Over the weekend, Mets executive vice president for baseball operations David Howard responded to a question about why the Mets didn't have an Old-Timers' Day celebration by saying that it was an unpopular promotion that didn't boost ticket sales. Presumably it's uncomfortable because the Mets' history meant that getting to Tom Seaver meant taking an unsavory trip through Chris Cannizarro, Lenny Randle, Dave Kingman, Gregg Jeffries and Vince Coleman.
That's ignoring some high points, obviously, but the idea is pretty much the same. There were long stretches of Sunday's Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium that didn't feel all that different. By the time you got to Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra, the Yankees had introduced such luminaries as Jerry Narron, Mike Easler, Lee Mazzilli, Pat Kelly, Aaron Small and Horace Clarke.
That's like stuffing your bra when you've already got a great rack.
Why bother with second and third-rate players from lackluster seasons when you're the Yankees? No matter how much Michael Kay shills for the Yankee brand, no one who saw Jesse Barfield play is going to mistake him for someone who matters to Yankee history. And, yet, the Yankees keep shoving him down the throats of fans. He was at the closing of Yankee Stadium, the opening of the new Yankee Stadium and is afforded a place in the firmament that he simply didn't earn.
Here's a modest proposal for Old-Timers' Days going forward. If you didn't play a World Series with the Yankees, make the Hall of Fame or play for the team for at least seven years, you're not getting an invite. At some point we're not going to have the likes of Yogi, Whitey, Don Larsen and their teammates to hold up the truly legendary end of the banner. Sadly, the deaths of Catfish Hunter and Thurman Munson has taken away important links in the chain.Their places need to be taken by the stars of the late 90's, not by Ron Kittle, Toby Harrah and Andy Stankiewicz.
Yankee history is rich and the team should be proud of it and should celebrate it with the annual day in the sun, even if it means seeing Dwight Gooden as a bloated reminder that no one stays young forever. Keep it to the players that deserve the celebration, though, because the rest is just artificial filler that makes it seem like you can't recognize true greatness.