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Yankees Win, Major League Baseball Loses

Dean HyblAnalyst INovember 5, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04:  (L-R) A.J. Burnett #34, Jorge Posada #20, Derek Jeter #2, Mariano Rivera #42 (holding trophy) Robinson Cano #24 and Nick Swisher #33 of the New York Yankees against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

In a decade in which greed and excess have been dominant themes in all walks of life, it may be only fitting that the final major sports championship would be claimed by the franchise that best personifies those qualities, the New York Yankees.

No team in all of sports has been as blatant or as successful in turning money into championships.

In all, the Yankees have won 27 World Series Championships since claiming their first title in 1923.

And, the Yankees have been leveraging their economic advantages since the very beginning of that run.

When New York acquired Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox in 1920, they began the practice of buying the best talent. It is a strategy that they have continued for 90 years.

While it may seem like I am bashing the Yankees, the reality is that the team is simply working within the rules of the game to give themselves the best opportunity to win.

Because of the financial resources available to the Yankees and the non-existence of league controls, they have always had the advantage over teams from other, smaller cities across the country in signing the top veteran talent to high-dollar contracts.

In the 1950s the Kansas City Athletics were considered the farm team to the Yankees. Players such as Bobby Shantz, Clete Boyer, and Roger Maris are just a small sampling of the talented players that found their way from Kansas City to New York and helped build the Yankee dynasty.

Now, the Yankees don’t just fleece the top talent from one franchise; thanks to free agency, they can out-bid the rest of the league for players from all across the league and even from foreign countries.

The 2009 Yankees are popping champagne as World Champions primarily because the team made the commitment last winter to spend $423 million to sign baseball’s three top available free agents in Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and AJ Burnett.

This is in addition to the nearly $300 million the franchise committed to Alex Rodriguez following the 2007 season as well as significant contracts for other superstars including Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera.

Until Major League Baseball does something to reign in this kind of spending, the Yankees will always have a competitive advantage.

Yes, other teams have tried for a season or two to “buy” a championship, but unless you have the kind of resources a team like the Yankees have to compensate for bad decisions, your chances for long-term success are minimal.

In 2005, the Yankees committed more than $50 million dollars to pitchers Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. The duo combined to win 25 games for the Yankees ($2 million per victory) over the next four years.

For most teams, being saddled with those contracts would have set the team back for years, but the Yankees have made the playoffs in all but one season (2008) since the baseball strike of 1994.

It is the strike of 1994 that really can been seen as the event that has thrust the Yankees into a long period of prominence while sending many other franchises into periods of prolonged failure.

Originally, the agreement was to include a salary cap, but ultimately that element was not included in what was signed following the longest and most costly strike in baseball’s history.

As a result, the Yankees and other teams with consistently high payrolls have enjoyed unprecedented playoff runs while other franchises have faced unprecedented levels of failure.

Between 1950 and 1994, only four teams (1953-1962 Chicago Cubs, 1953-1967 Kansas City Athletics, 1969-78 Montreal Expos, and the 1977-1990 Seattle Mariners) registered periods of 10 or more consecutive losing seasons and two of those four were expansion teams.

Since 1994, five franchises (1993-2009 Pittsburgh Pirates, 1993-2004 Milwaukee Brewers, 1994-2005 Detroit Tigers, 1998-2007 Tampa Bay Rays, and the 1998-2009 Baltimore Orioles) have registered stretches of 10 or more consecutive seasons with a losing record.

In addition, the Kansas City Royals have had a losing record in 14 of the last 15 years (winning mark in 2004 interrupted their streak), the Cincinnati Reds recently completed their ninth straight losing season, and the Colorado Rockies have had only two winning seasons since 1997.

In addition, the lack of financial controls ultimately were a factor in the Montreal Expos, who had the best record in baseball at the time of the strike in 1994, being unable to keep some of the best talent in baseball. The franchise left Montreal for Washington D.C. in 2005, but is still struggling on the field.

While baseball as a whole has grown significantly stronger since 1994, this statistic illustrates that there are clearly places where the agreements reached in 1994 have hampered the ability to compete in an era of spiraling salaries and unbridled spending by the largest franchises.

That the Yankees are World Champions again in 2009 is just another reminder that in baseball money can buy you love (and a World Series).

This article is an original story from Sports Then and Now , which was created to give passionate sports fans a place where they can analyze and discuss current sports topics while also remembering some of the great athletes, moments, teams and games in sports history all at one site. If you haven't been there yet, check it out today.

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