Thursday, November 5, 2009

Damn Yankees

The Evil Empire won its record-setting 27th Fall Classic last night (it's not really a "World Series," a term used since the 19th century). I'm no fan of the Bronx Bombers, obviously, and I have delighted in telling anyone who would listen that the Pinstripers were evidence of how team chemistry can't be bought -- $200 million payroll and all.

While the Yanks finally proved me wrong, thus ending my nine year streak of reveling in their defeat, I pout mostly over George Steinbrenner's success. Although he no longer oversees the day-to-day operations -- leaving the job to his biological proxy, Hank -- "The Boss" is as well-known for his pursuit of costly free agents as he is for deriding them.

Steinbrenner shelled out contracts worth more than $420 million combined to CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira last off-season, according to a recent piece on Sports. That's in addition to the $275 million the Yankees handed Alex Rodriguez the year before, not to mention the $189 million Derek Jeter got after the Yanks won their previous championship nine years ago.

Instead of instituting a legitimate salary cap in the name of competitive balance like every other major sport in America, Commissioner Bud Selig opted to focus on revenue sharing (pro sports socialism), which he justified by concurrently implementing a luxury tax against teams with the deepest pockets -- like the Yankees -- whose combined salaries often exceed the threshold established by MLB's collective bargaining agreement.

In other words, Steinbrenner & Co. owe some debt of gratitude to the other franchise owners who essentially allow them to spend astronomical sums of money without retribution (as long as they stay out of the red).

Despite everything, it's Steinbrenner's characteristic flair, for lack of a better way of describing it, that inspires the odium felt by fans such as myself. Steinbrenner fired 10 different general managers before almost miraculously settling on Brian Cashman over 10 years ago. Steinbrenner has also changed managers an unbelievable 20 times in his colorful history, including the firing of Billy Martin on five separate occasions.

Steinbrenner even called a press conference after the Yanks' Game 3 loss to the Dodgers in the '81 World Series to show off the "injuries" he claimed to have sustained in an elevator fight with a couple of Dodger fans. Steinbrenner's accusations were never corroborated, and the event led some to believe that he made the story up to light a fire under the Yankees.

It didn't work. The Yanks lost the series in six games.

Go ahead and call me a "hater." I acknowledge that the Yanks do whatever it takes to win, and that is commendable to a point. But it doesn't engender the fidelity that will allow them to fully emerge from the shadow of glory days past. Thanks to Steinbrenner, the present-day Yankees have become less a team and more a greedy corporate entity willing to spend in the neighborhood of a quarter-billion dollars -- profit margins be damned -- for a single ring.

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