As the New York Yankees rushed the field after the final out in the top of the ninth inning of Game Six of the World Series, cementing their victory and crowning them champions of the world again for the 27th time, I felt a little sick to my stomach.
I’d hoped like hell throughout the playoffs that someone would be able to knock off the “Best Team Money Can Buy.”
I watched as the Minnesota Twins failed to do it, thanks in large part to the atrocious umpiring in the series. I watched as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim couldn’t accomplish it, again, thanks in large part to the officiating from hell.
I then watched the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies try their luck at taking down the hated behemoth known as the “Yanks.” Again the umpiring was atrocious, but the Phils won the first game, and you got the sense early on in the series they could actually pull it off.
After all, the past six winners of the World Series had won Game One. Shouldn’t that be enough to guarantee the Phillies at least had a chance?
Apparently not. Apparently, money can buy you a title; at least occasionally.
It’s not like the Yankees have won the thing every year. Heck, baseball has been around for well over a century, and the World Series has been around since the Boston Americans beat the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three (yes, it was a nine game series that first year, as well as between 1919-1921), and the vaunted Bronx Bombers have only grabbed 27 titles.
Still, that is an impressive number. In fact, it’s so impressive, it’s more titles than any other professional sports franchise in the Western Hemisphere has. That’s something Yankees fans will never let you forget; which is pretty much why I’m writing this rant.
I didn’t really want to write this article. As with any piece that’s a rant, the writer tends to come off as a jerk, no matter how diplomatic he or she is.
Whatever you’re ranting about, unless it’s something like racism, rape, murder, or torture, you’re going to find plenty of people on the opposite side of the aisle from you on the issue, and they’ll be reading your words as if they were penned by the devil himself.
I imagine Yankees fans will be doing just that as they read this piece, putting the face of Satan himself to their mind's eye view of me. Considering my pseudonym is Hotnuke, they’ll probably feel confident they’re right in that assessment.
However, let me preface this article by saying I have nothing against many Yankees fans. As someone who lived in New York for many years, I met quite a few of them, and some of them are the nicest people in the world.
That being said, I have a problem with a good many of them, and it’s encapsulated in my view of Flip Bondy’s piece on the New York Daily News website titled “New York Yankees Fans Can Gloat, then Float in Parade at Canyon of Heroes.”
In that piece he quotes a fan named Jon Z who states, “And so begins another dynasty! Fifteen more years of domination!”
Seriously. Does this fool truly believe he didn’t just make the biggest ass out of himself in the world with that statement? Fifteen more years of domination? I hadn’t noticed the Yankees dominating Major League Baseball over the past 15 years; perhaps I was asleep or something.
And that brings me to part of my point.
The Yankees have had the highest payroll in the Majors for as long as I can remember. In fact, they don’t just have the highest payroll, they have the highest payroll by a large margin. This year alone they spent well over $200 million.
Even before the year began the boys in pinstripes had more talent on their team than most teams in MLB can even dream of having: Jorge Posada, Robinson Canó, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher, Joba Chamberlain, Chien-Ming Wang, Mariano Rivera.
Then, to ensure they’d have an even greater chance at winning a title, they went out and spent another $400 million in contracts to bring in two of the best pitchers available in free agency (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett) along with one of the best bats in the game (Mark Teixeira).
Talk about overload.
Yet, the Yankees had been doing this for nearly a decade without any success, falling by the wayside every year and giving their fans stomachs so upset they needed whole cases of Tums. I should know, as I witnessed it firsthand among some of my friends who are Yankees fans when my beloved Marlins took them out in 2003.
It’s driven them nuts, and this is evident by the fact some of them have gone out of their way to write pieces extolling the idea that MLB is better off with the Yankees in the World Series. In fact, some of them say baseball is better off if the Yankees aren’t just in the Fall Classic, but if they win it.
And they actually believe such tripe.
Yankees fans have had the idea drummed into them from childhood that their team is the greatest team in the world. And frankly, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. The Yankees history is replete with great tradition and incredible stories, from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. I myself grew up worshipping the Bambino.
Fans of other teams are generally instilled with a sense of pride about their club that is similar, even if their team hasn’t had much success (although I still can’t fathom how Cubs fans are so damn positive about their team). Yet, fans of the Yankees learn at the knees of their fathers that the Yankees are special in a way no other team is.
As they were driven up through the canyons of Manhattan, over the Washington Bridge from New Jersey, over the Throgs Neck or Bronx Whitestone Bridge from Queens, or down from Yonkers and above to the comfortable climes of the House that Ruth Built, they were fed a steady diet of legend and tradition.
It’s precisely why when you run into a Yankees fan, and you begin discussing your team and theirs, the talk will eventually turn inevitably to the titles the Yankees have won.
“Your team is nothing. How many titles have they won? My team, the Yankees, have 26 [27 now] of them.”
They make this statement as if they had something to do with these accomplishments. They say it as if they themselves were a part of the teams who played on the field and won the titles. They also say it without a hint of guilt at ignoring the fact that the vast majority of those titles were won before the era of free agency.
You see, the Yankees won a great many of those championships (and Yankees fans might want to stop reading here, for these realities might be too much for you to bear) because they were able to amass most of the talent back in those days, and then hold on to them for life. Once they had you, they had you, and you weren’t going anywhere.
Of course, it was a mutual relationship in many ways, as most of the players on the Yankees probably would have stayed with New York regardless of free agency because the Yanks had and have the money to pay them. Yet, back then it wasn’t a matter of having the best team money can buy, it was having the best team your money and power could trap.
Not much really changed for the Yankees once free agency arrived. They just flashed their cash and enticed all the best talent in the world to come play for them.
That fact had a personal affect on me, as the team I grew up rooting for, the Oakland A’s, who were three-time World Series champions, had their team decimated by free agency and the Yankees' huge bankroll; watching their stars like Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter be lured to the Bronx with huge dollar signs in their eyes.
I began to hate the Yankees right then, but that hate would grow even stronger later in my life when I actually moved to New York. Coming in constant contact with fans like the aforementioned “Jon Z” I grew to loathe the organization that spawned such rabid, arrogant jerks. Even the nice, respectful, decent fans couldn’t undo the damage to the Bronx Bombers' reputation these boors inflicted in my mind.
That hate grew white hot when I watched George Steinbrenner outdo himself year in and year out trying to purchase a title. The only saving grace was his failure for so many of the years. He would spend inordinate amounts of money, only to watch his team fail in every respect to pay off on that investment.
That ended in the mid-to-late 90s, as his cash infusion and yearly purchase of every available top free agent, along with the timely coming of age of a few in-house products such as Jeter, saw the Yankees develop into a mini-dynasty, winning four titles in five years, including three in a row between 1998 and 2000.
For the near-decade since then, the Bronx Bombers, despite having not just the highest payroll in the Majors, but a payroll so outrageous it’s garnered hundreds of articles and dozens of late-night jokes on television, have come closer to the moniker I’ve given them, the “Bronx Bums.”
That has now changed, sadly, as the boys in pinstripes, with quite a bit of help from the umpires this postseason, found a way to finally make all that money their owners have spent on them pay off and won a title.
To me, this still isn’t a great accomplishment, despite the fact there will be parades through Manhattan over the win.
Put it this way. If you have two fighters who are approximately equal in their abilities, are generally of the same weight, and are equal in their ages, and one fighter wins over the other, that’s an accomplishment; a significant one.
However, you put that same fighter in the ring with a man 30 lbs lighter, 15 years older, and who has limited abilities and speed, and him beating the guy to a bloody pulp not only wouldn’t shock or surprise anyone, it would be practically meaningless. Now, what would be an accomplishment is if the undersized, older, less skilled fighter were to somehow beat the other guy; that would be something.
In the same way, having the Yankees and their fans crow about how great they are because they finally won a World Series is akin to watching that heavier, younger, more skilled fighter crow about a victory over that smaller, older, less skilled boxer—after he’d lost eight fights in a row to him.
So, New York fans can have their ticker-tape parade down Broadway (I distinctly remember the last one in 2000), but they should stop just a moment and think, have we really accomplished much by this? The answer to anyone who really understands anything is a resounding, NO.
America loves the underdog. This is why those fans of the Yankees who’ve belabored the ridiculous idea that MLB and the World Series are better off with the boys in pinstripes winning it all just don’t understand how Un-American that even sounds.
When Major League Baseball finally wises up and puts in a salary cap (which the Yankees are opposed to vociferously; gee, I wonder why), everyone will find out why MLB isn’t better off with the Yankees in the postseason, or winning the World Series.
Until then, I’ll just continue to hate the Yankees, and hope they miss out on ticker-tape parades for another decade or so. Sorry about that, Jon Z.