Following up on our recent interview with TYU, I'm pleased to present another chat with a Yankee blog that has very quickly become one of my favorites.
It's no secret that there are a ridiculous amount of people who almost inexplicably spend a good portion of their spare time writing daily about the Yankees for free. However, there are only a handful of essential Yankee blogs, and I'm pleased to announce that Yankeeist's latest interview is with two of the guys who truly get it: Jay Gargiulo and Matt Bouffard from Fack Youk.
I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I didn't start reading Fack Youk regularly until I conducted my interview with RAB and Joe Pawlikowski mentioned it as one of his top destinations. Thankfully I hopped on the FY train soon after that, and it quickly became one of my top go-to daily blogs for Yankee content and analysis. Given that I now read the site religiously, this felt as good a time as any for some hard-hitting questions with the guys with arguably the best blog name in the business.
For previous Yankeeist interviews with Yankee bloggers, please click on the following: Bronx Banter, RLYW, River Ave. Blues, Was Watching and NoMaas.
Yankeeist: What compelled you to start writing about the Yankees on the internet, what was the date of your first-ever blog post and what was it about?
Jay Gargiulo: I think it was the desire to be to heard. I spent about two years reading a huge volume of sports blogs and listening to ESPN radio and there is only so much you can take before you want to spit some of it back out. I didn't want to call into 1050 and wait for an hour for 30 seconds of air time and get cut off by the host. I'd get frustrated when I left a comment on someone else's blog but get no response. I talked plenty of sports with my co-workers and friends and felt like I was making good points, but I wanted a bigger platform. I felt like I had enough original ideas and opinions to start my own blog, and I eventually reserved the domiain name on Blogspot.
The first post on Fack Youk was about who to root for when the Rays played the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS but another two and a half months passed before I wrote anything else. The piece that really kickstarted the blog was this one about Mark Teixeira signing on Chirstmas Day, 2008. I talked about the inspiration for that in-depth here, but the short and long of it is that the move blindsided me and I had a lot of thoughts running around in my head. I found some inspiration on my Google Reader while stuck in standstill traffic on the Palisades Parkway, finally decided to dive headfirst into Blogger and pretty much haven't looked back since.
Matt Bouffard: The simplest answer is that I started because I was asked. Of course, I was subtly angling for an invite to write at both places I've contributed. The bigger answer is that Yankee baseball is my biggest diversionary pastime, I really enjoy writing, and I was looking for an outlet to discuss the team that went beyond just talking with my family and friends.
I started out writing at Dugout Central in early 2008. Much like how I joined up at Fack Youk, I made a bit of a nuisance of myself leaving lengthy comments, so they asked me to contribute. The first things I did there were a review of the Yankees' non-roster Spring Training invitees and a review of the biggest snubs in the 2008 Hall of Fame voting, the latter of which I sort of repeated earlier this year when writing about why Tim Raines should be in the Hall. It appears that all my DC contributions were eaten by the Internet when they switched servers last year, which is fine by me, since I spent my time making predictions like "Morgan Ensberg will be a useful bench piece" and "Ian Kennedy will be the biggest contributor of the young Yankee pitchers in 2008."
I contributed at DC fairly regularly for about four months or so. They had a content sharing agreement with the YES Network website at the time, so a few things I authored wound up there, which was really cool. Then after awhile I just sort of burned out on it. There were a few things about the set up there that I didn't feel were a good match for me, I was really busy launching a new product at my job, and I was in the process of buying a house, so something had to give. Since I was on my way out of my mother's basement it made sense that blogging would be the thing to go.
Last year I started getting the itch to write again. I had no idea how to set up my own site, at least not one that wouldn't look like it was designed by a second grader, and I had neither the know-how nor the inclination to grow an audience from zero. I came across Fack Youk in the early part of 2009, and I really liked what was going on there. It was a good match for me: Yankee-centric, lots of music, some tongue-in-cheek type stuff. I started commenting a bunch and trading e-mails with Jay and he asked me to join up just about a year ago. My first post at Fack Youk was a story about a face-to-face encounter I had with our blog's namesake.
Yankeeist: Though the two of you are the primary authors of the site these days, your sidebar shows three “original crew” members. How did Fack Youk come about and were there initially five writers in the very beginning? Did you guys start out at individual blogs, or has Fack Youk been a joint venture for its entire existence? What made you decide you wanted to collaborate on a Yankee blog? How do you guys feel about now having only two contributors?
JG: In the very beginning, I sent out an e-mail to five or six or my friends, telling them that I was going to start a blog and asking them if they wanted to contribute. Two of them -- Joe and Will -- got on board right away and my buddy Brendan (who is a Red Sox fan) hopped on about two weeks into it. Cliff, who is also listed, wrote a few posts but has mostly helped with the behind-the-scenes stuff like Google Analytics and still sends me links to interesting posts.
Those guys eventually burned out or just couldn't find the time and by April of last year, I was the only one still writing on a daily basis.
Matt didn't come around until May of '09. He used to leave really excellent comments on the site prior to that and one day I pulled one of them out and made it into a post. He sent me an e-mail to thank me, and a few weeks later, I e-mailed him and asked if he'd be interested in contributing to the site. Ever since then, it's been the two of us creating almost all of the content.
MB: As Jay said, I wasn't there from the start. But as I mentioned above, I had been reading for quite awhile and I had been looking for a new place, and I had a feeling that FY was a good match for me. And it has been. We work really well together and Jay's given me the latitude to go a bit off the map when I get the inclination, whether it's about music, college football, hockey, or more ramblings about my alma mater.
In general, I think our two-man crew works really well. In season we have no problems producing a level of content with which we're comfortable. I think we both found it difficult to keep things moving through the off-season, at least at the level of quality and consistency that we wanted, but I'm fairly certain that would have been a challenge whether it was two of us or 20 of us.
Yankeeist: Your frequency of posting is impressive – I know of few other sites that post their game recaps as quickly as you do, which is part of the reason why you’ve become one of my favorite Yankee blogs during the last few months. As adults with lives outside of the Yankees as well as (presumably) other responsibilities, how/where do you find the time to post so quickly after each game while still providing such comprehensive coverage?
MB: The recaps this year have been all Jay. Truth be told, I'm having a bit of difficulty adjusting to our new format. Part of that is because we run different versions of Office so the WPA template isn't compatible on my laptop, and part of it is because the idea of a narrative recap is so deeply ingrained in my brain. But I'm upgrading, and I'm hoping I can help share the burden over the remainder of the season.
Sometimes it is a challenge to find the time, but it's a labor of love. I really enjoy what we do with the site, I'm proud of the readership we've established, and I've become acquainted with many of the other outstanding Yankee bloggers through this whole process. So I make time to do it. I'm the opposite of Jay on this one though. He's the early bird; I'm the night owl. I'll turn out a post or two between the time I get home from work and game time, or sometimes I'll author one or two after the game and line them up for the next morning. And occasionally, I'll sneak one in over the course of the work day; just don't tell my boss.
JG: The key to the quick game recaps is that I've gotten in the habit of typing them up while I'm watching. I used to hate the idea of doing that because it felt like a nuisance, but I've gotten good at writing in between pitches or during commercial breaks and have found that I pay closer attention when I'm trying to spit it back out it as it happens. Our recaps don't rely on a narrative or any sort of a storyline hook, so we don't need to wait until the game is over to figure out what we're going to say. We just summarize the innings where runs were scored (or almost scored), add a bunch of miscellaneous notes at the bottom and create a WPA chart - which only takes about 5 minutes now that the template is created.
As far as finding time, I get up early to write almost every weekday and devote whatever free moments that pop up throughout the day to knocking down the unread count on my Google Reader and trying to find ideas for posts. It soaks up a ton of my waking hours, but I find it really rewarding and enjoyable.
Yankeeist: Tell us a little about where the blog name came from. Were there ever any other potential names in serious consideration?
JG: I came up with the name a few months before I wrote the first post on it. I was reading one of Drew Magary's "Tommy from Quinzee" posts on Kissing Suzy Kolber, and the character is constantly dropping F-bombs. Drew writes out the Boston accent phonetically and spells it "Fack." I don't know if it was while I was reading the post or shortly thereafter but "Fack Youk" just sort of popped into my head and stuck there. No one likes Youk, least of all Yankee fans, so I thought it would be an appropriate rallying point. Additionally, it seemed like the sort of name that would get more attention than "The Pinstripe Post", which was the only other one I ever thought of that was decent and not taken (at the time).
Yankeeist: How do you decide who is going to write what on any given day? Is there a schedule as far as who writes the game preview, game post, etc.? Do either of you have a particular preference as far as what types of pieces you enjoy doing the most?
JG: We go back and forth on GChat to figure out how the schedule is going to shake out. We try to get a post up at about 9:00 every morning and post the preview two or so hours before game time. I've been doing the recaps and Matt has the roster transactions covered, but beyond that it just depends on the day.
I've really started to enjoy putting together linkarounds this year. There are always things that I read elsewhere and find interesting but can't flesh out into a full post, so I get the chance to share some quick thoughts on them and try to make some jokes.
MB: Jay and I are in contact several times over the course of the day, so we get a good idea of what the other is thinking in relation to what's going on in Yankeedom. Our Google Reader feeds are constantly pushing new information to us, and often times inspiration for a new post comes from expounding upon something we read elsewhere. For the previews we'll brainstorm, trying to find a song that fits with a certain storyline for that game, or other times trying to find a storyline that fits for a certain song. I think we both keep some mental notes as to what songs might work for certain pitching match ups, or games against certain teams, or what have you.
One of my favorite types of posts to author are the historical pieces. I have a pretty good grasp on the history of the franchise; I've read countless books through the years from the Ruth and Gehrig days, through the DiMaggio years, the Stengel dynasty, the Bronx Zoo, etc. I like history in general, and I think there's a pretty significant portion of the fanbase that's aware that the Yankees have an illustrious history, but might not know the specifics of much that happened before 1996 or so. So if we can do something the sheds a little light on some of the lesser known corners of Yankee history, I find that pretty gratifying.
Yankeeist: You guys are known for, among other things, your music-themed game previews – what made you start this tradition?
JG: After the Yankees started out 0-2 last season, the Allman Brothers had just wrapped up their 40th Anniversay run at the Beacon Theater and thought that "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" really captured the sense that it was time for them to win a game. I didn't really intend for it to be a template for our previews right then, but I realized soon after that it was something cool and unique that I could get in the habit of doing. The previews were pretty bare-bones back then, but now we've started to get deeper into the pitching match-ups, list the lineups, develop the theme and add some background on the song. Sometimes it's really tough to find a song to pair with a storyline leading into the game but we always manage to find a common ground, even it it's a little flimsy.
MB: This was already in place when I came aboard, but it's one of the things that drew me to the site. Outside of baseball, or sports in general, music is probably my biggest pastime. The format can be challenging at times, sometimes the connections between the game and the song are very tenuous. But a lot of the music that both of us are into is somewhat under the radar, if not completely off the map. I doubt anyone comes to the site for the tunes rather than the baseball, but if we can turn a few people on to a lesser-known band that one of us thinks is pretty good, I think that's a good thing.
Yankeeist: Another big reason why I greatly enjoy your work is how level-headed you generally are on a day-to-day basis. While it’s easy for Yankee fans to get worked up – and as I wrote two weeks ago, near-impossible to completely remove emotions from the equation when rabidly following a baseball team 365 days a year – your even-handed tone makes for a satisfying reading experience. How do you guys manage to stay so rational in your recaps and analysis?
JG: I spent about three years playing online poker almost every day (about a year of doing it for a "living") before I started blogging and the one thing that really stuck with me from that experience was that it's important to do objective, rational analysis. Your gut instincts will often lie to you and when your decisions are directly tied to your rent money, you have to learn to be disciplined and honest with yourself about what's going on. There is a movement in poker very similar to the sabermetic one in baseball that uses game theory to find the optimal course of action given what you know about the situation you're in. Game theory is relatively cut and dry in poker when compared to baseball, where there are infinitely more variables and shades of gray, but the same principles apply.
My professional background is in market research and the writing and analysis involved with that has little to do with opinion and almost everything to do with trying to interpret the data without preconceptions or bias. You have to use intuition to find important trends in the numbers but there isn't much room for subjective opinions.
I used to believe more in curses and guys just being clutch and the like, but I've come not just to understand probability and statistics but view the world through that prism. It helps you view a single game in the context of a long season and not ride the wave of every up and down and think that you are seeing trends develop.
MB: The baseball season is too damn long to get too worked up over any one pitch, play, inning, game, or series. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And as much as any one of us would love to see the Yankees go 162-0 each year, it's just not going to happen. Every team is going to win fifty-five and lose fifty-five. It's what they do with the remaining fifty-two games that separates the good teams from the bad ones. It's a sport built on failure. Even the very best hitters are still going to make outs in 55% of their plate appearances. Even though it's an imperfect metric, the best starting pitchers would be lucky to a get a "W" in two-thirds of their starts. Frustrating stuff is going to happen over the course of the season. It's the nature of the game.
Part of what's drawn me to blogosphere is that there's far too much idiocy in traditional media. I can turn on the FAN or ESPN Radio at any point in the day and listen to some moron screaming out into the ether. The Post and the Daily News are tabloids, they love controversy, they love to stir the pot, they love to create a panic out of the smallest things. People like John Sterling, Michael Kay, and Mike Francesa are supposedly professional sports journalists, but I find Kay anything but professional, I avoid Sterling unless it's absolutely necessary to listen to him, and I haven't listened to more than three minutes of Francesa since I don't know when. If you look in the right spots on the web, you can find some real thoughtful, level-headed, rational analysis. And that's what I prefer to consume.
As Yankee fans, we've been pretty well spoiled in the last decade and a half. I understand the whole "Steinbrenner Doctrine" of World Series or bust. It's a reasonable expectation given the franchise's resources, but it's a recipe for disappointment a lot of the time. We pine for baseball all winter, we follow the hot stove, we hang on every update through a month and half of spring training, and the team is a daily three-hour diversion for six straight months. If we're lucky we get to watch them in the postseason. I get a lot of entertainment out of following the Yankees all year long, and while it's disappointing when they're not holding the trophy after the season's final game, I can't bring myself to flush my memories of any given season if it doesn't end in a championship.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Joe Torre. It was probably time for him to go when he left, maybe even past time, but I still have a bad taste in my mouth over how it all went down. One thing he said on his way out the door that's stuck with me, is that the greater the expectation grew to win each year, and the longer they went without winning, adding a sense of desperation to that expectation - it sort of sucked the fun out of everything good that did happen. To me, there were a lot of things to like about the '04 - '07 teams. There were a lot of things not to like too, but I enjoyed watching those teams overall. Most fans of other teams would have loved their clubs to have attained the success those squads did. We shouldn't go throwing the baby out with the bathwater just because the team didn't win it all. So I try to keep things like that in mind over the course of the season. There's a lot to be said for Ben Kabak's Zen Baseball theory.
Yankeeist: Fack Youk’s been in Javy Vazquez’s corner since the Yanks reacquired him, authoring thorough analysis of what Yankee fans might reasonably expect from Vazquez. Through his first five outings he'd been mostly dreadful, although he seems to have made some adjustments to his approach last week in Detroit, resulting in his first quality start of the year. What should we expect from Vazquez going forward, and can Yankee fans count on Vazquez to be an important part of the rotation/potential playoff picture for the remainder of 2010?
MB: I'm afraid to say anything more about Vazquez. We've spilled a lot of digital ink in support of him, and I'm still convinced he's going to make valuable contributions to this club over the course of 2010. There's nothing I can say to defend his first five starts. They weren't pretty. I think his defense betrayed him on a couple of occasions and I think one or two of his outings weren't quite as bad as they've been made out to be. But none of them were good, there's no denying that.
To me, what it boils down to is this: why were those starts poor? Was it because he was having mechanical issues? Was it because it's early in the season and he's still finding his feet? Was it just a five start sample about which we should all just calm down? Or was it because Javier Vazquez is some sort of weak-gutted choke artist who can't handle New York? The first three theories seem plausible to me; I steadfastly refuse to believe the fourth. I love New York; I think it's the greatest city in the world. I love the Yankees, and I concede that the spotlight is brighter on them than it is on anyone else. But I think this magic pixie dust bullshit about being cut out for the Yankees is way overblown.
And I think it's also tremendously conceited and self-important on the part of fans who think that they're entitled to some sort of special breed of athlete on their teams, or that it takes something intangible to be successful here. The whole "if I can make it there I'll make it anywhere" line that gets beaten into our heads after every game. I just don't think it's true, or that if it is, it's not nearly as big as so many make it out to be. Javier Vazquez is a good pitcher. He has a 12-year track record of being an average to above-average pitcher. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball last year. I don't expect him to replicate those numbers this year and I do expect his numbers to dip switching from the NL to the AL. But to think that his entire body of work goes out the window because he's in the "concrete jungle where dreams are made of" is ridiculous. This isn't a Sinatra song, this isn't a Jay-Z song. It's just baseball, and Javy will do alright. What this is really about is a vocal segment of fans harboring resentment over shit that happened six years ago. And this is why people can't stand Yankee fans.
Yankeeist: What are your ultimate goals with Fack Youk? Can you foresee a time when you might be able to make a living writing about the Yankees in some capacity?
MB: I love doing what we do, it's a great outlet. But for me, it's a hobby. I'm fairly well entrenched in my career and I'm happy making my living doing what I'm doing. The thought of parlaying my affection for baseball and the Yankees into a bread-winning situation is appealing, but it isn't very realistic. Even if the opportunity were to present itself, at this point in my life I'm not too keen on the idea of starting a new career wholly unrelated to what I've spent the past eight years doing. And I have concerns that if something baseball-related were ever to become my job that it would lose a lot of its appeal.
For me, I'm content to just keep building our readership. I'm proud of what we've done over the past year-plus. I still get a kick out of it when we get a link from another Yankee blog, or when someone submits one of our posts to BBTF, or when a general baseball site or another team's blog picks something of ours up. I don't think we've maximized what we can do with Fack Youk just yet. So I guess my loftiest aspiration is to continue to grow the site.
JG: I'd be lying if I said that I didn't want to parlay what we've done on the blog into something that earns me more money than the couple of ads we've placed on the sidebar, but there just aren't very many spots to ascend to that pay to cover the Yankees. Jobs for columnists and beat writers are disappearing, not being created.
Unlike Matt, I don't have a career I'm committed to and I would love to make a living by writing -- be it about baseball or something else I find interesting. But I don't have a clear vision of what kind of a place would hire some asshole with no credentials like myself when I'm not going to bring tens of thousands of people along with me. Growing a massive audience is the surest way to write for a living on the interwebz and with a niche blog like ours, that's probably not possible. I've come close to landing some freelance pieces that would pay cash money, so realistically, I think I could at least make a few extra bucks on the side.
Yankeeist: Do you think you’ll ever add additional contributors, or will Fack Youk remain a two-man operation for the foreseeable future?
JG: We recently added Jason Kozwolski, formerly of Heartland Pinstripes to help out with recaps from time to time, but I think it will be a two man operation, more or less, for the foreseeable future. Matt and I are very like-minded in a lot of ways and I think that helps with the cohesion of the content on the site. I'm sort of a small tent guy in general. I don't think adding more authors and content to a blog is a good idea unless you can maintain the same level of quality throughout. Some people play the pageview game and believe that more content is always better but I prefer a site that has a high batting average on balls in play, if you will.
Yankeeist: What Yankee and/or baseball blogs/websites do you check in with every day?
JG: I have an RSS reader with about 55 or 60 baseball feeds, so I guess I technically check those every day in that I at least read the headlines from all of them. Like everybody else, I love River Ave. Blues and LoHud. Marc Carig of the Star Ledger also does a great job on the beat. I read everything you guys write over here at the Yankeeist. Ross at NYY Stadium Insider always provides interesting info for people heading out to games, and I would highly recommend keeping up with him. I read Bronx Banter, Pending Pinstripes, IATMS, TYU, and BBD on a daily basis as well.
As far as non-Yankee sites go, I find myself reading through the comments over at Baseball Think Factory pretty much every day. There are a ton of smart people lurking around with strong, intelligent opinions and I both learn and laugh a lot when I'm there. Larry at Wezen-Ball doesn't post very often but almost everything he does is fantastic. Big League Stew and Hardball Talk are excellent for league-wide coverage, although it's tough for me too keep up with HBT since they have a truncated RSS feed. Some of the stuff that Tango and Litchman do on the The Book Blog is over my head, but when I understand the concept they are trying to convey, it can lead to some real baseball epiphanies. Baseball Analysts, The FanGraphs Blog and The Hardball Times are top-notch, analytically. Who doesn't read Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski? Walk Off Walk is good for several hearty guffaws every day. I know I'm forgetting some but I've already gone on for too long...
MB: There's really not much I can add there. Jay's pretty much listed off the entirety of my baseball/Yankee RSS feeds. As far as other baseball sites, I really enjoy Josh Wilker's Cardboard Gods. The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog is very good as well. I follow all the Yankee beat writers, and there are great beat writer blogs at our disposal for info on both the Scranton and Trenton teams as well.
Yankeeist: How old were you when you realized you were a Yankee fan for life, and what is your first vivid Yankee memory?
MB: I come from a family of Yankee fans. My father, my uncles, my grandparents, are all big Yankee fans. My grandmother is one of my favorite people to talk about the Yankees with; she knows her stuff. So at the risk of sounding like an idiot, I was raised to be a Yankee fan. Mickey Mantle held me when I was a baby; I met Joe DiMaggio and Hector Lopez when I was three. The very first time I can recall dressing myself I was pulling on a "Billy's Back" t-shirt, marking Billy Martin's third go round as Yankees manager in 1983. The very first game I went to was Phil Rizzuto Day.
I really started following the team in earnest when I was in second grade and started playing Little League. That was the 1988 season. From then on, I watched virtually every game. My earliest distinct memory from the that season was a game in Kansas City that Rickey Henderson led off with a home run. I believe that either tied him with or put him one ahead of Bobby Bonds for the most career leadoff homers.
JG: Unlike Matt, I wasn't a huge Yankee fan when I was growing up. My dad rooted for the Yanks, but he was much more invested in football than baseball, and by extension I was too. I was roughly the same age when I went to my first Giants and Yankees game -- about 5 or 6 -- and I can remember tons of details from the trip to the Meadowlands but have only vague recollections from my time in the Bronx.
I can't say that I watched basically every Yankee game until I was in high school. The friends that I was close with when I was younger weren't baseball fans. But I switched to a private high school in 9th grade and started hanging around with a new group of kids who were big Yankee fans. That awakened the dormant fan inside me. It really picked up when I went to college in Boston from 2002-2006 and witnessed both the ecstasy of '03 and the horrible pain of '04. In that way, my hatred of the Red Sox really solidified my Yankee fandom. I lived in Manhattan for three years right out of school and went to lots of games, and listening to ESPN radio and being so immersed in the City definitely elevated my fandom to where it is now.
Yankeeist: Favorite all-time game/season/moment as a Yankee fan?
JG: Aaron Boone's home run really takes the cake for me. I was going to Bentley College at the time and my roommate Kevin and I were watching the game with about five or six other Yankee fans in our on-campus apartment. The school was dominated by New Englanders and when the Sox were sitting on 3 and 4 run leads during the middle innings, some fackin' Massholes were running down the hallway yelling at the top of their lungs and banging on people's doors. Emotions were running extremely high and we were hanging on every pitch, just praying the Yanks could pull it out.
From the time when the Yankees tied it up at 5 until Boone went deep, it was eerily quiet in our building, particularly for a Thursday night. When Boone went deep, we lost our minds and were jumping around uncontrollably and screaming for several minutes. When I regained my composure, I went to the door, poked my head into the hallway and heard nothing. Okay, there might have been some quiet sobbing. It doesn't get much better than a walk-off homer to win a playoff series against your hated rivals in extra innings when you are outnumbered badly in enemy territory. Maybe something could top that in my lifetime, but I can't imagine it right now.
Of course, I was there for 2004 as well and I made bets with two Sox fans and gave them 3-1 odds when the Yankees were up 2-0 in the series. I ended up losing $600 as a result. What goes around, comes around, I suppose.
MB: I don't know if I can pin down a single game. We didn't go to the Stadium a lot when I was a kid, so most of my memories there are from adulthood, and I think games one witnesses in person stick in the memory a bit better.
My favorite moment was when they won the World Series in 1996. I had been waiting more than half my life for that. Yankee fans really don't have much to complain about in life, but I started following the team at one of the few down periods in their history. At 8-11 years old baseball was probably the single most important thing in my life, and at that point the concept of an above .500 Yankee team was beyond comprehension, nevermind a championship team. I can't say I was long-suffering, but like they say, you never forget your first. Even though I wasn't able to fully experience that Game Six, it didn't make it any less sweet.
Yankeeist: After the 2009 World Series I wrote that the 2009 championship was the most meaningful of my life. While 2009 was obviously a special year, 1996 seems to occupy the top spot in many younger Yankee fans’ hearts. What’s your favorite championship year and why?
MB: As above, it's 1996 for me. I have a real soft spot for the 1998 team too. That was a big year for me. I graduated high school, I moved off to college, so it was a very memorable time in my life, and lurking around in the background throughout all those memories is this juggernaut of a team. Because of the blog, 2009 will always be very memorable as well. But beyond the obscene level of detail with which I followed last year's team, it's very memorable because it just had that feeling that it was special season. It was probably the most likeable Yankee team in years, and after all that had happened since the last championship it was pretty gratifying.
They didn't win a championship, but I love the 2001 team too. I thought that Buster Olney's declaration of the Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty was a bit premature, but in retrospect he was right. A lot changed after that. But beyond that, in light of everything that happened that fall, it was just a surreal time. And to watch a team from New York go through the postseason like that was incredible. Coming back from being down 0-2 against Oakland, Mussina's gem in Game Three of the ALDS, the Flip Play, Jeter's dive in the stands, mowing down a 116-win Seattle team, and of course those unbelievable home runs by Tino, Jeter, and Brosius. I don't know if we'll ever see anything like that again.
I swear to God, the morning of Game Seven, I had a dream that Alfonso Soriano would hit a game-winning home run off Curt Schilling. When he hit that home run in the eighth inning I was convinced the Yanks had it. After winning the three previous years, and the way they went through that postseason, it was inconceivable that they wouldn't win, especially with Mo coming in. We all know it didn't turn out that way, but I almost don't even care. That might be my favorite World Series ever.
JG: It was 2009 for me as well. I was too young and wasn't dedicated enough as a fan to really appreciate 1996 and those things are true but to a slightly lesser extent for '98. By '99 & 2000 my fandom had picked up considerably but I think every Yankees fan took those for granted to some extent. It just seemed like the Yankees were invincible in the postseason and they'd keep winning forever.
But last year was especially rewarding considering I devoted such a disproportionate amount of my life to chronicling the team on a daily basis. The previous nine years before that had really drove home the fact that it's extremely hard to win it all, even if you have the best team heading into October.
Yankeeist: Favorite Yankee of all time? Favorite “bad” Yankee of all time?
JG: My favorite "all-time" Yankee is probably Andy Pettitte. He's been around for as long as I've been really into the team and his two-year detour to Houston notwithstanding, he's been a constant. He's a pleasure to watch on the mound, mixing up his stuff and hitting his spots and although he's not a me-first kind of guy, has performed very well when the stakes were high. Forty-six is my favorite number for another reason, so that plays into it at well.
This might just be because he was around somewhat recently but Edwar Ramirez might be my favorite bad Yankee. The fact that the Yankees found him pitching in the Independent Leagues and he made his Major League debut the same year is pretty incredible. His changeup was probably the sickest off-speed pitch I've ever seen and even though he got tagged for more than his fair share of home runs, he made a lot of guys look real silly striking out too.
MB: Given my love of Yankee history, some of my favorites are guys I never saw play. Thurman Munson probably sits atop that list, he was my father's favorite and I love the stories about how he was the team leader through the crazy Bronx Zoo years. It's impossible not to like Lou Gehrig given the way he played the game, how good and well-respected he was, and the dignity he displayed in the face of death. He played his minor league ball in my home state, so I have a soft spot for that. As a fan who loves the team, I admire the way that Billy Martin and Phil Rizzuto so passionately cared for the team in their own ways.
For the players I've watched, I've always been a bit of non-conformist. My favorite player couldn't be the same guy who was everyone else's favorite. I loved Don Mattingly, but I was a bigger Dave Winfield fan. "The Core Four" have been such a pleasure to watch for the past fifteen years, but Paul O'Neiil was my favorite player during the dynasty years. I'd probably look at some his antics as childish now, but as a teenager I thought he was pretty badass. I absolutely loved watching David Cone, David Wells, and El Duque baffle hitters with an assortment of junk pitches.
Given my non-conformist nature when it comes to latching on to players, I've rooted for a ton of "bad" Yankees through the years. My favorite though was Bob Geren. I was a catcher in Little League, and he sort of came out of nowhere in 1989 and had a pretty good season in limited duty. It was downhill from there, but I was hooked. His birthday is only a day off from mine. My father somehow got in touch with him through the media relations department or something, and he sent me some personalized autographed pictures for my birthday one year, which was about the best thing in the world for a nine-year-old kid. That offseason he came through my town on the rubber chicken banquet circuit and I got to meet him, which was great. He didn't pan out to be too great a ballplayer, but he was a real nice guy. I'm sure he didn't exactly have autograph seekers camping out on his front stoop, but I'm still very grateful that he was gracious enough to take the time to do that.
Yankeeist: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, fellas!