“Yeah, yeah,” they’ll bitch in Boston. “Bought another pennant,” they’ll lament in Los Angeles. And everywhere Yankee fans will take a long moment from celebrating number twenty-eight to have to have that same old, it’s exhausted argument; this argument is so old and musty it should be hanging in a museum. Admittedly, it was valid in the late 1970s when George M. Steinbrenner bought the languishing team from CBS and took advantage of the first wave of free agency and imported Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter who helped the Yanks return to their proper place as World Champions.
But those teams were built around farm-raised stars like Thurman Munson and Ron Guidry, aided and abetted by players “stolen” in trades such as Sparky Lyle, Lou Pinella, Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles. And this was just as true in regards to the champion teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Let’s never forget that the “Core Four” of Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter were not purchased via the auction block.
Now, this is a New York Yankees blog and to a great extent I am preaching to the converted, but one thing should be clear: payroll does not equate success on the field. Seriously– we don’t even have to look outside our own division to see crystal clear evidence of that. The Tampa Bay Rays have figured out a way to win and to succeed with payrolls that would leave the Yanks about twenty players short a roster after paying A-Rod, Tex, CC and Jeter. But for all their success, their fans still stay away in droves. Perhaps a new ballpark will help, but I only need to look at all the “help” that beautiful, new Target Field has done for the suddenly hapless Twinkies.
But let’s stay in the AL-East for a while longer: perhaps you’ve heard but the Boston Red Sox (No. 3 in team payroll) are in last place and the Philadelphia Phillies (No. 2 in team payroll) are also in last place. In case you were wondering, the Blow-sox were also third in team payroll last season and we know how well all that $161M spent worked out for the Nation.
And yes, it is nearly the end of May and the Baltimore Orioles are in first place, but I’ll bet you my Robinson Cano rookie card that the wheels will fall off that cart. The O’s haven’t even played .500 baseball for fourteen seasons while spending over a billion dollars of Peter Angelos’ money in futility. Clearly: money doesn’t buy happiness when it comes to baseball and yet, we Yankee fans tend to be happy more than anyone else.
Things are different in the Bronx. The Yankees can never take a season or two off from competing and call it a “re-building” year; we leave that kind of organizational plan to teams in other cities, like the Mets. Yes, the team in Queens has the same record as the Yankees, but don’t make me play my Cano rookie card again…
Of course the New York Yankees’ payroll is going to be higher than that of anyone else. Do you ever hear about a player’s agent using the Kansas City Royals to drive up the price of a free agent? Now, I’m not saying the Yankees are guilt-free on some of the spending. As Yankee fans we still get angry when we feel like we’re being ripped off; like it was our own money going into Carl Pavano‘s pockets for doing NOTHING! But it was Tom Hicks in Texas and not Mr. Steinbrenner who initially gave A-Rod his exorbitant deal. And while the back-ends of his and Tex’s deals will sting, the Yanks can afford to absorb such things. Time will tell how that will work out for the teams holding the big paper on Pujols, Fielder and Werth: case, case and point.
Baseball more than other sport seems designed to elicit discussion (outside of New York City this is commonly referred to as “argument”) — it’s part and parcel to the enjoyment. I love talkin’ baseball; I’ll often know nearly as much about your team as you fans of “other” teams do, but all that these non-Yankee fans have in their argument arsenal is the tired, old yada, yada, yada of “buying the pennant.” Very much like having to walk about from a conversation about music with someone who claims they love the Dave Matthews Band, I’ll just turn my back and walk away when the conversation is nothing but payroll.
Major League baseball is a business and if there was a more obvious indicator of this or if you don’t believe this to be true I have two words for you: revenue sharing. This is how I personally have taken to ending these not-really-about-baseball arguments. I remind the other so-called baseball fan that due the Yankees higher payroll (after again reminding them of what they already know: EVERYTHING is more expensive in New York City; you want a discount, move to Pittsburgh) we – The Yankees – put money in their team’s coffers and what does ownership do with it? You can nearly hear the crickets chirping in the distance as I wait for an intelligible reply.
I will then fill in that uncomfortable silence by asking that White Sox fan a question: what would you want your team’s ownership to do with all that money coming in? Yes, the Yankees have the great television deal and lead the Universe in marketing their brand, but as a baseball fan what could possibly be better than spending that money in an effort to put the best possible team on the field? That’s when I look that other baseball fan in the eye and sincerely inquire as to how else they would want their team to spend the money? The light goes out in their eyes, the air goes out of their argument. They sputter and will repeat their tired, old complaints about the Evil Empire.
So, Yankee fans, how do you respond to the Yankee haters in your baseball world?