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Money Doesn't Buy Championships: Dispelling The Myth

Chris ScofieldContributor INovember 6, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04:  Manager Joe Girardi #27 of the New York Yankees celebrate after their 7-3 win 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 Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

"Money can't by me love" sang The Beatles in the '60s. 

Nor can it buy an MLB team a World Series championship. 

The dusty vestige of an argument locked in the attic for the past nine years was dragged out of the darkness yesterday morning, hours after Mariano Rivera closed out the 2009 Fall Classic.  The argument actually comes in a few different flavors, but essentially all of them are presented like this: 

"Of course the Yankees won.  They spend more money than any other team by far.  They bought the Championship ."

Take a moment and think back, and you will recall that the Yankees won only three playoff series' since 2002 before finally getting off the schneid and bringing the World Series trophy back to New York this year.  Yet year after year they consistently have had the highest total team salary in all baseball. 

That raises an intriguing question:  How come they didn't "buy the championship" all those other years?  The answer, frankly, is quite simple:  Because winning championships is NOT all about the money.

A number of teams with salaries substantially lower than the MLB  average have won the World Series in the past 25 years ('85 Royals, '90 Reds, '02 Angels, '03 Marlins).  An argument can be made that those were anomalies, but it does indeed happen.  There are also teams who had "average salaries" (comparatively speaking to all of MLB) that have won it all, such as the '05 White Sox

What occurred last year is in fact a timely and fitting example of teams not needing to be loaded with huge superstars carrying huge salaries to win.  The Tampa Bay Rays had the second LOWEST team salary in all of baseball and won the American League pennant. 

The 2008 World Series champions, the Phillies, weren't even in the top 10 of highest paid teams; they were 13th (although they moved up the list this year to seventh).

Now, even with all that said, it would be foolish to argue that teams with lower salaries have the same chance to win as teams with higher salaries.  Of course not.  The Yankees are stacked & loaded, and have talent galore.  But talent alone—or a boat load of money— does not guarantee success and championships.  

Kudos are in order to Brian Cashman and the Yankee front office for knowing how to pursue a player and close the deal. It's quickly forgotten when the notion of " they just bought themselves a championship ..." is grumbled by fans of other teams that the Braves and Red Sox were throwing the same huge sacks of cash at Texeira and Burnett last winter as the Yankees. 

However, their GMs and owners were not able to persuade them to join their organizations, lock them down, and ultimately get the deals done.  The Yankees were.

Also not to be forgotten is the fact that the Yankees had players who contributed to their success - throughout the year and in the playoffs—that made just over the league minimum of $400,000, including Alfredo Aceves, Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli, Phil Coke, David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain.

And finally, hats off to Joe Girardi and his staff for creating just the right chemistry, mixing focus and fun to enhance the clubhouse atmosphere, and then staying out of the way so his team could play to their potential. 

Without his steady hand, confidence, and his ability to manage under pressure (much like his predecessor and mentor, Mr. Torre), the money spent by Yankee ownership would have once again been for naught.

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