Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 6:14 AM
On Friday night, the New York Yankees (with a team payroll of $206 million) showed themselves once again to be the biggest and most expensive losers in the history of professional sports. On this occasion their fabled quest for another World Series title was foiled by the lowly Texas Rangers (with a team payroll of only $55 million) who defeated them to win the AL Championship Series four games to two.
I am mindful of course that the Yankees are the defending World Series champions. But given the way they struck out this year, it might be another decade, and a whole new roster of high-priced players, before they win another.
I must confess, though, that I’m not much of a Baseball fan. In fact, I pay no attention to the sport until after Labor Day – when Division Championships begin in earnest. And even then, I find highlights on ESPN’s Sport Center enough to satisfy my interest.
But the New York Yankees transcend sport. Nothing demonstrates this quite like the way they make news almost as much for their behavior off the field as for their play on it. And where some players on the team are covered in the media like Hollywood stars, the biggest star in the Yankees’ constellation was undoubtedly their spendthrift boss, the late George Steinbrenner.
Actually, the drama Steinbrenner produced by trading players and firing (or at least threatening to fire) coaches became such a riveting off-season saga that it rivaled the entertainment value of any soap opera on daytime TV. And all indications are that his heirs are inclined to follow his lead. Not least because national interest in what they will do with fan favorite and team captain Derek Jeter – who just ended a long-term contract with the worst season of his career – is already rivaling interest in the outcome of this year’s World Series.
(The Texas Rangers will be taking on the San Francisco Giants beginning tomorrow night – in case anyone outside of those two cities is interested.)
Apropos of contracts, no storyline in As the Yankees Turn provides more off-season fascination than watching the Yankees spend obscene amounts of money to lure the best players to New York only to have them play – during the critical October pennant race and World Series – as if they were bought with phony dollar bills. God knows they played this October like phony superstars who were bought with phony money….
What Boss Steinbrenner’s money does buy: April through September.
What it doesn’t buy: October, which apparently isn’t for sale at any price – even for close to a quarter-billion dollars.
Of course, for those of us who can’t stand the Yankees’ money-can-buy-me-anything attitude, season-ending losses like the one they suffered on Friday night provide unbridled glee. But this glee was made all the more delightful on this occasion by the irony of watching Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) strike out to seal their defeat. After all, only the Yankees were rich and foolish enough to acquire A-Rod from the Rangers in 2003 by assuming the burden of his unprecedented 10-year $252 million contract.
But our glee must have paled in comparison to the vindication the Rangers felt. For, after getting rid of the dead financial weight A-Rod came to represent, they are not only going to the World Series for the first time in their 50-year history, but are doing so with an esprit de corps that was impossible when A-Rod was a Ranger given the prima dona status he cultivated for himself.
This group is here because they don’t know how to fail. The chemistry of this team is like something I’ve never known anywhere.
Ranger slugger Josh Hamilton, Reuters, October 23, 2010)
So here’s to the Rangers for spicing up this latest episode of As the Yankees Turn with this ironic twist at A-Rod’s expense. And just for that, and because they are the clear underdogs, I’m pulling for them to defeat the Giants and win their first World Series title.
NOTE: There was a time when most sports analysts were betting on whether Barry Bonds, baseball’s reigning home-run king, would lead the Giants to a World Series title before A-rod led the Rangers. Therefore, nothing would be more ironic than the Giants finally winning their first title in over 50 years with Bonds, their erstwhile leader, sitting at home awaiting federal trial for lying under oath about taking steroids….