One thing that's absolutely clear about the New York Yankees mostly disappointing and entirely predictable 2014 season is that some one player must be blamed for it. Not a collection of players or a rash of injuries in the pitching rotation or the general Expendables-poster vibe of the roster. That is a cop-out, an excuse, a frankly (sorry for the language) Mets-fan move.
No, there must be a scapegoat. Singular. One single scapegoat, on which goat can be draped ritual poop-garlands of shame. This goat will then be driven off into the Bronx, thus exorcising the pain of an expensive, aging roster performing exactly as an expensive, aging roster might be expected to perform.
The Trenton Times understands this, which is why they commissioned a scientific poll of their readers to determine which player will be this season's dedicated scapesyank. It went about as well as you'd expect such a poll to go, given that such a poll would necessarily be limited to the sort of Yankees fan inclined to blame a season of comprehensive and predictable organizational failure on one particular position player, and would be, to reiterate, extremely silly on its face.
!!! @OGTedBerg RT @republikyle From the Trenton Times this morning. @AmazinAvenue pic.twitter.com/SBCzl3rrWN— Jesse Grauman (@jessegrauman) September 11, 2014
Ah, yes, indeed.
There are aspects of this (totally silly! sorry to keep harping on that but wow!) poll that are surprising, most notably the fact that the second name on the list is the second name on the list. It could be argued that Derek Jeter's combination of extremely diminished capacities and extremely persistent presence atop the lineup should have earned him the top spot -- Howard Megdal made that very argument in this space, and well. It could also be argued that Shut Up About Derek Jeter Your (sic) Just Jealous The Guy Dated Minka Kelly And Your (sic) In Some Bloggy-Ass Basement, which was the argument commenters made below Howard's piece, and heatedly.
It is probably tougher to argue that Carlos Beltran -- who has been hobbled and more uhelpful than helpful as a 37-year-old, for the first time in his brilliant career -- is the single reason why such a strangely constructed team has played so much like a strangely constructed team of old dudes. But #BlameBeltran is a virus unique to New York, and while symptoms of it have mostly been noted in Mets fans it's not impossible that something (fluoridation of the water supply?) makes New Yorkers uniquely susceptible to it. This is best left to the scientists, probably.
But the really fascinating thing about this poll, beyond a doubt, is the small faction of Yankees fans that look at a roster that seems to have been constructed solely by signing people that played in the 2007 All-Star Game and instantly identified Brian Roberts and Ichiro as the prime culprits in the team's struggles.
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Ichiro, who is a 40-year-old part-time outfielder -- and a damn national treasure, if that matters -- with 334 plate appearances on the season. Brian Roberts, who appeared in 91 games before being released -- not that many, but more than he's seen in a season since 2009 -- and barely hit at all, but who nonetheless grades out per Baseball Reference's WAR calculations as just about the most valuable contributor in the Yankees infield.
These, these are your culprits. The two guys who have combined for roughly as many plate appearances this season as Mummy Alfonso Soriano and Yangervis Solarte. There is an old statement about stupid questions and stupid answers that seems like it would fit, here, but I'm too angry at Ichiro to think of it right now.