Yankees: the best baseball has to offer

Let’s face it: the Yankees are on their way to another World Series appearance, and their success over the last six years has done nothing but help Major League Baseball.

The Yankees never “bought” their championship teams. All the principal players in this latest Yankees dynasty come from the Yankees’ farm system as much as from George Steinbrenner’s deep pockets. Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi are the only major free agents the Yankees acquired since 1996, and neither has been on a championship team. At least not yet.

A certain columnist from Thursday’s Yale Daily News argues the Yankees are bad for baseball. I say they’re just more committed to winning.

Contrary to popular opinion, George Steinbrenner is not baseball’s wealthiest owner. There are owners with much more money who refuse to put more into their teams. Mike Ilitch, owner of the Tigers, is willing to put a lot of money into his Red Wings, but not his baseball team. Similarly, Twins owner Carl Pohlad is worth over a billion dollars, but he refuses to increase Minnesota’s $40 million payroll. Then again, maybe payroll isn’t everything, as any Mets fan will tell you. The Mets spent $94 million on a team that couldn’t get very high — at least not in the standings.

In yesterday’s column, Robert Womack complains about five unnamed Yankees on Baseball’s All-Century Team. Those guys are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. I don’t see how those five can’t be a part of any knowledgeable sports fan’s Baseball All-Century team.

And who can fault Roger Clemens or Derek Jeter? Clemens has won six Cy Young awards and will finish his career with 300 wins. Jeter is a career .317 hitter — better than Vizquel’s .274 and Tejada’s .268 — and he always comes up big in the playoffs. Who could forget last year’s miraculous flip to Jorge Posada in Game 3 of the American League Division Series? Jeter’s career average in the Division Series is well over .400, and he leads all of baseball in hits since his rookie season. A decade from now, I really don’t see why it would be a “mockery” to retire Jeter’s number when he will have accumulated 3,000 hits and who knows how many championship rings.

The truth is that the Yankees have not hurt baseball.

In fact, they are the best thing baseball has going for it.

The Yanks have the best road game attendance in Major League Baseball, which boosts revenue for their opponents and the league in general. Yes, the Yankees do win a lot, but they win with a classy cast of characters from Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter to Joe Torre and Don Zimmer. There’s no John Rocker on this squad.

I admit that baseball does have problems. Every season, there are only a handful of teams that are capable of competing for a World Series title. This year, four teams — the Devil Rays, Brewers, Tigers and Royals — lost over 100 games. I watched some Devil Rays’ games this year, and the team looks more like the Bad News Bears or a Silliman intramural team than a Major League ballclub.

Baseball needs to decrease the mammoth payroll gaps that exist between small and big market teams. Maybe the new luxury tax will work, maybe it won’t. In any case, the Yankees are not to blame for any of baseball’s problems.

If you don’t like the state of Major League Baseball, don’t blame the Yankees — blame the system.


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