I was talking to my friend a few days ago about the Yankees Red Sox opener. We started joking how the the rivals are fighting for fourth place in the AL East this year.
Isn’t it incredible how you can make that comment only half-kidding?
For the first time in about 16 years, Boston and New York fans must succumb to the three “other” teams in the AL East. As a Yankees fan, Toronto, Tampa, and Baltimore have been just thorns in our sides, would-be tacklers failing perennially to prevent my Bombers from reaching the endzone.
Not this year.
And I’m okay with it.
I’m a little excited in an abstract way. Injuries and payroll dump may result in a Yankees team of homegrown talent, not multi-million-dollar synthetic puzzle pieces. Maybe my team can relax and bond over watered down expectations instead of folding under the postseason pressure to quench a near-insatiable thirst of “World Series or bust”.
Perpetual greatness allows for occasional mediocrity.
Look at the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. Just like the Yankees, Peyton Manning & Co. were a perennial powerhouse, spoon fed VIP entrance to the playoffs from week one. Eventually, age settled in and the Colts needed to start fresh. Incredibly they only needed one year and a #1 pick to bounce right back to Super Bowl contention, but they played their cards right and inquired from within, just like the Yankees dynasty from the late 90s.
Here’s the payroll (money…rank in league) of the last ten World Series Champions:
San Francisco Giants: $118M……8
St. Louis Cardinals: $105M………11
San Francisco Giants: $98……….10
New York Yankees: $201………….1
Philadelphia Phillies: $98………..12
Boston Red Sox $143……………….2
St. Louis Cardinals $89……………11
Chicago White Sox $75…………….13
Boston Red Sox $125……………….2
Florida Marlins $49…………………25
The theory is sound: better players = higher chance of winning, better players = more money, more money = higher chance of winning. Ya spend more, ya win more.
It just doesn’t work like that.
If you told me the Yankees will go 72-90 but will give their home-grown talent reps and experience, I’d take it. *On second thought, I’d rather that season come next year. I want to see Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte get one last chance at a title.*
Unfortunately, for a team that has lead the league in payroll every single year since 2001 (numbers here), they have but one World Series to boast during that time.
Yankees “big” free agent contracts since 2004:
Disaster deal, Okay deal, Good deal, Great deal (in my opinion)
Alex Rodriguez – 10/252, 10/275
Carl Pavano – 4/40
Johnny Damon – 4/52
Kei Igawa – 5/20
A.J. Burnett – 5/82.5
CC Sabathia – 7/161
Mark Teixeria – 8/180
Maybe I’m a little harsh, but has any contract since Mike Mussina’s 6/88.5 deal been a great sign?
Maybe these large contracts in a big market are disguises for failure. A-Rod said it himself. He used steroids with Texas to help reach near unrealistic expectations. When presented with a salary many fans will never see in their lifetime, it’s a lot of pressure.
Chemistry wins championships. Not paychecks.
The $200M mindset is a great, aggressive strategy, but it’s not how you win World Series. Plus, there’s more excitement rooting for Brett Gardner or a young Robinson Cano as opposed to a free agent filling the Yankees laundry.
So what if Hiroki Kuroda is injured. So what if we throw a minor league team out there until late May. But I want to see what we have in our farm system. I just don’t feel like Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner, and Ben Francisco are more than temporary patch jobs. Let’s go Yankees. It’s been 13 years. We’re due for a dynasty.