How many times have you heard that the Yankees buy their players? How many times have you heard how the Yankees buy their championships?
You have probably heard a combination of both questions over the past decade. How valid are these questions? In fact, it is possible to buy players. Players have been bought since baseball first began.
In the late 1910s, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee was trying to sell Babe Ruth to finance a Broadway play. Frazee had strong offers from both the White Sox and the Yankees. The White Sox had offered baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson and $60,000; but, the Yankees offered $100,000 cash—equivalent to $1,063,667 now—and thus, Ruth was sold to New York.
In addition, even current players are trying to sell themselves. Randy Newson, an Indians minor league player, is selling the rights to four percent of his future earnings if he makes the major leagues for $50,000.
Furthermore, the late John C. Odom, a former minor league player for the San Francisco Giants, was traded for 10 bats. Clearly, selling players monetarily existed a century ago, and still exists to this day.
However, the casual baseball fan speaks of the Yankees buying their teams because of the Yankees' ability to "buy" players through free agency.
To some degree, this is an accurate thought. But, the Yankees cannot be blamed for exercising their financial position. Free agency was a result of players'—and fans'—desire for players to become available to other teams, not the owners.
Instead of being bound to a team until the team decided otherwise, players, and millions of Americans, wanted players to have the freedom to choose teams for which they wanted to play. In fact, organizations argued against the ruling of arbitrator Peter Seitz to grant the players the right to free agency.
How can clubs now be scrutinized for exercising their given rights?
On another note, some fans believe the Yankees have too much money. When has too much money ever been a bad thing?
Believe it or not, the Yankees help baseball. Major League Baseball's revenue sharing takes money away from the teams that make the most money and distributes the money to the teams that make less money.
So, with the Yankees bringing in high-priced free agents, fans are drawn to the stadium, buy tickets, and most people think the Yankees keep all this money. Think again.
This revenue is taken away. Is that even fair? That's a discussion for another time. However, what we can take from this is that the Yankees help baseball with all their money and "buying" players.
Now, let's see if "buying" players actually does produce championships.
I call your attention to the 2002 Mets. Mets general manager Steve Phillips "bought" Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Roger Cedeno, and Jeromy Burnitz. Needless to say, they finished 75–86 record, last in the NL East.
Prior to the 2001 season, the Texas Rangers "bought" Alex Rodriguez, and made him the highest-paid player in baseball history with a $252 million deal over 10 years. Hoping to build their team around Alex and win a championship, the Rangers never finished above .500. Guess that didn't work out too well.
Barry Zito was "bought" by the San Francisco Giants before the 2007 season for $126 million over seven years, the largest contract ever given to a pitcher at the time. Since then, Zito has gone 31-43 with a 4.57 ERA.
Although the Giants had success in the 2009, it is largely due to their homegrown talent—namely, two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. I guess buying Zito hasn't worked out too well.
Now, here we are at the meat of the subject—the New York Yankees.
Since most people consider the Yankees "buying" players recently, let's take a look at the Mount Rushmore of the Yankee championships since 1996. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera—the four have combined for 20 rings.
You know what is even more amazing about these four? They are all homegrown—not "bought."
Jeter, or "Mr. November," has had clutch hit after clutch hit, coupled with a .313 postseason average. Pettitte holds the record for most career postseason wins. Posada has 11 home runs and 39 RBI career in the postseason, in addition to being behind the plate for much of the Yankees' run. Last but certainly not least, Mariano Rivera is considered the best closer ever, and has closed the most postseason games ever.
Without these four homegrown players, the Yankees certainly would not have 27 championships.
You might say, "Well, this year, the Yankees had Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, AJ Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Hideki Matsui, all of whom the Yankees have 'bought.'"
Yes, you are 100 percent correct. And you know what? Maybe the Yankees did in fact "buy" this year's World Series. I would say the Yankees did "buy" these players, but without the homegrown talent of the Yankees, Alex, Teixeira, AJ, CC, and Matsui, would have no ring to show.
We have seen that "buying" players has existed through the history of baseball. We have seen how revenue sharing actually hurts large-market teams. We have seen how free agency was actually opposed by owners and supported by, yes, us fans.
We have seen examples of where "buying" players has tremendously failed. We have also seen one example where "buying" players has helped a team win a championship.
Moreover, to blame teams for exercising their right to free agents is completely ludicrous. It is even worse is to blame the Yankees of all the teams.
The Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Dodgers, Tigers, and Cubs are all large-market teams, and all have also "bought" players. Teams simply cannot "buy" championships. It takes homegrown talent combined with expert decision-making by management to piece together a championship caliber team.
So stop blaming the Yankees for "buying" anything or anyone, because in the end, it's just helping the well-being of baseball.