Somewhat forgotten in the recent Alex-Rodriguez-was-just-a- young-naïve-and-stupid-kid- dipping-an-experimental-toe-into- unknown-Dominican-pharmaceuti- cal-waters-with-his-caring-older- cousin saga is the simple fact the New York Yankees remain, well, the easiest team to root against in all of sports.
Next month, the recession- retardant Yankees will unveil their wholly unnecessary, publicly financed $1.5 billion stadium accompanied by the largest team payroll since “Heaven’s Gate.”
(I suspect a family of four will be able to get in and out of the new Yankee Stadium for the approximate sum of what one hour of legal counsel currently costs Bernie Madoff.)
The Yankees, who have not won a World Series since 2000, annually try to buy one.
This off-season, they signed three mega-free agents: Mark Teixeira, eight-year, $180-million deal; CC Sabathia, seven-year, $161-million deal; and A.J. Burnett, five-year, $82.5-million deal. That’s $423.5 million committed to those three players.
The Yankees now have the four biggest player contracts in baseball – the hip-undone Rodriguez, 10 years, $275 million; Derek Jeter, 10 years, $189 million; Teixeira and Sabathia.
(The team bus, I believe, is a Lamborghini.)
With a big budget come big expectations. Yankees fans harbor this insufferable, New York-centric win-it-all-or-the-season-is-a-failure mentality. They take little pleasure in 90 wins or a division championship or even a pennant; anything short of a World Series title causes year-long urban angst.
I mean, these folks are so wrapped up in Yankee misery, it actually takes their minds off their own real-life misery. They dine out in misery. They bathe in misery. They sleep in misery. They are, best I can tell, a miserable, miserable lot.
(Speaking of misery, I was trapped in a midtown Manhattan taxi late last year, in which I was forced-fed 25 minutes of New York sports talk radio. Half the callers appeared to be threatening to jump off the Empire State Building unless the Yankees signed every big-name free agent, the other half were counting NBA titles for the Knicks after LeBron James joins the team in 2010.)
(But frankly, I enjoy rooting for the small-market teams against the big-market bullies. Sure, sometimes it is perpetually depressing, as when the Pittsburgh Pirates suit up, but other times it can be spiritually uplifting, as when the Tampa Bay Rays win the pennant.)
Alas, the biggest spenders are not always the wisest souls. For instance, the Yankees think they’re so smart, they ran off the manager who took them to 12 straight postseason appearances. Replacing Joe Torre was Joe Girardi, who, a breathless and savvy New York media told us, brought a sharper-edged, more energetic approach to the clubhouse.
And indeed, Girardi did something in 2008 Torre had never done with the team – miss the playoffs.
After their $423.5 million spending spree, the gaggle of Steinbrenners running the team found enough chump change lying around to also add to the payroll, via trade, utility sensation Nick Swisher, at $5.3 million for this season.
They liked the fact he can “work the count.”
Uh, $5.3 million for a guy who can foul off pitches?
In 2008, Swisher had the worst batting average in the majors, .219. But boy oh boy, he took a lot of pitches out of a lot of pitcher’s arms, and even got on base once or twice a week. A bargain at $5.3 million!
I don’t begrudge the Yankees spending more than anyone else. I begrudge them – and their loutish fans – the belief that spending more than anyone else guarantees success.
Spending more than anyone else only guarantees that you’re spending more than anyone else.
(That might be the smartest sentence I’ve ever written.)
Ask The Slouch
Q. Did you have Florida State in your NCAA probation pool? (Michael Davis; Brook Park, Ohio)
A. I’m shocked – shocked! – to find widespread academic fraud going on in Tallahassee.
Q. Would you have signed Terrell Owens? (Bill Wisniewski; McKeesport, Pa.)
A. For what, to destroy team chemistry in my home? My marriage is strong, but not that strong.
Q. Why isn’t The Slouch on Facebook? (Zac Smith; Oakton, Va.)
A. Have you seen my face?
Q. Do you think the Obama administration will hire A-Rod’s cousin if the economy needs another stimulus injection? (Dan Zenner; Sturtevant, Wis.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Is it true that when Bud Selig undresses, he really does look exactly like an ostrich? (Roger A. Wanic; Lombard, Ill.)
A. Pay this wise soul, too.