The Closet Moderate: This Week in Stupid

Monday, November 09, 2009

This Week in Stupid

I usually stick to political idiocy for this section, but today's winner is a Joe Posnanski article about the New York Yankees.

Mr. Posnanski is a Kansas City Royals fan and Zach Greinke booster. He's a fabulous writer and his eloquent case for Greinke as Cy Young recipient sold me completely. That said, he nurses a peculiar resentment toward the Bronx Bombers.

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The New York Yankees enjoy a tremendous financial advantage over almost every other team in Major League Baseball. This year, their payroll came in a solid $50,000,000 higher than the runner-up New York Mets, whose W-L record this year made them strong contenders for the 2009 "Rudy Giuliani Money For Nothing" award (est. 2008). Posnanski correctly points out that this grants the Yankees a tremendous inherent advantage. Granted.

Then he undermines that very point by admitting that the nature of baseball obscures dominance. If the Yankees spend lots of money but don't crowd out other teams, then I'd like to be reminded what the problem is. The Yankees dropped a series to the Washington Natinals, lost the first 8 games of the season series to the Boston Red Sox, and otherwise lost games they ought to have won. Of course, they also won a whole lot of games and eventually the World Series. Or, as Joe puts it:
That team will roll through the playoffs without facing an elimination game or anything resembling real drama — though there will be constant efforts to make it SEEM like there’s drama.
Sure, I'm a Yankees fan, but I think Joe was watching another ALCS. Games 2 and 3 went to the 11th and 13th inning, respectively. Game 5 was decided by a single run, and the Angels had a chance to even the series and force #7 until Kazmir lost them #6. Additionally, the Angels made a number of decisive baserunning errors that erased runners in scoring position--errors that very well might have changed the outcomes of those games.

Also, even if we accept everything about Joe's argument, it still doesn't follow that the Yankees are bad for baseball. On the contrary, the amount of hate the Yankees attract is good for baseball. In addition to sold out stadia and comfortable underdog narratives, hating the Yankees is an easy point of entry into baseball for casual fans. The Red Sox Nation may not have any idea who Alex Gonzales--their starting SS--is, but they know (and hate) Alex Rodriguez.

If the Yankees won every World Series every year, Posnanski might have a point. While I enjoyed the run from 1996-2000, that had more to do with my early Yankees fandom, watching the hopeless teams of the late 80's and early 90's as they stunk up the joint. After that legacy of futility, four World Series titles felt like justice, not dominance. As it stands, the Yankees don't win every year. Instead, they're crucible in which romantic notions about the Great American Game are tested. For those who cling to such things, victory over the Yankees isn't some trivial statistical inevitability, it's a validation of their hope and faith.

Finally, fandom is not so much a choice as a habit or instinct, one that we then invent justifications for. He doesn't like the Yankees. I do, and while I'm probably being unfair, I think many of Posnanski's cavils stem from the fact that he is a Kansas City Royals fan. The Yankees, to him, are a team with 27 World Series titles and 40 American League pennants. They are emblematic of a system that places enormous obstacles between his team and the World Series. As a 27-year-old Yankees fan, I have to say that 22 of those titles mean almost nothing to me. For me, watching the Yankees is about watching Pettitte, Jeter, Posada and Rivera play baseball. It's about a thread that connects me to memories of hot summers as a 13-year-old kid in New Jersey, watching Mariano set up Wetteland. That sense of continuity is more important to me than the World Series.

The trophy is nice, though.


This Week in Stupid Archives:

Michael Gerson

Eliott Abrams
Leon Wieseltier
Max Boot

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