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August 7, 2003

Breaking Balls

Yankee Doodle Whining

by Derek Zumsteg

I woke up yesterday morning to hear NPR's Frank Deford complain about how ineffective Bud Selig was in controlling the Yankees this year, that every fan of other teams had learned that the trading deadline was the effective end of the season. He went on to complain for a while about this year's moves and I got up to go shave, depressed about the continued domination of New York and my home town team's fortunes.

I was then shocked--shocked!--to find out that not only did the Yankees not win last year's World Series, they didn't even win the year before. Why, if this keeps up, it'll be hard to come up with, "What kind of a world is it where a man can't whine about Yankee dominance as a back-up topic for their column, or radio bit, or appearance on whatever show Jim Rome's hosting that week?"

Deford was right--the Yankees did acquire an All-Star third baseman. But Robin Ventura's an All Star third baseman, too, and no one's talking about that. Aaron Boone's really no plum, either--at press time, he was hitting .245/.304/.401 away from (as Dave Cameron called it) the Great American Bandbox.

If these are the acquisitions the Yankees are going to make to take on salary, so be it.

I wonder if perhaps those who've done doom-and-gloom for the three years of Yankee titles want to get their plugs in before anything has a chance to change. There's a new collective bargaining agreement, and like or not, it contains huge penalties for being the Yankees. When the Yankees take on salary, that's money for your local club. And if you believe that market inequities determine a team's state (for instance, that the Twins can't add payroll), then shouldn't this kind of thing be applauded? This is money that your team wouldn't have available to spend if not for the generous nature of the Yankees.

For every other team, this should be good news; even teams in the AL East will be better-funded to compete for the Wild Card. And with all this money improving every other team, the Yankees will have a harder time winning all those games.

What's better for every team in baseball than for the Yankees to spend crazy amounts of money trying to fight off the Red Sox, while the Red Sox do the same? A great rivalry and everyone not involved gets paid as well.

Are the Yankees undefeatable?

Um, no. Obviously. I mean, they're not 110-0. And some playoff contenders have given them a run:

  • Boston's 6-7 against the Yankees

  • Oakland is 6-3

  • Seattle's 2-4 going into this week's best matchup

The Yankees have swept (!) the Twins, but it's looking less likely the Twins will be the AL Central entrant to the playoffs. New York hasn't faced the Royals or White Sox yet.

I understand that people are frustrated, that many people wanted to see the Yankees go 65-97 and see Steinbrenner's head explode (and instead of cheap adjustable caps on cap night, fitted caps).

If you wanted the Yankees reined in, you've got much of what you wanted--much greater revenue sharing, and a hard salary cap (oh, come on, it's as hard as any other sport). If this was what people wished for, isn't it too soon to judge its effects? The money other teams get that's supposed to get poured into their payrolls isn't going to help until next year, at least.

What more do you want, a ban on mid-season trades?

It's not that unheard of. No less than "Stand Pat" Gillick recently endorsed the concept. Not that Pat makes trades mid-season anyway. Plus it wouldn't solve anything--the Yankees would just buy two, three backups at every position before the season starts, stuff all those players in Triple-A, and not have to make any trades, no matter what happens. Teams with thinner payrolls who suffer injuries are totally screwed, forced to run out their utility players or a minor league stopgap for the rest of the season, rather than being able to acquire a good replacement.

I believed that revenue sharing without correcting for market size was a bad idea, and I don't like the salary cap at all. But I don't know what the new CBA is going to do to baseball. No one does. Maybe it's going to turn out great, and provide a fairer playing field that compensates the genuine small-market teams for having to compete with the New York clubs that can draw on 10 million people for each club.

What we have is a great season with some tight races, unexpected contenders, new stars, and an excellent chance that the Yankees, for the third year in a row, are going be knocked off. Even Bud Selig's making hopeful statements about baseball. Can't we, for the first time, follow his lead and enjoy this season?

Related Content:  Yankees

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