(him): So, what's your magic number now? Three? Two?
(me): We clinched last night, actually.
: Wow. It's about time.
: Do you remember the last time the Yankees won the division, and the Sox took the Wild Card?
: Yeah, but what was that... way back in 2003?
: 2004, actually... You know, the greatest choke-job in the history of professional sports.
: *dirty look*
I definitely won that argument (which, I would like to point out, I did not initiate). What I would have liked to say to him, and to all Yankees fans, is just a bit more involved.
If the Yankees win the World Series, who cares? They should win, and anything less is a FAILURE. They dropped nearly half a billion dollars on three players over the offseason, and play in a billion dollar launching pad of a ballpark. Last season, the spoiled baby-Steinbrenners missed out on the postseason for the first time since 1993 (not including 1994, when everyone missed the playoffs). They panicked and authorized Brian Cashman to go out and buy anything he needed to field a winning team.
That's exactly what happened. It started with CC Sabathia, who obviously did not want to come to New York. CC had specified early on that he wanted to play for a National League team on the West Coast. Of course, the Yankees are neither of those things, so they made up for their shortcoming in their usual way: with money. The Yankees opening bid for Sabathia was worlds away from the next highest (rumored) offer. CC wasn't convinced, and he left New York's contract offer on the table for more than a week. Cashman saw that other teams weren't willing to come close to the first offer, so he bid against himself, adding more years and dollars so that Sabathia realistically had no choice. AJ Burnett came next, and he was easier to convince, though Cashman made sure there was no doubt by offering more than most GMs thought he was worth. Everyone knows about Mark "My Wife Has My Balls in a Vice-Grip" Teixeira, but his contract came down to money, too.
Don't get me wrong. I know that the Red Sox are hardly a struggling small market team. The point I am trying to make is that no one can compete with the bottomless budget that Brian Cashman is equipped with. The Yankees 2009 payroll is $214 million. That's $75 million more than the next highest (Chicago Cubs, $139 million). The Red Sox, for contrast, are obligated to pay their players $133 million this year. Our highest paid player, JD Drew, is getting $14 million. Alex Rodriguez alone is owed more than the entire roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
I'm not advocating for a salary cap (at least, not now - that's another post), but I do want to make the point that the Yankees should win. If they do: so what? If they don't, it's a flop of massive proportions. This is the reason fans like the one in my class get under the collective skin of baseball fans everywhere: they feel entitled, and they're not shy about expressing it. It's grating, to say the least. But you really can chalk New York's success this year (and over the last few) up to economics: if you buy up the best talent, you should win. Seems like a bittersweet victory to me.
"Yo Angelica, I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish... But Yankees fans are the best spoiled brats of all time! OF ALL TIME!"