Barry Defiance breaks the norm of New York fan reaction to coaching sackings

Even two weeks later, the split between Lou Lamoriello and Barry Defiance feels almost surreal, if only because we compared the two this time last year to the partnership between Bill Torrey and Al Arbor, which may well be the last major hockey Dynasty (we’ll save Islanders vs. Oilers for another day).

There is probably a predominant reason for this.

Nine times out of ten, having a bus fired here almost feels like a mercy killing. It’s almost always inevitable. Joe Judge was a fired coach, playing the last few games last year, Adam Gase for most of 2020. Complaints were few when the Mets let Luis Rojas go. Every Knicks coach from Jeff Van Gundy to Tom Thibodeau (except maybe – maybe – Mike Woodson) was fired by the fans long before the brass came along.

Despite’s sacking was accompanied by a wave of shock, anger, sadness and regret, things that almost never come with the sacking of a manager or coach. There was a sizable portion of the Islanders fan base, even those who have sworn by Lamoriello for three years, who immediately began berating him. Some are still angry.

It’s quite an unusual dynamic. Even Joe Torre, who had won just four world championships with the Yankees, seemed to have run his course when he left after the 2007 ALDS loss to Cleveland. Casey Stengel was 70 when the Yankees fired him, and television cameras had caught him napping during the 1960 season. Yankees fans were grateful but ready to move on.

Barry defiance
Barry defiance
Getty Images

The Yankees are actually an interesting case study because they actually made some of the most unpopular executive firings in the city’s history. Part of this can be attributed simply to George Steinbrenner’s itchy trigger finger, which led him to believe firing Dick Howser in 1980 was a good idea, prompting him not to renew Buck Showalter’s contract in 1995. Two great managers caught in the trawl manhunt one impatient owner.

Still, there has never been a firing more resoundingly unpopular than in 1978, when Steinbrenner finally dumped Billy Martin. Technically, Martin resigned in Kansas City a day after he issued his infamous “one’s a born liar, the other a convict” assessment of Reggie Jackson and the other boss. But Martin’s job had been on the line since the summer of ’77. He would almost certainly have been canned in another week.

And the fans freaked out.

Martin was a popular figure from his days as a gritty, dirty-uniformed second baseman on the Yankees teams of the ’50s. His personality was made for 1970s New York. fans loved him. A few days later, this newspaper did a poll: Whose side are you on, George or Billy?

Martin took home 99 percent of the votes.

No typo. Ninety-nine percent.

Martin’s subsequent appointments and layoffs diminished his impact on fans over the years, but Steinbrenner was so spooked by the backlash that he pulled that famous lure for Classic Car Day and announced that Martin would indeed be returning in 1980. Children, if you are too young, watch it. It was crazy in the Bronx.)

It wasn’t quite the same seven years later when Steinbrenner fired Yogi Berra for 16 games in the 1985 season after the boss swore on a stack of Bibles that Yogi would get the year, but it was enough for Yogi to stay away from The Bronx for 14 years, and that was good enough for most Yankees fans.

Bill Martin
Bill Martin
Getty Images

There were others scattered across our teams. When Bobby Valentine was fired at the end of the 2002 season, there was an outcry among Mets fans, especially since unpopular GM Steve Phillips was allowed to remain. There was a degree of questioning reaction when Joe Girardi was fired after taking the Yankees to a World Series game in 2017, but Girardi was so cold and distant that any anger that was present was quenched. There are still many Rex Ryan loyalists scattered throughout the Jets fan base.

Most of the time, there’s a straight line between a “Gooooood-bye, Allie!” or a “Joe must go” roar from the stands and a press release and press conference. Just not this time.

Vac’s Whacks

Roger Angell’s rare gift as a writer was matched only by his kindness and grace as an occasional press box neighbor. He leaves behind an unparalleled body of work and an unrivaled reputation as a gentleman. Thank God.

Roger Engel
Roger Engel

With all that has already been written about Jackie Robinson, it’s hard to imagine a new book that sheds light and offers new perspectives. But Kostya Kennedy did just that. True: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson is a must-read for summer, whether you’re a baseball fan or not.

Aaron Richter is right. Camden Yards was just perfect the way it was.

It wasn’t until the Yankees played Baltimore this week that I realized how much I miss Ken Singleton at YES.

Hit back on Vac

Bill Bittay: Aroldis = Rolaids. The anagram works fine. My stock is running out. I know I have way too much time.

Vacuum: That… that’s perfection.

Aroldis Chapman
Aroldis Chapman

John Cobert: How come the Yankees play with the old ball?

Vacuum: Yeah, you don’t hear much whining about dead baseballs in the Yankees these days…

@drschnip: Has anyone ever seen Matt Harvey and Bo Belinsky in the same room at the same time? It’s a reincarnation so complete it could only have been the result of a bizarre Santeria ritual?

@ Mike Vacc: Seek him, children. dr Snap could do something with it.

Hank Hansen: I think Ryan Lindgren should be nicknamed Timex. Nobody in the NHL keeps licking and ticking like he does.

Vacuum: We reckon hockey players are the toughest SOBs in all sports, but Lindgren seems to exist on an even higher (and more painful) level in these playoffs. Barry Defiance breaks the norm of New York fan reaction to coaching sackings


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