So it begins. I’ll bold the following, just so you know that I’m not crazy.
The Yankees have an inherent advantage. They committed hundreds of millions in one offseason to bring in C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett, which is something that no other team can do. Signing those players is a big reason why the Yankees won a championship. The Yankees have an inherent advantage.
So I’ll never argue that payroll doesn’t matter. But I was listening to KNBR, and the hosts were going off on baseball’s lack of competitive balance. (If a KNBR intern can leave the following on a post-it note on Bob Fitzgerald’s desk, that’d be just peachy: according to the USA Today, the Cardinals were 17th among MLB teams in payroll, the Rockies were 18th, and the Twins were 24th. So please retire the "seven out of the top eight payrolls made the playoffs" line. Thank you.) Yes, the Yankees had an advantage. It was a substantial advantage. But, like every single championship team, they needed a little luck to go along with their spending, drafting, and trading.
The Yankees featured a starting lineup with four players who were 35 or older: Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. Not only did all four stay healthy, but all four each had some of the best seasons of their respective careers. The Yankees deserve credit for developing Jeter and Posada, and they deserve credit for being able to separate the Damons from the Rowands, but having all four elder statesmen produce at the level they did is insane. And it wasn’t just the ballpark inflating their numbers; they all had legitimately fantastic seasons.
The Yankees outperformed their Pythagorean projection by eight games, which is also pretty danged lucky. The bullpen was anchored by a 40-year-old, a homegrown prospect, a 17th-round pick, a minor league free agent, and a guy who put up a 5.9 K/9 in the Mexican League two years ago. That’s a testament to solid scouting and player evaluation; it’s also a big grab-bag of luck and fortuitous circumstances.
Factor in some expected declines for any of the over-30 set, throw a couple of gas cans in the place of David Robertson and Alfredo Aceves, and the Yankees have a tougher road. You could do those kinds of hypotheticals until it gets ridiculous – "If Alex Rodriguez found a power ring on Ryxxl-4, he’d be a new Green Lantern, and he wouldn’t even play baseball." – but the larger point remains: Money, and money alone, isn’t all it takes to win a championship. There has to be a series of astute maneuvers – picking up Nick Swisher for a sack of doorknobs, not trading Melky Cabrera for Alan Embree, sticking with Robinson Cano after a down year – and a bunch of luck to go along with the money.
So, yes, the Yankees had an advantage. They’re able to brush off contracts like Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright like no other team can. When something that was legitimately unlucky happened – Chien-Ming Wang going Scott Munter on the AL – it’s more than luck that the Yankees had $500B in offseason acquisitions to help round out the rotation. The, uh, Royals don’t have that luxury.
But the Yankees didn’t win the championship last offseason. They haven’t already won the 2010 championship. Pretending anything differently is a disservice to baseball. The sport is fine, dammit.
Congratulations, Yankees. Now go eat a bowl of scorpions and break your ankles while tripping over a pile of champagne bottles because you can all screw yourselves. You and your spoiled fans can all screw yourselves. Winning a single championship would warm my heart for decades. Decades. I just want one. Can you please just give us one of your 27, you greedy, imperialistic bastards?
Great. Now I want to stab something.