“After Thursday’s game in which Swisher took out Twins’ second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka in a clean slide at second, Nick headed into the Twins clubhouse to apologize for his slide. By no means was it a dirty play – both teams have conceded to this point – but Swisher was visibly distraught in the Yankees clubhouse right after the play. A man known for his personality off of the field as much as his grit and hustle on the field, Nick is a big reason why these Yankees are much more lovable than the Yankees of the late 2000′s.
This is a team that has purged itself of Roger Clemens type deals (offering big named players past their primes unmatchable prorated contracts), and while they make good use of their mega-payroll, they have begun to prioritize building from within – the way the Yankees accumulated so much talent in the mid to late 90′s. The Yankees have a steady core and their lineup can rival anyones. Their pitching staff has its flaws, but with a solid bullpen that has to rank among the league’s best (especially when Feliciano returns in May), the Yankees will have another great season, but what is different is that these Yankees are so likable. Since AJ Burnett joined the team, there is a different feel to everything. There is less focus on the A-Rod – Jeter breakup, less focus on the Joba rules, almost no concern with the right side of the infield, and the team has not had to rely on overpaid players past their prime. The right side of the infield is set with two guys who can be perrenial MVP candidates, a great player out in left with Gardner and a solid pen that features two of the best closers in the game.
Recent acquisitions like Granderson and Swisher have changed the Yankees on-field persona, but also how they are perceived off of the field. CC Sabathia was concerned with the Yankees clubhouse when he signed with the team two and a half years ago and asked to have the opt-out clause written in to his contract. CC contributed to the turn around in the clubhouse, and I would be very surprised if he is not with the team after this year (I expect him to re-up for more money after another big year in pinstripes). Two full seasons later and these Yankees are a whole different group and the Nick Swisher incident is just the latest example.
This time is less diva and more team-oriented. For the first time in a while, the Yankees are a likable team who look well positioned for years to come. They won’t have to worry about Randy Johnson spitting on reporters, Clemens earning 100s of thousands per inning, or veterans on the decline either in the field or in the clubhouse. Entering year 3 of the Joe Girardi era, it would be hard to say that you can not be in love with how things have changed in the Bronx.”