May 28 2008
Baseball is a lot like television and there is plenty of drama out there. That’s why I felt it was important to equate the most coveted and historic baseball franchise to one of, if not the most successful sitcoms in television history.
Without further interruption. The New York Yankees meet Seinfeld.
The Early Years – As you might not even recall, Seinfeld had a tough time getting going in the early 90′s. The show was nearly canceled after it’s first season (1989).
The Yankees in the early 90′s? A mediocre team with Don Mattingly on the downward spiral. None of the players were really doing much and you had Buck Showalter at the helm. Steinbrenner wasn’t even really running the team because of Dave Winfield allegations some years back. The show and team just hadn’t taken shape. But then?
Building Momentum – In the next few years Seinfeld began to take shape. Seasons 3 and 4 began to show major signs. Kramer went from being a guy who didn’t even have funny hair to a guy that started in with his one liners, crazy walking into the door stuff, and just flat out hilarity. George was pretty much bald at this point (early years he still had some funny patterns up there) and his personality came shining through. Elaine was a bonafide piece to the puzzle and Jerry finally learned to act. What else? We began seeing the new characters take shape. The Seinfeld’s were somewhat funny, the Costanza’s became integral, and the show started to become memorable.
The Yankees? Their ancillary players were waiting in the wings. Guys like Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Andy Petitte, Mariano Rivera, and Bernie Williams were all playing in the minors ready to explode. And sure enough they got those opportunities from ’93-’95. And in 1994 with the best record in the AL, you knew something was brewing with these guys.
Full Throttle and Auto Pilot – The Torre Era
Seinfeld was on full blast in the mid 90′s. The show was a virtual lock to have laughs. At this point the crowd was cheering each time a character would even enter the room. Episodes didn’t even have to be funny at this point. It was just assumed that looking at Kramer’s hair would get a laugh. Every single supplemental character became great. Peterman was amazing. Even guys like Babu Bat and Jackie Childs became staples. The show was a can’t miss.
The Yankees? As automatic as automatic could be. You just assumed they were going to win the series. Their pitching was great. Guys like David Wells, David Cone, Petitte, and Rivera were running the show. Jeter and Williams were tearing the ball apart. Paul O’Neill became the face of toughness on the team. And of course, Torre was leading the way. There was no wrong this team could do.
The Later Years
For Seinfeld it was the late 90′s. For the Yankees it’s anything past 2000. Seinfeld started to become a little stale. The jokes were kind of similar, George just wasn’t as funny and despite the fact the show was still great you just didn’t have the same “fun” watching it. It was more routine than sheer amazement. The show made a smart move by canceling. And now it will always be revered.
The Yanks? – Same situation. Still a great team after 2000 but it was just assumed they’d be that way. The team just stuck with the same formula but didn’t have that fire it did in the mid to late 90′s. The team began to lose touch with what made it great: players that cared. Now the Yanks were spending big dough and thinking high priced talent would win ball games (think 1 million per episode). As they must know now (or maybe they don’t), that formula is failing.
Perhaps great things always come to end. Seinfeld knew it had to end. The Yankees still haven’t figured it out though. It’s time to start over guys. Get some new life.
Oh sure, the Yanks will have a run but will they capture that mid 90′s peak feel just as Seinfeld did? Probably not.
*P.S. This article really needed to be a book and I did the best I could given I had a half an hour to write this thing.
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