The Yankees always stood for something. At least in their own minds they did.
They stood for excellence. They stood for passion. They stood for history. (And, yes in the minds of some, they stood for all that’s wrong wth sports economics. But that’s for another blog post.)
They also stood for class, at least as it was defined by George Steinbrenner.
Which makes the classless way Roger Clemens was treated by the team during its prodigious closing of Yankee Stadium last Sunday so surprising – and appalling.
Clemens played for the Yankees for six seasons and helped them win two World Series titles. He was among many former Yankees not present at the festivities, which wasn’t surprising for myriad reasons. Not the least of which is the cloud of alleged steroid use and deceit that hovers over the Cy Young winner.
But omitting Clemens from the video featuring the greatest Yankee pitchers ever was a classless move that made his absence all the more glaring. It seemed like a purposeful and hurtful jab at the beleaguered former ace.
According to the New York Daily News, Clemens was not invited to the ceremonies and was left out of the video because the team feared an adverse reaction from fans on national television. “They didn’t want boos to be the last memory of Roger at the Stadium,” a source told the newspaper.
Now, the Yankees stand for gutless. They stand for petty. They stand for classless.
My stance on Clemens and the way he has handled the allegations against him has been clear. I am no fan. I think he deceived baseball fans during his career and has not been truthful with them since retiring.
That said, he should have been in the video. He should even have been at the stadium.
Sure, some fans might have booed. So what.
No matter what has happened since Clemens last wore the pinstripes (the uniform he was expected to wear in the unlikely event he is voted into the Hall of Fame), he remains a significant part of Yankee lore.
To use a cliche, he’s family. And when you have a family reunion, you can’t choose which family you invite.
The Yankees did, and it was the wrong choice.
Photo by REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine