With the news that broke today about Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees have become one of the most hated baseball teams in recent memory.
They have a perfect storm of controversy: their beloved ex-manager has published a tell-all that reflects negatively on several players, they have built a new deluxe stadium using taxpayer dollars, they just signed the three most coveted free agents in baseball, and now their best player has been found to have tested positive for anabolic steroids.
I tried to reach into recent memory to think if a team that was as reviled and embroiled in controversy as these Yanks will be, and almost immediately I thought of the 2007 Patriots.
For those of you who don’t remember, the 2007 Pats acquired stars Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, and Adalius Thomas in the off-season. They entered the season as favorites to win the Super Bowl.
After obliterating the Jets in the first game, the story of the year broke about the Pats. They had been caught videotaping defensive signals since 2001. Suddenly, the media began to go after the Patriots with torches and pitchforks.
They called into question all of the team’s recent accomplishments. The Pats became hated by just about every non-Patriots fan.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots did not take this lying down, and began to destroy opponents, running up the score and showing no remorse in slaughtering opponents.
This simply increased the animosity between the Patriots and the rest of the league. The Patriots finished the regular season undefeated, only to lose in the Super Bowl.
Would the Patriots have played as well and sought to dominate as much, if Spygate had never happened? I highly doubt it.
They were angry at having their accomplishments questioned, and they took on an “f--- the world” mentality. They channeled this emotion into playing the best they could.
So the question is: how will the Yankees react to the controversy that is sure to surround them for the entire season? How will they react to the consistently negative press?
The way I see it, there are two ways that they can react: 1. They can channel their anger and use the emotion to play the best ball of their lives; or 2. They can crumble under the pressure of trying to silence millions of critics.
What the Yankees do remains to be seen. If they crumble under the pressure, we could see a nuclear meltdown on the part of the new boss, Hank Steinbrenner.
If they channel their emotion, they could be one of the most dominant single season teams in recent memory. Or perhaps, emotion will have a different impact in baseball, where emotion can cause fatigue in the day to day grind.
However, if they do become the 2007 Patriots: arrogant, dominating, not giving a damn what anyone else thinks; you can bet that this 2009 season will be one of the most exciting ever.