Friday, July 30, 2004

And now for something completely different

My wife Janelle is not a baseball fan. Sure, we've been to a few games, but she's never followed the sport with any consistancy and usually can care less about what happens. But this last weekend, she has become a passionate Yankee-hater (and a de facto Red Sox fan). Though I'm not a sports fan in the ESPN or Sports Talk Radio sense of the word, I at least try to keep track of what's going on-and given Janelle's recent conversion I've paid a bit more attention than usual.

Which brings me to my comment/question: how can anyone like the New York Yankees? Their payroll is 183 million dollars. The next highest, the Red Sox, are at 125 million. To put this in perspective, there are 14 teams (almost half the league) that have a payroll less than 58 million dollars, the difference between the Yankees and the rest of baseball. How can people enjoy rooting for a team that, due to their unfathomable pockets, can buy any player they want and that is at least assured a playoff spot every year? Luckily, there's enough chance in baseball that they aren't assured a World Series ring. (I've read that given the luck involved in baseball, the worst team in the league has at least a 15% chance of beating the best team in a 7 game series) But come on, somebody find me a salary cap somewhere.


At 7/30/2004 04:30:00 PM,

I hear you, Chris (and vicariously, Janelle). Something about the unnatural accretion of talent, be it for money (Yankees) or the artificial attempt to create a dream team (The Lakers "ingenious" but deeply flawed attraction of Malone and Payton to support Kobe and Shaq), urks me to no end. It's very (corporate) American, but its not (idealistic, working-class) American.

There are relevant if implicit rules, I think, in sports, especially regarding the players. One is that if you freaking rock, you need to get paid a lot, maybe in a tautological way. That need limits your ability to play on a contrived "all-star" team because teams usually have restrictive spending limits, whether imposed by a league or by economics. So when you take a Malone who ruled in Utah and came "so close" so many times, and sell him short and don't put the pressure of carrying a team on his shoulders (not to mention the support of a society of Republicans for this conservative, gun-loving black man), he isn't going to be the same man or the same player. Yeah he can impressive sink field goals or even threes but when he is by a wide margin not the big man on the floor, then the problem appears and he is seriously out of his element.

The ego problem also played a role in LA's collapse I think, and this one might apply better to the Yankee situation. It's ridiculous to have so many team leaders on the same team--who is leading who? A-Rod no doubt takes the title of Grand Master, but this looks like an instance of a leader leading leaders.

Why is it so urksome for people to have means that seem like they can buy success in a game of talent? I can't figure it out really, but I watched the NBA playoffs with a passion and was exultant when the Pistons trampled LA. So I will glory if and when the Yankees sputter, but I am Janellian usually when it comes to baseball, so I don't have a Yankees-foil to cheer for.

At 7/30/2004 05:05:00 PM,

Ahh, the indominable fallacy of composition. (just b/c a team has all the best players, it doesn't logically follow that it's the best team) Exactly why all-star games are never exciting to watch. But that doesn't solve the problem that is the Yankees (or was to a degree the Lakers). If anything, it makes it harder to decry the bombers.

At 8/02/2004 12:24:00 PM,

The Yankees are more than a high-salaried, high-scoring, and much-hated baseball team; they are a revenue machine. Few teams match the Yankees' ability to charge a premium for tickets and fill a stadium - both at home and on the road - entice corporate sponsors, and increase TV ratings (both in America and in Japan). This revenue is spent acquiring the best possible players to attract the highest-paying audiences - a reasonable business practice. They have tradition (Gehrig, Mantle, Dimaggio, the Babe) and history (26 World Championships, 39 AL titles), and mystique (Yankee stadium, the curse over Boston).

Why is it okay to cheer for the Expos or Brewers this season, but hate them in 15 years because they finally put together a good team? Should we expect all World Series Champions to dismantle their team like the '97 Marlins did? Is that more American?

For an interesting look at the baseball business market I highly recommend Michael Lewis' book "Moneyball." I'd love to know why people are more inclined to endorse Billy Beane's team to George Steinbrenner's.

At 8/02/2004 03:23:00 PM,

I have to respond to the Moneyball question. The answer is that the A's draft talent and the Yankees buy it. I'm gonna think it's awesome when MLB finally does impose a salary cap and the Yankees completely tank it bc their farm system sucks hard.
As for the 97 Marlins, no one liked THAT team either. Everyone acknowledges that team as being bought and not built. The only Yankees team I actually respected was the 1998 team, bc they didn't go out and sign all-stars. They signed role players and leaders and added them to some homegrown talent (Jeter, Pettite, Bernie) who came together to be almost unbeatable. The Yankees now are just a joke, but they aren't the only ones. The Red Sox are just as bad and so are the Dodgers. (although it's awesome to see the Dodgers spend 100 million and finish third every year)

Anyway, that's why people like teams like the A's and Twins bc they use the draft to build their teams, and then they reload.

By the way, is it me or does every Yankee fan, when talking about how their team is ALWAYS the favorite to win, forget about the 1980's and early 90's when they were just awful. Just a thought. Althought they did win last year, no wait they didn't. The year before then. Nope, not then either. They must have won it in 2001. Oops, sorry. :)

At 8/02/2004 04:56:00 PM,

I'm not so sure that the A's have a better farm system than the Yankees. Just because the A's players don't cost as much doesn't mean that they are not as good - hence the genius of Billy Beane. But Beane is still going out and purchasing this talent on the market.

Even if we set this aside, however, I still don't understand why it is more "noble" to build a strong farm system. The ultimate goal is to win a championship.

In the same vein, many criticize Phil Jackson as a coach because his 9 championship rings came with Jordan/Pippen and Shaq/Kobe. Even though I hate the Lakers, and don't cheer for the Yankees, I can't pinpoint why Phil Jackson's ring last year is somehow less valuable, or less deserved, than Larry Brown's this year.Or why Joe Torre is hated so much more than Dusty Baker.

Furthermore, I don't understand how citing the Yankees' "woes" in the past three years is a diss on Bombers fans. While they didn't win it all, they went to the World Series twice and won it three straight years before that. While they may have struggled a decade ago, they have been to 5 of the last 6 World Series.

Even though the Yankees won't make it this year, I'm not convinced that the team who does is any more worth cheering for, farm team and all.

At 8/02/2004 06:10:00 PM,

This has become quite the heated debate among a group of people who all dislike the yankees. Here's my theory why it's ok to hate them.

First, Baseball is entertainment. Imagine an action movie where Bruce Willis and his side kick Arnold spend the half of the time amassing machine guns, flame throwers, etc etc etc, and the other half obliterating their arch-rivals--the south-side high school fencing team. Ok, it's a little extreme, but the point is that nobody wants to watch a one-sided romp, it's not good entertainment.

Second, I don't know if we can say they've earned it. Yes, they do have money and mistique and history, but that may be due to a few lucky breaks (the curse trade) and the fact that New York is the center of the world. I know, the mets aren't that way, but they are missing the mistique and the history (but definately not money). So to root for the Yankees because they mirror the triumph of the american spirit of capitalism may not fly.




<< Home