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VonneMarie
04-15-2003, 02:14 AM
Yankee fans not Royally impressed
By Mark Newman / MLB.com




Yankee fans cheer on during Opening Day in the Bronx. (AP)



The apparition of these faces in the crowd
Petals on a wet, black bough
-- Ezra Pound
Those words are posted for everyone to see in a subway train leading to Yankee Stadium, and two of the first faces I see after getting off are those of Sean Steyer and Steve Fiorillo. They are Bleacher Creatures and proud of it. They have an opinion about everyone, especially strangers in the neighborhood.

"What do you think of the Royals?" I ask them.

"They're not the best team, but they're playing good ball right now," Steyer says. "They have some good, young pitchers. They're unbeaten and hopefully that will bring in fans for them."

It is a Saturday afternoon game in the Bronx, and the rainclouds have gone away in this American League pantheon -- but not the Royals. Somehow they are still there. A team with a better record than the Yankees. A small-market team that saw hundreds of its fans, coaxed by a local KC radio personality, protest the Yankees' payroll by walking out of Kauffman Stadium just before a game against New York four Aprils ago.

As fans walk through the turnstiles on this day and collect their 100th-anniversary Yankee calendar to celebrate this vaunted tradition, there is a team out there that lost 100 games last season but has not lost this season. The Royals are 9-0; royalty is 9-1.

I am here to ask these faces in the crowd what they think of this new petal that refuses to fall from the bough of unbeatens. If it were Boston, then at least Yankee fans would be buzzing about it, in colorful language. With the Royals, most often there is a general politeness toward them, an acknowledgement that it indeed is a Major League team -- followed by an obligatory dismissal as spring flowers to enjoy for just a bit.





"They're not for real," says Frank Scrudato, a New Jersey financial-services guy poised for autographs along the first-base side before the game starts. "I want to see everyone do well, but they're just not for real. Pittsburgh has an opportunity. I think they have staying power. I don't know about (2-0 pitcher Runelvys) Hernandez -- he has started well but I don't expect him to continue like this. Overall, I do want to see competition as a Yankee fan. But it's a long season. Things have a way of working out. It's very hard to get excited about baseball at this time of year."

Of those people interviewed on this day, either formally or just in the hot-dog line, Scrudato is the only one outside of the Yankees' clubhouse who has heard of Mike MacDougal. I generally have to inform them that the Royals' rookie is the hottest closer in the Majors, with six saves and a high-90s heater. And that MacDougal was one of the three most picked-up players last week by fantasy owners at MLB.com. Scrudato says: "I'm familiar with him somewhat, that he throws gas, but (Matt) Mantei from Arizona did that, and then threw his arm out. People can get hurt. These guys have too many questions."

Daniel Izcovich, 12, has his Yankee gear and his glove and is waiting to (a) catch a foul ball, (b) see his hero Hideki Matsui hit another game-winner (he will), and (b) see the Royals lose on that out-of-town scoreboard (they won't).

"I think the Royals are doing well because they're not facing teams who are that strong," the boy says, safely removed from the Bleacher Creatures. "They're probably going to lose one of their next games on this trip, and then it won't be a big deal."

My mission is even more important because the Yankees will not play the Royals until August. So someone has to explain what they are doing over in the AL Central.

"I don't know anything about the Kansas City Royals," admits Bill Feeney, just before the national anthem is played. "It's too early to form an opinion, anyway. I usually don't pay attention to anyone else until after about 30 games. Plus, they're in an easy division. I do know that we could use some competition."

I take a seat in the house not far from Matsui along the left-field side, and I have one eye on the field and the other eye on the out-of-town scoreboard. It is too early for scoreboard-watching even in August, so this is fairly ridiculous. But the Royals have given us a reason. In the fourth inning, the Yankees are up 4-0 and the Royals are down 2-0 at the Jake. Fans boo Rey Ordonez resoundingly as he steps to the plate, remembering how he trashed Mets fans before leaving for Tampa Bay. They aren't quite as worked up about the Royals.

Gerry Tiss of Freeport, Long Island, has heard of them. He seems to be buying into it.

"There's something no team can buy, and that's chemistry," says Tiss, a Yankee fan for 30 years. "Even on this (Yankee) club, if a couple of players have problems, they aren't gonna play as well. When I was a kid, I played on a hockey team and we were the dirtbags. We had two different-color socks on. We were playing against teams with money and really nice uniforms, but we had a great coach and we were a bunch of kids who palled around and liked each other. We won."

Vincent Papa, on the upper-deck concourse follows up that analogy with this: "It's a big surprise. You would not expect a small-market team to go unbeaten this long." That's how many fans view the difference. KC has stockyards; NY has the stock market. KC has hungry, young players; NY has the monster payroll, including Godzilla. Greg Schnepf says of the Royal uprising: "It's about time. We'll see."

We see the Yankees blow that 4-0 lead against Tampa Bay while the Royals come back in Cleveland. We see the scoreboard flash a 3-2 lead for the Royals (thanks to a home run by Raul Ibaņez, who virtually no one here knows), and ultimately a 5-2 final. We see Godzilla somehow thrill everyone at Yankee Stadium again, ending the afternoon with a walk-off single to left.

In the Yankees' clubhouse, reporters are talking about Matsui and the game's highlights. I spot Mike Mussina and ask him what he thinks of the Royals. They didn't win many last season, but they beat him the only time he faced them.

"I don't think they're full of household names," he says, "but you don't need household names to be successful."

What do you need?

Shaking his head, Mussina says slowly as if everyone on the planet has missed this crucial point: "You just need to play well."

He says the Royals have been doing just that for the first couple of weeks, so he does not seem surprised. Back outside as the afternoon wanes and that petal from KC remains on the bough, another Bomber fan remains pleasantly surprised but skeptical.

"I'm pretty impressed, actually," Connecticut retailer Darryl Opdahl says, the only one to use that word. "It's nice to see small-market teams doing something without much talent. They've done a good job of recruiting good, young players. But it's early, and they have to play some tougher teams before people will really notice around here."

By Mark Newman / MLB.com




Yankee fans cheer on during Opening Day in the Bronx. (AP)



The apparition of these faces in the crowd
Petals on a wet, black bough
-- Ezra Pound
Those words are posted for everyone to see in a subway train leading to Yankee Stadium, and two of the first faces I see after getting off are those of Sean Steyer and Steve Fiorillo. They are Bleacher Creatures and proud of it. They have an opinion about everyone, especially strangers in the neighborhood.

"What do you think of the Royals?" I ask them.

"They're not the best team, but they're playing good ball right now," Steyer says. "They have some good, young pitchers. They're unbeaten and hopefully that will bring in fans for them."

It is a Saturday afternoon game in the Bronx, and the rainclouds have gone away in this American League pantheon -- but not the Royals. Somehow they are still there. A team with a better record than the Yankees. A small-market team that saw hundreds of its fans, coaxed by a local KC radio personality, protest the Yankees' payroll by walking out of Kauffman Stadium just before a game against New York four Aprils ago.

As fans walk through the turnstiles on this day and collect their 100th-anniversary Yankee calendar to celebrate this vaunted tradition, there is a team out there that lost 100 games last season but has not lost this season. The Royals are 9-0; royalty is 9-1.

I am here to ask these faces in the crowd what they think of this new petal that refuses to fall from the bough of unbeatens. If it were Boston, then at least Yankee fans would be buzzing about it, in colorful language. With the Royals, most often there is a general politeness toward them, an acknowledgement that it indeed is a Major League team -- followed by an obligatory dismissal as spring flowers to enjoy for just a bit.

Runelvys Hernandez / P
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 205
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Royals site



"They're not for real," says Frank Scrudato, a New Jersey financial-services guy poised for autographs along the first-base side before the game starts. "I want to see everyone do well, but they're just not for real. Pittsburgh has an opportunity. I think they have staying power. I don't know about (2-0 pitcher Runelvys) Hernandez -- he has started well but I don't expect him to continue like this. Overall, I do want to see competition as a Yankee fan. But it's a long season. Things have a way of working out. It's very hard to get excited about baseball at this time of year."

Of those people interviewed on this day, either formally or just in the hot-dog line, Scrudato is the only one outside of the Yankees' clubhouse who has heard of Mike MacDougal. I generally have to inform them that the Royals' rookie is the hottest closer in the Majors, with six saves and a high-90s heater. And that MacDougal was one of the three most picked-up players last week by fantasy owners at MLB.com. Scrudato says: "I'm familiar with him somewhat, that he throws gas, but (Matt) Mantei from Arizona did that, and then threw his arm out. People can get hurt. These guys have too many questions."

Daniel Izcovich, 12, has his Yankee gear and his glove and is waiting to (a) catch a foul ball, (b) see his hero Hideki Matsui hit another game-winner (he will), and (b) see the Royals lose on that out-of-town scoreboard (they won't).

"I think the Royals are doing well because they're not facing teams who are that strong," the boy says, safely removed from the Bleacher Creatures. "They're probably going to lose one of their next games on this trip, and then it won't be a big deal."

My mission is even more important because the Yankees will not play the Royals until August. So someone has to explain what they are doing over in the AL Central.

"I don't know anything about the Kansas City Royals," admits Bill Feeney, just before the national anthem is played. "It's too early to form an opinion, anyway. I usually don't pay attention to anyone else until after about 30 games. Plus, they're in an easy division. I do know that we could use some competition."

I take a seat in the house not far from Matsui along the left-field side, and I have one eye on the field and the other eye on the out-of-town scoreboard. It is too early for scoreboard-watching even in August, so this is fairly ridiculous. But the Royals have given us a reason. In the fourth inning, the Yankees are up 4-0 and the Royals are down 2-0 at the Jake. Fans boo Rey Ordonez resoundingly as he steps to the plate, remembering how he trashed Mets fans before leaving for Tampa Bay. They aren't quite as worked up about the Royals.

Gerry Tiss of Freeport, Long Island, has heard of them. He seems to be buying into it.

"There's something no team can buy, and that's chemistry," says Tiss, a Yankee fan for 30 years. "Even on this (Yankee) club, if a couple of players have problems, they aren't gonna play as well. When I was a kid, I played on a hockey team and we were the dirtbags. We had two different-color socks on. We were playing against teams with money and really nice uniforms, but we had a great coach and we were a bunch of kids who palled around and liked each other. We won."

Vincent Papa, on the upper-deck concourse follows up that analogy with this: "It's a big surprise. You would not expect a small-market team to go unbeaten this long." That's how many fans view the difference. KC has stockyards; NY has the stock market. KC has hungry, young players; NY has the monster payroll, including Godzilla. Greg Schnepf says of the Royal uprising: "It's about time. We'll see."

We see the Yankees blow that 4-0 lead against Tampa Bay while the Royals come back in Cleveland. We see the scoreboard flash a 3-2 lead for the Royals (thanks to a home run by Raul Ibaņez, who virtually no one here knows), and ultimately a 5-2 final. We see Godzilla somehow thrill everyone at Yankee Stadium again, ending the afternoon with a walk-off single to left.

In the Yankees' clubhouse, reporters are talking about Matsui and the game's highlights. I spot Mike Mussina and ask him what he thinks of the Royals. They didn't win many last season, but they beat him the only time he faced them.

"I don't think they're full of household names," he says, "but you don't need household names to be successful."

What do you need?

Shaking his head, Mussina says slowly as if everyone on the planet has missed this crucial point: "You just need to play well."

He says the Royals have been doing just that for the first couple of weeks, so he does not seem surprised. Back outside as the afternoon wanes and that petal from KC remains on the bough, another Bomber fan remains pleasantly surprised but skeptical.

"I'm pretty impressed, actually," Connecticut retailer Darryl Opdahl says, the only one to use that word. "It's nice to see small-market teams doing something without much talent. They've done a good job of recruiting good, young players. But it's early, and they have to play some tougher teams before people will really notice around here."