Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why I Can't Hate the Yankees


I am an avowed Yankee hater. I hate the Yankees. I hate them for the playoffs in 2000 and 2001. I hate them for taking Jason Giambi and turning him into a complete tool. I hate them for driving up the price on everything from players to tickets to caps. I hate them because it’s almost un-American not to.

But I can’t hate them for winning. Not this time. Yes the Yankees are still the bully on the block. Yes they are still primarily responsible for the payroll imbalance in baseball. But the fact is this time it feels different. I’m not happy to see them win. I would have been happy to see Philly take them in five. But it’s different this time. For all the talk of the Yankees spending $423.5M on three players this year, they really only spent $62 on those three players this year. This year they won with a collection of stars and role player. Just as they did the last time.

The Giambi Factor:

Jason Giambi was the Oakland A’s from the time Mark McGwire left in 1997 until his own departure after 2001. Giambi’s transformation from hero to complete crapulence was immediate and began before the 2001 season had even ended. Giambi praised New York at the press conference prior to the A’s game five ALDS loss to the Yanks. He went on national TV and denigrated Oakland. He shaved, he cut his hair, he pimped deodorant. He turned his back on everything that had made him great. Then he came back to Oakland and all was forgiven. He was forgiven for the same reason this Yankee win is easier to swallow, he didn’t win. During Giambi’s tenure with the Yankees they made the World Series only once and lost to the Marlins. Giambi not being on this year’s team makes a Yankee win less enraging than it would otherwise have been.

Nine Years, Big Money, No Titles:

Over the nine years since the last Yankees championship the team has proven that simply buying all the big name players at the highest prices doesn’t work. Especially when you’re buying old players long past their primes (Gary Sheffield, Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown) or off the juice (Sheffield, Giambi, Clemens) or never as good as advertised (Carl Pavano, Esteban Loaiza, Jose Contreras). Sure they still have a roster full of the most highly paid players in the world but the core of the team is also stocked with home grown talent and castoffs. Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughs, Phil Coke, and Mariano Rivera all came through the system. Nick Swisher was cast off by the A’s and the White Sox and then almost cut or traded before ever playing a game for the Yanks after they signed Mark Texiera. Eric Hinske, and Freddy Guzman and Jerry Hairston, castoffs all, played important roles this year. Without Jose Molina AJ Burnett may have been a bust. The team stayed afloat for two months with Cody Ransom at third base. As much as the mercenaries were the story this year the role players were the heart. Mark Texiera hit .180 during the playoffs. From that standpoint it’s easier to view this Yankee win the same way I’d view any team winning. After all, every winner since 2000 (aside from the Marlins) has been in the top tier in payroll. It’s not just a Yankee phenomenon any more. The fact that the Yankees haven’t won in nine years, and that everyone else who has is also on the money train, makes this one easier to deal with.

Did I mention that it’s been nine years since the Yankees last won the World Series? It seems it’s true what they say about time healing all wounds. There are people I’ve had tremendous disagreements with who I no longer hate. It seems this now includes the Yankees. Sure I still dislike them, and when the season starts again I’ll root for them to go 0-162. If they win again next year, and/or the next year, and/or the next year I’m sure the old hatred will spark up again. But today I’ll tip my cap.

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