It’s tough to hate these Yankees
Say what you must about the past and present Yankees, but there are a few players who are upstanding enough individuals to avoid your slings and arrows of pinstriped persecution:
Joe Torre: Simply put, he’s one of the best managers, and people, in the game. I’m sure he has a dark side, and there are undoubtedly a few folks who have seen it. But his inherent class and his courageous ability to put up with his owner’s meddling ways make him eminently worthy of your admiration. It’s just too bad that Boston was never able to secure his services — he would have loved the chance, and the fans and players here would have loved having him — but at least he’s never wavered from the person he is, and he brings an additional touch of class to the organization. Almost enough to cancel out the actions of the Boss.
Mariano Rivera: A true gentleman and a man whose accomplishments almost transcend the game. He’s been loyal to the organization, has never been a showboat or a distraction, and this deeply religious man is a credit to this or any other franchise. Other than him being so damn good and being (most of the time) a Red Sox nemesis, there’s really nothing to even remotely dislike about this future Hall-of-Famer.
Bernie Williams: Other than the fact that he left the Red Sox at the altar when he was nearly signed by Boston as a free agent in 1998 (before re-upping with the Bombers at the 11th hour for seven years and $87.5 million), Williams has been a quiet but key component to each of the Yankees’ championship teams. Quiet and sensitive, and a top-flight jazz musician as well, the talented guitarist beat Steinbrenner at his own game during those 1998 contract negotiations, and his game of chicken paid off with a lucrative deal. Other than last year, when the switch-hitting outfielder’s numbers and skills dropped off precipitously, Williams more than earned the big contract back in ’98 with four subsequent .300 seasons and two more Gold Gloves (for a career total of four), all the while maintaining a low profile in a clubhouse full of superstars. Williams tends to annoy Red Sox fans with his penchant for stepping out of the batter’s box all too frequently — oftentimes as the pitcher is beginning his wind-up — but otherwise, he’s a smooth dude, and it’s no surprise that the Yankees wanted him back in a reserve role even after his big contract was up.Jason Giambi: I know, I know, steroids. But at least he’s the only one of the accused members of the BALCO gang to at least step to the fore and acknowledge his regret and apologize to the fans (even though he didn’t actually say what he was apologizing for). But as the scandal erupted and engulfed such suspects as Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro, Bonds, and Sheffield, only Giambi was man enough to express heartfelt remorse for his (supposed) actions. He’s always been a great teammate and person (ask anyone in Oakland or NY), and it was his presence in the Bronx that probably helped tilt the scales for old pal (and former A’s teammate) Johnny Damon in his decision to sign in New York. Giambi’s comeback from his disastrous 2004 campaign is also noteworthy and deserving of plaudits.