Friends, Americans and baseball fans around the globe, lend me your eyes: I’m writing to praise the New York Yankees, not to bury them.
Don’t misinterpret this message, for my Yankee-hating bona fides are second to no one. Over the decades, I’ve cursed Mantle and Munson, Martin and Maris, Jeter and Giambi, Posada and Pepitone, Reggie and Rocket, Tito and Torre, and Dent and Damon. There’s a particular loathing for Paul O’Neill, YES yes-man Michael Kay, Mike Mussina and, it hardly bears repeating, the most odious athlete of this era, Alex Rodriguez, aka A-Fraud. As a Red Sox fan I’ve been threatened and punched by creeps at Yankee Stadium, endured slings and arrows and misfortune from skunks in the stands, and once gave my sons permission to give a bow-tied afternoon drunk the finger after he hooted at my wife for the crime of cheering a David Ortiz blast into the right field seats.
Nevertheless, the recent commotion from baseball media commentators—in print, on the tube, online and at parties—after the Yankees signed free agent Mark Teixeira for $180 million has been the most knee-jerk, naïve and plain dumb hyperbole that’s occurred in the past year. The Yankees are ruining Major League Baseball! The Steinbrenners Hal and Hank (and GM Brian Cashman) don’t play fair! Locking up three players—aside from Teixeira, they nabbed C.C. Cheeseburger and A.J. Burnett—for a total of $423.5 million is unseemly during a crippling recession and the world’s most famous sports franchise is once again spitting at people with prudence and manners!
What a load of hooey.
Despite the indignation from sportswriters and other owners that the Yankees aren’t abiding by the MLB’s new and hardly unspoken tightwad rules—did they ever, going back to the 1950s when they used the Kansas City Athletics as a virtual farm team?— does anyone consider that if New York’s management has the wherewithal and desire to spend money on players, it’s their privilege to do so?
After all, the United States is not yet a socialist country.
Twinned in villainy with the Steinbrenners is the skeezy agent Scott Boras, a man whom, no matter what you think of him, negotiates very lucrative contracts for his clients. There was an extraordinarily dopey column by a blogger at onlineseats.com, which not only riffed off a horribly dated Frank Sinatra cliché—the headline read “It’s Scott Boras’s World, We’re Just Living In It”—that blasted Boras for once again making a buck or two. This person, apparently an Angels fan, wrote: “[I] do not consider you to be a professional baseball team until Mr. Boras… has reamed you in the off-season… [The Angels] were the prettiest girl at the ball last season, but have been used and abused like Britney Spears after just a single season with the best rotation in baseball.” ESPN’s Peter Gammons rebutted the whining about Boras with this zinger: “Boras doesn’t want to be the good guy, and doesn’t care who gets burned as long as his clients get the best deal; didn’t [legendary lawyer] Edward Bennett Williams do the best he could for Joe McCarthy and Sirhan Sirhan?”
And if I read or hear one more imagination-impoverished key-puncher moaning that the Yanks must’ve missed the message that Gordon Gekko’s motto of “Greed is Good” is now unspeakably gauche, I do think I’ll deposit my latest meal on a copy of The New York Times. (On the subject of the Times, the parent company is reportedly, according to The Wall Street Journal, conducting a deep-discount yard sale for some its assets, including its 17.5 percent stake in the Red Sox, as well as The Boston Globe, purchased for $1.1 billion in 1993 but now predicted to fetch as little as $20 million.)
Topping off the analogies was Murray Chass (murraychass.com), a former—thank the Lord for small favors—Times columnist who suggested, “The Yankees operate the way they operate because they can. While the rest of the economy is depressed and showing no signs of recovery, the Yankees are awash in cash. It’s as if they are the beneficiary of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.” Still-employed Times writer Harvey Araton, a sensible guy, also couldn’t resist piling on, writing on Dec. 24, “If there is a deep recession with budget austerity, it is news to the Yankees. While they spend like an OPEC nation when oil was trading at $140 a barrel, they continue to hit the city for sweetheart treatment, most recently for another $259 million in tax-exempt bonds on top of the $940 million they were already given.”
Araton’s is a fair point, and I find public financing of ballparks really sketchy unless the venue is built in a blighted area where a raft of jobs could be created, but don’t blame the Yanks; New York City’s elected officials could’ve exercised restraint and shown the Steinbrenner family the door. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan, a lousy writer who may also go online after the Inky goes out of business, opened his own Christmas Eve column with this declaration: “The New York Yankees represent the very worst of America.”
Are the Yanks trying to buy a pennant and World Series? Of course, just as they have for years. When you’ve got the dough, you’re going to spend it. Did Barack Obama, drawing mild rebukes from liberal editorialists for mocking their sacred campaign finance “reform” by opting out of public financing for the general election, also seek a monetary advantage against Hillary Clinton and then John McCain? Yes, and it was smart for him to do it. Unlike the president-elect, however, the Yanks haven’t been quite as successful this decade: despite shelling out a fortune in salaries, the team hasn’t won a World Series since 2000 (almost a crime in the Bronx), and have seen the likes of the skinflint Marlins, pre-Arte Moreno Angels, the Cards and D-Backs take home the trophy in recent Octobers.
Mark Attanasio, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers (who lost out in the Sabathia lottery), wrote to Bloomberg News saying, “At the rate the Yankees are going, I’m not sure anyone can compete with them. Frankly, the sport might need a salary cap.” Hmm, I think Attanasio might be whistling a happier tune if his club was in the American League, where a weekend series with the Yanks brings also-ran franchises like the Orioles, A’s, Royals, and Blue Jays an enormous jump in attendance revenues. My next-door neighbor and I engaged in sports small-talk at a recent holiday party and he was livid about the Teixeira bagging, also calling for a salary cap. Now, I like this fellow a lot, but it was a little strange hearing him rant since his team, the Mets, just nabbed K-Rod from the Angels and opened the vault for Johan Santana last winter.
As a Bosox fan, the most important thing each summer aside from Boston winning is New York tanking, and it’s my hope that despite the influx of new talent, the aging Jeter, Posada, Damon and Rivera (the best closer in MLB history will, one of these years, falter) won’t be able to keep pace and once again the NYC media will dump on the Yanks. Such a summer occurrence is far better than even a bumper crop of silver queen corn and sweet & sour plums. Nevertheless, even though I was disappointed the Sox owners—obviously one of baseball’s wealthiest franchises, with the fourth largest payroll in ‘08—couldn’t complete a deal for Teixeira, I don’t fault the Yanks for attempting to field the best team possible.
It’s called competition.
Could not agree more. Let the Yankees buy their team. It only makes their defeat even sweeter. Go BoSox!
I know he's a good player, but I still can't get over handing one of the richest contracts in sports history to a guy that has NEVER BEEN IN THE TOP FIVE FOR AN MVP VOTE. If its possible for me to hate the Yankees any more, they'd have to do something really outrageous, like sign Albert Pujols in '11 to a 12 year 400 million dollar deal.
for all their bluster and taking into account all the hype surrounding the signings made, I'm not convinced the Yankees have upgraded their roster. better players (cc over moose, tex over giambi) perhaps, but more wins? I doubt it. certainly not a division title let alone a WS
If this were ice hockey, you would be at zero on your plus-minus rating for small stuff: plus one for the comment about providing jobs and minus one for ignoring my beloved Albinos as a recent Series winner. As for your main point, sure, we can bemoan the Hateds having all that money, but to criticize them is absurd.
I'm probably as rabid a Yankees fan as you are a Sox fan (tho' never have been a Sox hater at all), but I do completely agree with you. The reason the Yankees have the $$$ they do is because the fans support them the way that they do - with ticket sales, merchandise sales and lucrative media contracts due to the size of the fan base in one of the world's largest markets. Plus as ridiculous as the Steinbrenners can get, they pour their heart and souls - and all the money they make from the team back into the team. If the fans in the other cities supported their baseball teams the way that the Yankees and Red Sox do, then it would be more competitive - especially if their owners were willing to spend. Pittburgh has 16 years of below .500 because the owners won't spend on the farm system or free agents. How someone does what they do? I don't care. They can do it from a great farm system, or spend the money or a hybrid. What in the world makes one inherently better than the other. The home growns are all going to stay when free agent money beckons? I don't think so. So let the competition be on the playing field. There are three teams in the American League East who might win this year. Only one makes it to the World Series. I want the Yankees. You want the Red Sox. Tampa Bay fans want the Rays. I think I'll be the happy one at end of it all, but we'll see won't we? Thanks for a damned good article - except for the parts where you want the Yankees to lose. :-)
Oh yeah, and you are SO right about Phil Sheridan. He not only lacks insight into anything at all but he's a really bad writer too.
As a huge non-sports fan who lives in sports crazy, I'm glad the Patriots missed out in football, and I doubly glad there are four more months before the Red Sox carnival starts here in Boston.
I don't mind that the yanks are spending money, I just wish the Sox would do the same. We could have easily gotten Tex, but they just threw in that extra Million or so. Hopefully we'll do a trade for a slugger, otherwise, we'll end up in third.
The yankees have been doing this for years. I'm not a fan of it, but if you have the money, I'd rather you use it to try to win instead of hoarding it. While I agree that a salary cap is NOT the way to go, I have a different thought that could help even things out. The Yankees have tons of cash to spend for two reasons: They play in the enormous and wealthy New York market and they own their own cable channel. Want to make things fair without a salary cap? Like Gate Receipts, force revenue sharing for in-house cable networks like YES or MASN (e.g.). If the Yankees have the money because they are the beneficiary of being in a big market with tons of TV revenue, then spread that benefit around. However, don't blame the Yankees or propose harsh rules (Look at all of the Salary Cap bullshit we have to put up with in the NBA and NFL) just because they want to win.
I don't know, it just seems kind of unfair when the richest owner can just buy his team. Terrible teams are terrible for a reason. I'm just sick of when the Yankees don't have a good year they'll just buy a new roster.
Hey Russ, I agree with your analysis on the Steinbrenners' spending habits even though I'm a long-time Yankee fan and you're a devout Yankee hater. However, I find it both amusing and misguided the vitriol other anti-Yankees spill over the Steinbrenners' decision to spend sufficiently every year to be competitive, i.e. have a real chance to make the play-offs. Once the second season starts there is no guarantee of a world series title. The very nature of baseball is that the 'best' (or most expensive) team in baseball any given year very rarely can win 2/3 of their regular season games. Just as rarely the 'worst' team in baseball very rarely loses 2/3 of their games. The 16 teams which make it to the play-offs are, by definition, clustered even more tightly together, all GENERALLY having won between 50% and 63% of their earlier games. The reality is the best team simply doesn't win the whole thing every year; the innate nature and randomness of the baseball game guarantees that. Frankly the Yanks were lucky to win 4 times over 5 years from '96 to 2000 and the Red Sox were probably lucky to win twice between '04 and '07. As a Yankee fan I'm glad the Steinbrenners choose to spend their money to give me a chance to root for my team in the play-offs but I have no delusion their largess will automatically bring a WS crown. But frankly it is kind of comforting to be wearing the most expensive track shoes at the start of the 100 yard dash.
I appreciate the frankness of this Yanks fans. But all I want is a new owner for the Cubs, and a World Series title.
To AppleHead - I wish you well with your Cubbies this year. My guess is Sam Zell will at least sell a controlling interest in the team soon as I suspect 2008 was not kind to his overall portfolio. As I said above, getting into the play-offs is doble for a strong team like the Cubs; going all the way requires a few extra scoops of luck....come to think of it the Cubs are overdue on that count.