Well, the day has come (sometime last week): Carlos Beltran, the holy grail of baseball general managers everywhere, the man who can single-handedly (though he can switch-hit) carry an entire team into October, made his decision. From all the teams re-financing their states to pay his salary, Beltran chose the Mets, leaving a distinguished list of suitors with an extra "'Brewers annual payroll' at their disposal. One team, however, was notably absent from Beltran's consideration: the Yankees, bastard child of capitalism, tyranny and self-promotion (it was a strange conception), decided to sit out of this spend-frenzy. The reasons for their retreat? Dubious at best.
If you're the type who believes the experts, then you believe that the team just didn't have the money to splurge on Beltran. You've heard that George Steinbrenner is finally realizing that, with luxury tax and revenue sharing, he can't spend more on a team than Delaware does . . . total. And, most frighteningly, you're wondering if perhaps the Yanks are re-thinking their spend-and-contend approach to assembling a team. Let me assure you: that's hogwash.
Just take a look at the literature. Moneyball (I'm reading the book right now, so I can name-drop) has (is) taught (teaching) us (me) a number of valuable lessons, such as that it's possible to assemble a winning baseball team on a shoestring budget. But it's also taught us to question conventional baseball wisdom, such as "experts are smart." That's why I'm going to blatantly ignore the first gospel of Moneyball and focus on the second: I don't think the Yankees are being smarter with their money. I just don't think the Yankees, and Steinbrenner, are devoted to winning.
I mean, come on; listen to that explanation. Don't have the money? That's the excuse I give when my girlfriend asks for a topping on her pizza, not the excuse that the Yankees essentially an off-shoot of the US Mint should be giving. (Speaking of mints, I could really go for an Andes mint right now. They're really tasty.)
Forget the perpetual ticket sales for one of the largest stadiums in the country at some of the highest prices in the biggest city. Forget the income that the Yanks see from the YES network, which somehow negotiated a TV broadcast blackout radius of 12,000 miles. And forget the unimaginable bribes it took to get a team of nine all-stars to throw four straight playoff games in a showdown of the two biggest rivals in the cosmos. But don't forget the merchandising, and the countless cabbage it brings in. Not that you could.
Not that you could forget the ubiquity of the crossed N-Y when you travel abroad and see small pubs festooned with that very emblem. Right now there's some dude in rural Mongolia, dressed only in a goat-skin Del and a Yankees skull cap as he farms with his fleet of oxen. Whether or not he knows what the characters on his hat mean is moot, because somehow that cap made its way to a 7-11 hut in central Mongolia and that farmer laid down his hard-earned loot for it.
For reasons that the Cincinnati Reds are trying real, real hard to discern, the Yankees logo has become associated not with a team, not with a sport, or a city, but with our entire country. When people in other countries wear a Yanks logo, they're wearing America. I wouldn't know a French sports team's logo if it was eating Chinese take-out in my living room, but when the Yankees are playing in October, it really does become a World Series and the team reaps the benefits. The Yankees have an unlimited international slush fund from which they can draw; one not afforded to the competition.
Of course, it's not like it matters. Those other teams and Atlanta, Oakland, Anaheim-Los Angeles-California-Earth, Boston and St. Louis just don't get it. They all, for the most part, spend their money conservatively. They don't make those power moves I've come to expect from New York. Yeah, the Yankees got Randy Johnson, but until he has a 30 / 30 season and fights through his lingering WWII injuries, I'll maintain that the Bronx boys dropped the ball. Which is something that Beltran would never do.
In short, the Yankees let me down. They let all of New York down. And they have no good excuse for it. Like Kevin Brown and ARod before him, Beltran was a sure thing; the one thing the Yanks needed to take the title. But this isn't just about Beltran. It's about principle. Steinbrenner was always the guy that would spend the money; that would ignore the Moneyball and sabermetric philosophies of his far-thriftier (except Boston) rivals, because those teams are all losers (except Boston). Now, it appears that New York no longer has a team willing to use its money as muscle and push everyone out of the way in their occasionally-successful marches to the championship.
Well, other than the Mets.