Are these the last days of Nick Swisher in a Yankees uniform?
Set to become a free agent after the season, Swisher reportedly wants "Jayson Werth money," according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. That means he's looking for a seven-year, $126 million contract.
In the past, perhaps the Yankees would have gone for such a deal. But principal owner Hal Steinbrenner aims to have the team's payroll below the $189 million luxury tax threshold for 2012. Giving Swisher $18 million per season for the next seven years doesn't fall in line with that ambition.
However, Swisher hasn't endeared himself to Yankees fans this postseason. He's one of the reasons the team's offense has been impotent, batting .154 (4-for-26) with a .426 OPS and only one extra-base hit. But after losing Game 2 of the ALCS to the Tigers on Sunday (Oct. 14), Swisher may have burned some bridges by complaining about how fans at Yankee Stadium were treating the home team.
“That’s the last thing that I ever thought would be in this ballpark, that people would get on you that bad,” Swisher said to reporters, including the New York Daily News' Peter Botte.
“Especially your home, where your heart is, where you’ve been battling and grinding all year long," he continued. "It’s just frustrating, man. You never want to be in that spot. It’s not like you’re trying to go out there and do bad on purpose. It’s just tough, man.
Swisher went on to admit that he's "a sensitive guy" and that some of the insults and remarks directed at him by fans "get under your skin a little bit."
Because of that, as CBS New York explained, Swisher didn't participate in the usual "roll call" with fans sitting in the Yankee Stadium outfield.
Instead of giving the fans a salute, he just waved at them. He took his warm-up throws closer to the infield, away from the people sitting behind the right-field wall.
Perhaps worst of all, Swisher said that it might be better for the Yankees to get away from the hostile home crowd for the next two to three games.
Particularly troublesome to Swisher was the sentiment from some fans that he was somehow to blame for Derek Jeter's fracturing his ankle. Swisher misplayed a Delmon Young line drive to right field in the 12th inning of Game 1, leading to an RBI double that broke a 4-4 tie. He said he missed the ball in the lights. In the bottom half of the inning, Jeter suffered his season-ending injury.
Putting aside the warped, misguided logic of certain people frustrated over the Yankees' performance, Swisher admitting that the fans are getting to him isn't going to win him any favor with the home crowd. Given how popular he's been with Yankees fans during his four years in the Bronx, the sudden turn of opinion would be understandably upsetting.
On one hand, it's kind of refreshing that Swisher is that honest about his feelings and how hurtful some remarks yelled from the stands can be. We sometimes forget that despite their athletic prowess and multi-million dollar salaries, professional athletes are human beings with sensitivities.
Yet on the other, complaining about fan insults comes off as, well, less than tough.
Taking flack from the people in the stands—even in the home ballpark where fans are typically supportive—is part of the profession. Baseball players don't just make big money because of the numbers they put up. How they conduct themselves on the field and respond to negative sentiment factors into that evaluation as well.
Swisher should know that love from the fans has never been unconditional.
Yankees fans are understandably frustrated by how their team has performed during the playoffs. Swisher has been complicit in the team's failures. His poor play this postseason has continued a career tendency for him.
In 45 playoff games, Swisher has a .167 average and .584 OPS with four home runs and seven RBI. Compare that to Werth, whose postseason batting average is .264 with a .960 OPS. He also has 14 home runs and 27 RBI. Hey, if Swisher wants the same money as Werth, such comparisons are inevitable.
Perhaps Swisher knows that his Yankees career is nearing its end. Maybe the front office has sent signals that the contract he seeks will have to be found elsewhere. Or he may have already realized that he wouldn't get that contract in New York.
Knowing that he won't be back with the Yankees next year might be why he was willing to speak out and express his disappointment at the fans that have turned on him.
But if Swisher thinks he's getting the business from Yankee Stadium fans now, wait until he shows up in right field wearing a different uniform next season. That sensitivity will surely be tested further. Maybe he'll have to invest some of that free-agent cash in a good set of earplugs.
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