I was touring the nation’s largest residency the last week of December when I received a text message from my stats-obsessed cousin that the Yankees have signed Mark Teixeria. I let out a little whoop and the other visitors at the Biltmore in Asheville, NC looked at me like I was, well, a damned yankee.
For the past several weeks, especially right after the signing, the Interwebs was flooded with enough vitriol about the Yankees spending this much money that the non-Yankee, Bernie Madoff, not to be confused with Bernie Williams, must be smiling somewhere as he counted the Wilpon’s investments.
I have a Yankee friend who believes that this signing, “this over the top signing”, has been a huge dent in the armor of the Yankees magic. He feels that the joy will be sucked out of the game because the Yankees, and therefore him, are in a no win situation. If the Yanks win the World Series next October, well, shouldn’t they have, he argues. Then again, if the Yanks don’t win, well, why couldn’t they…with all that talent and might and strength and salary. He also believes that this year’s team (and the next 10 seasons) won’t be as ’emotional.’ His argument continues with a head of steam: the Yankees in the late 90s were so romantic, so pure, because we groomed our players. It was exciting to root for Bernie, Posada, Jeter, Pettitte to win because these were our kids; these were our generation’s DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra…all Yankees who grew up wanting to be Yankees and went through the farm system to play on the hallowed fields of Yankee Stadium. My Yankee friend puts his argument in a succinct, emotional and yet tangible way (he should, he’s a Manhattan D.A.). But his argument confuses the tree for the forest.
The Yankees signing of Teixeria, Burnett and CC is the definition of capitalism. The Yankees are using the system to better themselves. Unlike the more socialistic sports of Football and Basketball, both of which have salary caps, MLB is a great example of what and how capitalism works. Yankee ownership made the fiscal decision decades ago to be competitive every season; there is no such thing as a rebuilding season. They put money they make back into the ballclub because they realize that in order to make money, they need to spend money.
There are many in and out of baseball who disagree with this logic, and thus hate the Yankees. But they fail to grasp that they are getting upset over a) a game and b) the fact that a ballclub does everything in its power to win, which last I checked was a key purpose of sport. I’m willing to bet all the lint in my unemployed pocket that people who dislike the Yankees spending would be singing a different tune if their team decided one day to spend money. Now, what about the teams that don’t have as much money? Good question.
Owners of baseball teams, whether individual or group, are very wealthy. Instead of taking all the profits and placing them in their own gold-lined pockets, they could put money back into the ball club. Or, if they’re like the Marlins or Diamondbacks, they could capitalize when they win a World Series and not sell off the team. Take the Cubs, Mets and Red Sox as examples of teams that are starting to understand that in order to make money, they need to spend it.
Of course, the endemic problem with baseball is the enormous salaries. And the reasons why they are so large are plenty (maybe to tackle in another post). But the bottom line is that these athletes put butts in the seats across the nation. They sell advertising for their team and brand. They drive consumers to spend on clothes and merchandise. The Yankees and Red Sox continually sell out ON THE ROAD, which means more money for the home team. IF people are going to spend their hard-earned dollar to watch grown men play a child’s game, then why not pay these men the value that they bring to the league?
Now, I am not saying that spending all this money will equate to a World Series ring (which would be great), but all this spending will mean 7 months of great, sometimes nail biting, entertainment. And that’s all a baseball fan can ask for.