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It's Friday, July 24, 2020, the day of the week when I reprise an instructive or inspirational quotation. Today's concerns the New York Yankees, the "Damn Yankees" to generations of fans who do not hail from NYC or its environs.

Opening Day finally arrived last night with one game on the East Coast and one on the West Coast and it was memorable in all the wrong ways. Instead of serving as a diversion from our current national troubles, Major League Baseball drew more attention to them. There were the obligatory protests and patches for Black Lives Matter, while a medical man threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Anthony Fauci clucked it, too, but since the good doctor will be 80 years old before this awful year ends, that's understandable. It was still an omen.

Neither game was close and the Nats-Yankees matchup was cut short by rain. Denuded of fans, the broadcasts alternated between fancy and farce. Fan cutouts appeared on your television set from Dodger Stadium, while fake cheers were piped in at Nationals Park. Not even the ESPN announcing crew was allowed inside the facilities, and the resulting time delay meant that the play-by-play guy was babbling about something trivial as Adam Eaton's home run was sailing over the fence. 

Much more ominous was the announcement hours before the action began that Juan Soto, Washington's budding 21-year-old superstar, tested positive in a COVID-19 antigen test, meaning that (a) the Nats were without their best hitter; and (b) his teammates had to start worrying whether they too had been infected.

Organized baseball had problems as a product before the coronavirus shut down sports in this country, along with much of the U.S. economy. Those shortcomings are well-known: The games take too long to play; extreme shifts make it harder to hit safely; the umpires are belligerent and intrusive; small-market teams can't keep their stars; there are far too many strikeouts -- and even too many home runs. The modern game is often boring.

Opening Day 2020 only exacerbated these issues. It's easy to forget now, but the 2019 World Series was almost a disaster on par with the 1919 "Black Sox" World Series that did so much damage to the game. The Houston Astros, it turned out, had been cheating for years. They weren't caught until after the season was over. Moreover, the umpiring in the 2019 World Series was so atrocious that it nearly gave the championship to the wrong team. Afterward, even some old-school traditionalists were calling for robots to call balls and strikes.

So what did MLB do in response? For starters, it had Angel Hernandez, consistently ranked as one of the game's worst umpires, behind the plate last night. And what did Hernandez do? He kept giving Yankees ace Gerrit Cole strikes that were off the plate -- as if the best pitcher in baseball needed help. Cole, you remember, was the Astros ace last year. But he switched teams, as did the Nats' best player, after the team's billionaire owners decided to let him walk. That meant that Anthony Rendon wasn't in the Nationals' lineup last night. Nor was Ryan Zimmerman, who opted not to play this season because of the virus. And when Soto was benched by COVID-19, the Nats' offense was rendered anemic.

Last night, each game was won by a storied big-market franchise with a huge payroll. The Yanks and the Los Angeles Dodgers are so stacked with talent they look like All-Star teams.

Perhaps I've now overplayed my hand, however. You know, revealed a bias. I won't lie about it. I grew up rooting for the Giants over the Dodgers. And I'm a third-generation Yankee hater.

But let's be honest. People don't root against the Yanks just because they are rich or arrogant and their fans obnoxious. It's also because the Yankees are so damn good and have been for the better part of a century.

Ninety-five years to the date before Giancarlo Stanton took Max Scherzer deep in the first inning at Nationals Park last night, Lou Gehrig did the same thing to the Washington Senators. Gehrig actually hit two home runs that day -- the second one with the bases loaded -- while knocking in seven runs in an 11-7 Yankees win. The July 23, 1925 grand slam was the first of Gehrig's storied career. He would hit 22 more before retiring, a record that stood until it was surpassed in 2013 by Alex Rodriguez. And, yes, A-Rod was a Yankee at the time. Last night, he was an ESPN commentator who drove me crazy by being, well, more objective than me.

"Hating the Yankees," Chicago columnist Mike Royko once wrote, "is as American as pizza pie, unwed mothers, and cheating on your income tax."

But if you love the game, as I do, their sustained excellence is something you have to grudgingly admire. "Have faith in the Yankees, my son." That's from an Ernest Hemingway novel -- in 1952.  Famed New York sportswriter Jimmy Cannon (no relation to me) put it this way: "I imagine rooting for the Yankees is like owning a yacht."

And that's your quote of the week.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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