rule, but because it’s very, very clear how seriously everyone takes it and there are limits to how subversive I’ll be.

In the past couple of days, Kenny has taken to Twitter to talk about it some and he was joined in debate on the matter by Ken Rosenthal. Yesterday they took their debate to Kenny’s radio show on NBC Sports Radio, and it was some entertaining stuff:

For what it’s worth, I’m sympathetic to Kenny. I mean, sure, he misread his audience and never should have expected that he’d get a round of applause from them at a news conference. And I totally understand that the rule is never going to change. But it does strike me as kind of silly that there are no exceptions to it.

We’ve accepted, generally, that one can be a fan and retain their objectivity. Why can we not accept that one can appreciate an accomplishment or show some restrained respect in the form of applause without losing that objectivity too? I didn’t cheer for Harvey and Scherzer when Kenny asked us to, but I could see a situation in which I applauded while wearing my press pass. Someone finishes a 27 strikeout perfect game or something. I don’t know. But I could see it happening.

Would that mean I don’t take my job seriously? I’m sure many would think so. But my job is to talk about sports and sports can be pretty fun and inspiring sometimes. Do we want the press to be 100% immune to that? Or, worse, to not be immune to that but to pretend that they are?

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.