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True calling

Some guys are meant to be Yankees and some are not

Posted: Wednesday August 3, 2005 2:16PM; Updated: Wednesday August 10, 2005 1:38PM
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Paul O'Neill
True Yankees like Paul O'Neill always get invited back to Yankee Stadium to throw out a first pitch.
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I grew up a Yankees fan. I watched Bobby Murcer hit a grand slam to beat the Orioles in the bottom the ninth inning when I was 8 years old. Ever since then, from Reggie to Tino, I have been hooked and hard. I am frequently asked who my favorite teams are, and I always give the same response: "Yankees, Knicks, Jets and screw hockey." Lately, however, I've had a difficult time claiming the Yankees as my favorite team. I have been leaning towards the Angels in the American League and the Marlins in the National League. Since the Mets were wise enough to hire a Yankee as their manager, I've even been rooting for them. This is equivalent to heresy in the tri-state area but it is something I can no longer ignore. I needed to figure out why I have become so blasÚ about my once-beloved Yankees.

I never minded George Steinbrenner spending obscene amounts of money to put the best product on the field. I've always laughed at people who believe the Yankees "bought" their championships. Spending money to make money -- and more important, champions -- is a fine way to run a business. The smaller teams that cry poverty, wouldn't be doing so if they simply paid their own players to stick around. Imagine a Royals outfield of Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Beltran! Mix ináMike Sweeney with that crew and even you and your friends could pitch them to a pennant.

When the Yankees failed to re-sign Andy Pettitte, my stomach got a little queasy and I sensed a changing of the guard. Pettitte, to put it simply, was a Yankee. You don't trade, waive or fail to re-sign guys who were born to be in pinstripes.

I realize now that the reason I don't like the Yankees anymore is because the men they pay to wear the trademarked interlocking "NY" are simply not Yankees. They dress like Yankees, they play their home games in Yankee Stadium and get introduced by Bob Sheppard, but they never will be TRUE Yankees.

Roger Clemens is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but you won't find a Yankees fan worth his weight in Cracker Jacks who doesn't know he'll always be associated with the Red Sox. Wade Boggs won his only World Series ring with the Yankees, but he will never be half the Yankee Scott Brosius was. David Wells is wearing the dreaded "B" on his cap these days but he will always be a Yankee to those of us in the know.

Some men are just not cut out to play in the Bronx. Many thought Tino Martinez was on the express train to this list after his first two months trying to replace Don Mattingly in 1996. Now, after stops in St. Louis and Tampa Bay, a true Yankee has come home.

Jason Giambi could hit 80 home runs this year, win a World Series and the MVP award, but he will never be a true Yankee. Kevin Brown (Yech!) could win five straight Cy Young awards and it wouldn't make him a true Yankee.

True Yankees are born, not made, and for some, such as Paul O'Neill, they just happened to have had a long layover in another city before realizing their true calling.

This is a conversation that is not applicable to any other Major League franchise. No one sits around wondering if David Justice was a real Brave. Bronx Bomber fans, however, know he was never a true Yankee.

I doubt if anyone in Chicago is wondering if Joe Girardi was a true Cubbie. Yankee fans won't have to think twice while reading this because a synapse has already fired off in their brains reading out "Yankee."

When Joe Torre arrived in New York he was fortunate to join an organization that had a knack for picking up wayward and lost Yankees and bringing them home where they belonged. Now, sadly, that same Yankees brass is throwing money at some real imposters.

In recent years, general manager Brian Cashman has acquired too many guys who shouldn't be in New York.

Here is a list of players who are not Yankees compared to guys who were born to be Yankees:

2B Tony Womack -- should have been -- 2B David Eckstein
3B Alex Rodriguez -- should have been -- 3B Eric Hinske
OF Gary Sheffield -- should have been -- OF Juan Pierre
SP Randy Johnson -- should have been -- SP Pedro Martinez

There are other guys floating around the bigs who don't realize yet that they have the potential to be "True Yankees." Let this article serve as a memo to John Lackey, Coco Crisp, Chris Capuano, Jason Bay, Ryan Drese, David DeJesus and Dontrelle Willis. Your invitations are waiting, we have the money and you can thank me when you are all trying on your rings.

Arash Markazi will be off this month, so filling in for him is actor/comedian Jay Mohr, who recently authored the best selling book, "Gasping For Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live", which you can purchase from his Web site www.jaymohr.com.