FanPost

The "Yankees Buy Their Championships" Argument Laid To Rest

I've read a lot in the past 8 hours about how the Yankees "bought another championship" from non-Yankee fans.

I'd like to address that and the entire financial aspect of baseball for a moment, if I may.

First and foremost, money obviously does not buy championships. If it did, every year the playoffs would consistently feature only the big-market, cash-rich teams -- which obviously is not the case. This year, the AL and NL Division Series featured teams with 2009 payroll rankings from 1 (NYY) to 23 (MIN). 3 of those teams were in the bottom half of that list, including the Rockies (18) and the Cards (17). Go back to 2008's World Series and you have to obviously talk about the $49 million dollar Rays, who were next to last. The Phillies spent $113 million -- where was the talk about the obvious disparity there?

Despite the rhetoric of the "baseball is a game" purists, the reality is that Major League Baseball is a business, plain and simple, and that business (like any other) is expected to make a profit. While I am sure that the majority of baseball's owners are indeed baseball fans, I seriously doubt that anyone would not consider their ownership to be an investment and attempt to manage it as one. What happens when a team is no longer making enough money? It gets sold or moved somewhere in an attempt to spark new life.

Any college business class will teach you that successful businesses invest in themselves, using a portion of their profits to grow. Likewise, successful baseball teams invest in themselves, knowing that a better team on the field will attract more revenue through attendance, merchandising, and media rights. George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees from CBS, who had mismanaged it into obscurity in the '60s for $10 million, and subsequently built it up by investing in it and making shrewd business deals such as selling the cable TV rights to Yankee games, inking deals with companies like Addidas, and creating the YES Network. In 2005, the Yankees were valued at $1 billion dollars. What most people do not know is that Steinbrenner initially tried to purchase the Indians, and when that deal fell through, he turned his sights on the Yanks. Imagine if he had been able to do for Cleveland even part of what he has done for New York and you are left to wonder how many people would be leveling their criticism in the direction of Ohio today.

The purists, with eyes agog at the spending of teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox cry unto heaven for a salary cap. There are two reasons why the owners refuse to implement one: First, it hampers the ability of owners to run their business as they see fit. Second, the small market teams (and those teams with bad management) are loathe to give up the revenue sharing money they get from the higher payroll teams. If you're the owner of the Marlins, say, why give up all that money? If you did, you might have to field a better team consistently to turn a profit. What did the Marlins do after they won the World Series? Pocketed all the cash and dismantled the team, selling off their higher-priced talent. In fact, when you look at the history of the Marlins and how badly they have been managed since then, you are rightfully surprised when they are in contention for the postseason; the amount of talent that they let get away since then due to cost is staggering. Meanwhile, the Yankees paid about 10% of their salary figure in a luxury tax in 2009; how much of that went into the pockets of the ownership of the Marlins?

So clearly, bad management, from the front office to the dugout, is a prime factor in bad results in the standings. But there's an intangible factor at play in championship-caliber teams - one that money cannot directly buy - and that's clubhouse chemistry. If you listen to what the majority of players, managers, and coaches say after a successful season, it's all about chemistry and working together as a true team, rather than a collection of individuals. Far too often in the past nine years, the Yankees spent gobs of cash signing players that never really meshed together; in those years, they ultimately did not produce what their payroll allegedly should have produced. Names like Brown, Johnson, and Sheffield instantly spring to mind when one considers the non-winning Yankee "teams". Looking back at the 2009 New York Yankees, you see that chemistry; you see it in the boy-like grin of Nick Swisher as he realizes that there's 4 balls to a walk and heads back to the plate. You see it in A.J. Burnett as he delivers another whipped-cream celebration to the face of a walk-off producer. You see it in Joe Girardi, who may have helped foster this camaraderie himself by canceling practice early in the season to go have a team bonding day at a pool hall. This also rings true for the 2004 Red Sox; and perhaps speaks to the intangible value of Johnny Damon.

One final word about George Steinbrenner. While he has shouldered the burden of building a $10 million dollar investment into a $1 billion dollar powerhouse, he has also been one of the more giving individuals baseball has likely ever seen. Try this: Google "george steinbrenner charity" and you'll get an idea of how many lives his generosity has touched over the years. Legends Field in Tampa wasn't renamed in his honor in an effort to keep the Yankees Spring Training home in that city or born of some other desperate effort to appease The Boss, rather it was in honor of the generosity he has shown to that community; quietly, largely behind the scenes, and largely unsung in discussions about baseball. Yet despite the mudslinging that is constantly hurled his way, not once has Steinbrenner ever publicly taken offense; not once has he addressed the media on how he should be recognized for his philanthropy - and clearly, he would be in the right to do so. Reportedly in declining health; when one day George Steinbrenner leaves us, Yankee fans will make up only part of those who mourn his loss.

Finally, here's the one question that none of those who decry the Yankees payroll can seem to answer: Since George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees, they have won the World Series 7 times.

Who bought the other 20?

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