In any sport, a villain is not only necessary — it’s essential.
In football, the NFL has had a ratings generator for years in the form of a Tom Brady–Bill Belichick tandem. In basketball, the NBA has seen LeBron James take the league — particularly the Eastern Conference — by storm, reaching the Finals year in and year out, magnified by his mid-career infamous “decision” to spark his championship success with the Miami Heat.
Those same fans even witnessed Kevin Durant make a spur of the moment decision, putting opportunity ahead of loyalty, to join the Golden State Warriors, which effectively made himself prey of the Oklahoma City fanbase and the media.
Simply put, a league is only as tremendous as its storylines.
When it comes to major league baseball, the New York Yankees were that staple for years.
Everyone watched them, everyone hated them, everyone wanted to beat them. Most failed. But when it happened, the feeling was that much sweeter. When they were playing on the sport’s biggest stage, the viewership was that much greater.
This is the buzz the MLB has been lacking.
Yes, the Chicago Cubs put together an incredible storybook run last year, defeating the Indians in an epic World Series that ended in the Cubs’ first title in 108 years.
However, once that fandom subsides, baseball will be empty-handed once again — in the same position they have been since 2012 (the last time New York played in a postseason series).
That empty-handed nature is the exact reason the positive complexion of the pinstripes is so vital.
It’s the same reason every baseball executive has to be drooling over the masterful youth movement occurring in the Bronx. It’s the thought of the Yankees being a target once again; the idea of the Bronx being restored as a frequent World Series site.
When the Mets come to town, it will not just be a matter of fans leaving the stadium with bragging rights for a day. It will be must-watch television, with two championship contenders battling to no end. Both teams will have their respective sights set toward the same pinnacle.
When the Red Sox roll into New York city, or vice-versa, there will be a serious, gut-wrenching rivalry taking place on the diamond. The teams will have a severe distaste for one another again, with one club potentially being the team to rob the other of its postseason dreams.
The players will not be fake-shoving each other at second base prior to the game, kicking it back in a friendly manner. Instead, they will be altercating in the same area as a result of that same distaste.
There are hopes and there are realities.
When each NFL season starts, it’s a reality that Tom Brady will be battling near the tail-end of it. When each NBA campaign starts, it’s nearly inevitable that LeBron James will be involved in the season’s last game.
Another reality is surfacing in baseball: the Yankees are coming, and coming fast.
As much as that may bother the common fan, there is absolutely no denying its worth to America’s national pastime. There is no refuting the spectacle created every time New York is one of the final four teams battling for a pennant.
The franchise has the pieces in place — the young, talented core every championship-hopeful needs to succeed. Now, it’s just a matter of time.
Yankees-Red Sox series will become substantially more intensified starting this year. In two years, when Brian Cashman has the opportunity to make a splash and put the finishing touches on a championship product, the Yanks will become the center of the spotlight.
Every time the team underperforms, it will be placed under the microscope. Whenever the team wins, everyone will be vying to knock the club down a peg.
The period from 1996-2012 will be reborn, yet with new contenders, and potential victims of the Evil Empire, experiencing the wrath and relentlessness of a dynasty.
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Had Cashman not executed his genius deadline fire sale a year ago, positioning the team for years of preeminence, who knows where the franchise would be. Better yet, who knows where major league baseball would be in terms of having that target — an ultimate villain.
But, regardless, they are coming. And that is unchangeable.
As a baseball diehard, facing that reality is something that should occur sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the Evil Empire will take the game by storm once again — and, this time around, everyone will have been warned.