by Mike DePilla
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Is it sour grapes to say the Yankees 2009 World Championship is hollow and phony? I feel like it should be. A team that won 103 games in the regular season, that just logged its record 27th title in franchise history and that considers a 9-year period between titles a drought ought to be respected, and should serve as a model for less ambitious organizations and fan bases.
And surely they earned this title on the field, where they outplayed the Twins, Angels and Phillies at the plate, on defense, on the mound and on the bases.
But I can't get away from the fact that this Yankee team feels fake. I usually enjoy watching a team celebrate its championship, even if it's not the White Sox, because they worked hard and deserved to win. The joy of a world champion team is a pleasure for me to see. I had no such feeling watching the Yankees pile on each other.
I'm aware that Sox fans generally tend toward sour grapes at times: look at the schadenfreude regarding Orlando Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Javier Vazquez along with a myriad traded-away failed prospects in recent memory. But that's not my style.
I even applauded and respected the hated Twins when they celebrated the AL Central crown this year. Sox fans like to dismiss the Twins and laugh when they lose in the playoffs. But a team with a small payroll, who lost their slugging first baseman (Justin Morneau) and ace pitcher (Kevin Slowey) for the last couple of months of the season and still passed both the more talented Sox and Tigers in the standings. Tallest midget? Maybe. But still worthy of some admiration in my book.
And yet with the Yankees, nothing.
Obviously there is the perennial complaint of how the Yankees outspend every team- this year's additions of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixiera and AJ Burnett made a further mockery of the payroll disparity in baseball. But if you had unlimited resources wouldn't you would buy those guys to play for your team also? It's not the players', or the fans', fault that they spend more money. (It's the fault of the spineless, non-autonomous commissioner, but that's a different story.)
So is it just bitterness and jealousy that it is the Yankees that have those resources and not "us"? New Yorkers will tell you so, that you would have it this way of you could. Looking at it as objectively as I can, I honestly don't know.
Yankees fan would also tell you that, for all the hoopla over their free agency binge shopping, their team is actually more homegrown than others. And again, they're right.
I do respect the so-called "Core Four"- Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, who have been with the team for all five of it's recent championships. And Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Joba Chamberlain represent significant homegrown talent. Heck, the truth is this Yankees team technically had more homegrown talent than the '05 Sox.
And yet, it all still feels phony.
There was something inspiring, magical and joyous about the '05 Sox (and, for a non-Chicago example, the '08 Phillies) that gave you the impression they were doing it the right way. No shortcuts, no cheating, no "buying" it. The Sox achieved their glory through shrewd trades (Garcia, Podsednik, Contreras) and under-the-radar free agents (Dye, Pierzynski, Iguchi) to go along with homegrown players and developing youngsters (Buehrle, Crede, Rowand, Garland, Jenks).
The emphasis with the Sox was identifying undervalued or mis-valued talent and nurturing that talent in Chicago. They built their team on development and belief. The Yankees, after missing the playoffs in 2008, just bought the unanimous best free agents available for $423.5 million. The most difficult off-season decision was what time to schedule the press conference to announce the signings. Their accomplishment on the field was still great, it's just I personally prefer the style of the '05 Sox.
Sour grapes? Maybe, but I wouldn't want to root for Mark Teixiera, a man considered an agent's dream because of his politician-style personality. His post-game comment: "I prayed and prayed and God led me to the Yankees to win." Yes, that $180 million contract truly was a sign from God.
Or ARod, a man who left Seattle for a ludicrous deal in Texas, opting for dollars over wins. Then when the Rangers couldn't build a winner around him, he whined until he found himself in New York, contract intact. Then, apparently still not learning the lesson, he opted out of his record contract because he felt he was worth more. Then, amazingly, he got it. Then he lied about using steroids, Then he got busted for the lie. Somehow the subject never came up as he hoisted the trophy on his shoulders. Oh, and rumor has it he has a painting of himself over his own bed.
Yeah, that is definitely the kind of guy you're just so happy for when he wins the big one.
None of that takes away from the physical accomplishment of this Yankees team. They were without question the best group of players on any baseball field this postseason. It's just I'd still rather listen to William Shattner spoken word interpretations of Christina Aguilera songs than root for Teixiera, Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and AJ Burnett.
I don't believe in a salary cap, but there has to be some leveling of the field between New York and the Kansas City Royals. If the Royals drafted ARod, Beltran, Pujols and Santana, no matter how good they were they wouldn't be able to afford to keep them together once free agency kicked in. That is wrong. the fact that the royals can't go out and sign Pujols doesn't bother me nearly as much as the fact that they couldn't keep him if he was their own product.
Baseball is at its best when the big-name best players are spread out across the league, and a GM's job is to find the diamonds in the rough or to evaluate talent and make an appropriate offer to a suitable free agent. If building a winning baseball team is only outspending less wealthy teams for the unanimous best free agent available, how exciting is that? Not very.
So call it sour grapes if you want to, but I'll take my '05 Sox over these Yankees any day.
**It's been covered before, but suggested further reading here. Great summary by Joe Posnanski.
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