“No nation was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most disadvantageous.” -Benjamin Franklin
The New York Yankees showcased their latest holiday impulse buy yesterday when they introduced 1B Mark Teixiera to their $223 million toy chest. Coming on the heels on the A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia purchases, the Yankees are undoubtedly making an unabashed statement to the rest of Major League Baseball. But in the context of the ever-disintegrating economy, their off-season spending binge does not connote aggressive World Series campaigning so much as it invokes the contempt and ire of fiscal-conscious Americans.
The Yankees have ruined baseball. They buy their team. They’re greedy minions of Lucifer and shameless Bob Crachets squashing the smaller market Tiny Tims under the heels of their cleats. They’re flagrantly destroying the National Pasttime one cool million at a time.
They’re also just playing by the rules.
The phrase “salary cap” has been whined and screeched so many times in the past month that I have no doubt a generation of December-born children will have it listed as their first words in their baby books. This right here is why I continue to be utterly baffled by the outlandish backlash towards the Bronx Bombers.
There’s no salary cap. And until there is, the Yankees can max out their corporate card every day of the week and twice on Sunday. They have the money, they fill their seats every year, they sell hot dogs at $8 a pop, they cater to consumer idiots like myself who need their team logo on everything from a ski cap to a stapler. And it pays off.
Whether or not these blockbuster acquistions will indeed lead the Yanks to the playoffs is a moot point. What IS relevant is that if the Yankees wanted to spend their multimillions in revenues on foam cowboy hats, beer, and pinwheels, then go live the dream.
Unfortunately for them, their legal, rule-abiding, and sound investments have exposed them as the Anti-Christ. Less affluent teams are crying it’s not fair, their fans spitting vitriol at the vile Evil Empire for–God forbid–subscribing to capitalist tenets of amassing personal wealth. They can hate on New York for a lot of things, but this ain’t one of them, because the New York Yankees are under no obligation whatsoever to pander to poorer teams.
Major League Baseball is a business. It’s not Little League. It’s not pick-up ball in Central Park. It’s a corporate empire that millions of people enthusiastically endorse because we love the game. And it’s naive to bemoan the way our pasttime’s been marred by greed, because it is impossible to put a cap on competitive spirit. It’s the impetus driving the game itself, and it’s the impetus fueling the economic market.
It’s ironic that so many use the financial crisis as the linchpin of their criticisms. If you want baseball to be the innocent institution seen through rose-colored glasses, then why tether the Yankees to the faltering economy? Last I checked, even their worst investments (read: Pavano) weren’t leaving millions jobless. What the Yankees decide to blow their cash does not exacerbate the damage done by Wall Street. And just because we’re bitter about penny-pinching doesn’t mean it’s the Yankees’ place to tread lightly around our sensitivities by not rubbing their fortune in our face.
Consider this business model: Say I own my advertising agency and am looking for the #1 creative copywriter in the industry. A good one is unquestionably worth his weight in gold, as a talented writer is at the heart of any successful marketing campaign. So I bring in the best for an interview, and he wants half a million dollars. Maybe I think, “Ehhh, kinda steep, but what this guy can bring to the table is worth that and then some. Sold.” Or maybe I think he’s sniffing glue, and there’s no way a single employee is that indispensable, so I just wish him well in whatever other opportunities he pursues. Or maybe it’s moot, since I simply don’t have that kind of money.
Said writer can take the job and let the chips fall where they may or insist he’s worth that much and pitch himself to another agency. And maybe every other agency tells him he’s a few crayons short of a box if he thinks he’s gonna get that kind of salary in this economy. And at that point, he can resign to accept a lower rate. But if there’s one agency who’s willing to meet his demands, then more power to them. He could be a dud, or he could be a star. Maybe I’d kick myself for not hiring him, or maybe I’d wish I had had the resources to take him on. But I can’t curse the company that brought him on board. The only thing I can do is work with the pool of applicants I have and hope their success generates enough income to someday be in a position to afford this caliber of talent, if I even want or need it by then.
So people can fault the Yankees for their decision making. Is it, in fact, wise to continue acquiring “trendy” athletes? Should they throw their efforts into cultivating a farm system? Perhaps. But that’s not the criticism shaping the seething response to the off-season spending.
Are they really “bad for baseball” as haters everywhere continue to purport? In an economic sense, their extravagance most likely pays itself off throughout the rest of the league. For teams that couldn’t fill their stands if they were equipped with free porn and strip steaks, the Yankees are invaluable–they sell out 81 road games. Read that sentence again. If you’re a shareholder in the Kansas City Royals, you’re counting down til the Yankee Series like it’s the 15th of the month.
And as one of only two teams that pay a luxury tax, the Yankees have paid handsome dividends to the league. This doesn’t even speak to the revenues from Yankee-Hater product sales, from the legions of articles and books that have been disseminated outlining the pervasive iniquity and corruption found in pinstripes. The legions of part-time sports fans that only root against the Yankees, and never for a team, prove that there’s no such thing as bad press.
Are the Yankees “bad for baseball” in a more tangible sense? Are they monopolizing the talent and making it virtually impossible for any other franchise to see even a fraction of the success the Yankees have? Ask Tampa Bay. Or the Red Sox. Or any other team that has managed to SOMEHOW “beat the odds” and have a winning, successful season despite the Yankees’ best efforts to acquire every player in the league. Philadelphia may have some dissenting opinions on this matter, as well.
For the media and haters to condemn the Yankees for spending is nothing new. If not for the economic collapse, this would be “Yankees being Yankees.” But because of it’s timing, the Yankees have been made not only scapegoats for small market teams’ holes, but also the enemy of a communist society. Why should MLB “spread the wealth”? Where is my incentive to advance on the corporate ladder and someday make a $250,000 a year, if I know that the second I reach this mark, half of my paycheck is going to be used to spread the wealth?
The dire straits of America’s economy may be critical, but they’re not the Yankees’ problem. Nor any other team. Because of Wall Street’s insatiable greed, I have to pay 18% tax on non-diet soda. Because fat people can’t join a gym, I have to pay extra to help the economy and minimize the country’s obesity risks. Now the sports-viewing world is saying that because of the financial collapse, the Yankees have to put the brakes on their spending because not everyone is as well off as them. Karl Marx would be so proud.
If MLB wants to enact a salary cap, then let them. But if they’re going to continue to hang from the Yankees’ flush coattails, then the rest of the sports contingent should recognize the Yankees are doing nothing more than honoring their constitutional right to prosper.