Hate The Game, Not The Players

November 5

                       Ho hum.  The Yankees win.  Thuuuuuuuuh … you know the rest.

                       You should have seen it.  On Facebook, Twitter, and every else in the great ether known as the Internet, the Yankees’ 27th World Series title has generated a paroxysm of hate.  The spewage goes on, even as I write.   

                       My dislike of the Yankees goes back to my youth, when I was an avid Dodgers fan, and Reggie Jackson broke my heart.  Back then they represented evil to me.  They represented the big blowhard rich guy who tramples everything in his midst to get what he wants, everyone else be damned.  Their fans were a bunch of jerk-offs.

                       Today, to many fans, the Yankees represent something worse:  they see everything wrong in our society wrapped up in a baseball team.  They see the rich getting richer.  They see Goldman Sachs, AIG, and Wall Street scum swindling investors and robbing  taxpayers,  laughing at them all the way to whatever banks are left.

                      We sneer at the Yankees because they’re the rich guy who gets the hot girl.  In high school, the Yankees were Steve Stunning, star quarterback and homecoming king who dated the cutest cheerleader and drove a ‘vette.  Behind our sneering, though, there’s a dirty little secret:

                      We wish we were them.

                     Giants and A’s fans wish their teams spent money like the Yankees.  They wish they had an owner like George Steinbrenner, who will spend whatever it takes to win.  An ailing Steinbrenner has handed over control of the team to his sons, and he might not be around much longer, but he has left an indelible imprint on the Yankees and on baseball.  Steinbrenner does what many owners are afraid to do, and non-Yankee fans hate him for that.      

                     Don’t hate the player, hate the game. 

                     That’s probably not an original thought, but it’s apt.  Major League Baseball has no salary cap.  As long as that’s the case, the Yankees and other high-payroll teams will be at or near the top.  They will continue to laugh at the luxury tax and cut whatever check they need to cut.

                     While hosting shows on KNBR last winter, I watched as the Yankees went on a fabulous shopping spree.  I pointed out that the combined contracts for C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett were bigger than the Gross Domestic Product of seven countries.  I don’t know, it might be six now if Tonga had a good year.

                     Michael Lewis pointed out in “Moneyball” that the money gap is most evident when you look at playoff appearances, especially in the past decade or so.  As long as the system remains, we will continue to see close-up shots of obnoxious Red Sox and Yankees fans in prayerful pose on Fox during the playoffs.  There will be also be Angels, Cardinals, Dodgers, Mets, and Phillies sightings.  With a few exceptions ( Rays )  the same six or eight teams will be there every year.

                     Not only does Major League Baseball lack a salary cap, but it lacks a salary floor.  As a result, smaller-market owners aren’t likely to take the big step up, especially in this economy.  Even when the economy improves, they’ll try to get by on the cheap, and continue to be an embarrassment of non-riches.

                     In English Premier League soccer, bottom-feeder teams are “relegated” to a lower division.  You might as put the Royals, Pirates, Nationals, and a few other teams in the Coca Cola League.  They have a slimmer chance of making the playoffs than I have of dunking a basketball.  (  I could when I was 16 at 5′ 11″, but 16 is a distant spot in my rear-view mirror, much like the playoffs are a distant memory for the Pirates. )

                    Spending money is not a guarantee of winning.  Just look at the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Cubs.  A salary cap is not a guarantee of parity.  Look at the NFL’s Lions, Raiders, and Browns.  If you have dumb owners they’ll find a way to muck it up.

                    Spending money will increase your chances in a stacked card game.  And guess what?  The Yankees have threatened to sue against a salary cap.  The Players Union won’t  back it, either.  Gee, I wonder why? 

                    So get used to it, fans.   Don’t hate the Yankee players.  They are some pretty good guys, including C.C. Sabathia, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera.  Guys who respect the game and play it the right way, and happen to be compensated handsomely for doing so.  Hate the system.  Ok, and hate A-Rod too if you want.

                   Also, get used to owners who think it would be nice if they can win or compete, but really just want to avoid losing money.  Bay Area fans are familiar with those fellows.  They’ll try to nickel and dime their way into the playoffs with only occasional success.

                   It must have been galling to Giants fans Wednesday night when Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal asked the Yankees’ Jorge Posada how it felt to win “after all those years.”  Yep, poor Jorgie had to wait almost a decade for another World Series ring, and thank heavens he has one for the thumb now.  By contrast, a person born the last time the Giants won a World Series is now eligible for AARP.

                   Giants fans deserve better.  Yes, the team built one of the best ballparks in the majors, mostly with private funds.   But the ballpark is a decade old, the team is halfway through the 20-year mortgage, and fans don’t want to hear excuses anymore. 

                  The Giants are a solid franchise, and ownership will be expected to produce a playoff-bound team now, after years of mediocrity.  That means spending more money.  If they fail to do so, fans will leave in larger numbers, and that’s not a good business plan. 

                  Even in this economy, it’s time to think bigger and “grow the pie,” as Marie Callendar might say.  Counting paper clips won’t work.  To quote the great Lee Iacocca, “lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

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One Response to “Hate The Game, Not The Players”

  1. Marty Says:

    Ray,

    You said it all today on KNBR when I heard “The Giants don’t spend their money wisely!” THANK YOU!!!

    Gary always says, “Brian Sabean knows more than us listeners.” That may be true. But, if Mr. Sabean knew so much then he wouldn’t piss away all the Giants revenue on stiffs like Rowand, Zito, and Renteria (among others) and handcuffing the franchise from signing live bodies who can actually help the team.

    Most Giants fans are tired of “kicking the tires” and “due diligence.” We have suffered long enough (I think 55 years is enough pain). The Giants are satisfied with 3rd place. therefore, I expect many more years of third place for our local nine.

    Until they get a GM who knows how to spend money wisely we will continue to be “long suffering fans” of a 3rd place team.

    P.S. I could care less about the Yankees…

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