Under normal circumstances in places where the organization and its clientele didn’t see itself as head and shoulders above everyone else, the Yankees Mariano Rivera bobblehead debacle would have been seen as a minor glitch. The bobbleheads arrived late and fans had to wait on long lines to receive them. For most organizations, this would be seen as an unfortunate, but understandable, occurrence. With the Yankees, though, it’s an allegory for the future.
From the end of the Rivera ceremony on Sunday through Andy Pettitte’s 5.1 no-hit innings in the final Yankee Stadium start of his career, there could be the argument that the “Yankee magic” still existed. Of course, that “magic” has more to do with them having more money to spend than anyone else and being lucky enough that two draft picks from beyond the twentieth round (Pettitte and Jorge Posada) and an undrafted free agent from Panama (Rivera) became integral keys to their five championships, but their fans could indulge in the fantasy for a few innings longer.
Once the Giants broke up Pettitte’s no-hitter and eventually won the game, the Yankees flickering playoff hopes were all-but extinguished. The reality began to set in that Rivera and Pettitte would be gone and Derek Jeter is staggering toward the end of his career. The “specialness” and the Yankee apologists inflated self-importance is having the air slowly squeezed from it.
Nothing exemplified this self-created image of “specialness” than the Rivera celebration and the idea that only the Yankees could have planned such an event. It’s nonsense. Teams create their own moments with the help of celebrity fans and well-choreographed ceremonies. It’s not just the Yankees. So the concept that the Yankees would be the only team to think of bringing Metallica to play “Enter Sandman” at Rivera’s day is built on a fallacy.
Whether or not Metallica was paid, the odds are they did the show as a means to an end. They absolutely respect Rivera and feel honored that he uses their song as his entrance music. Presumably the Yankees paid for high-end accommodations and first class travel to New York and the money the band wasn’t paid for the actual performance will be easily recouped by the number of downloads and purchases “Enter Sandman” will receive as a result of the attention and their gesture of good will in showing up.
Whether or not the Yankees fans and media sycophants want to hear these hard truths doesn’t make them go away. They have no farm system to speak of; their players are getting old; they’re slashing salaries; and other teams are younger, faster, stronger and better. It’s not so much that the Rivera ceremony signaled the true end of the Yankees two-decade run of dominance, it’s that the air of superiority is being polluted by the truth.
The bobbleheads showed up late and the Yankees organization looked ill-prepared and inept. Were they? No. It was just the reality of life – sort of like the way they built their dynasty with lucky draft picks and signings in the early 1990s, plus more money than everyone else.