As a lifelong Yankee fan, I’ve heard all (and I mean ALL) the comments from Yankee-haters mostly pertaining to the amount of money the team spends on acquiring players and then, keeping them. I’ve also listened while those people rejoiced when the team has failed (like they did yesterday) to reach and then win the World Series. Yes, in my 46 years of life, I cannot begin to list or count the ways non-fans have expressed their pure hate at the team I have passionately loved. For the most part, I stay silent and smile and roll with it. I say “for the most part” because when the spews of hate roll off the lips of Red Sox (I refer to them as “Red Sux“) fans, I am unable to contain myself and ALWAYS make sure I have the last word. Hey, just ask the Red Sox fans, it’s bigger than us and, when it comes to our hated rivals, we can’t control it. But, alas, I digress.
Over these years, I’ve tried to understand why the Yankees are so passionately hated. When I ask, nine out of every ten people give me the same response: “because they spend all that money that other teams don’t have to get whatever players they want”. I think to myself “if I was an owner with a seemingly endless supply of money, wouldn’t I do that too? More importantly, wouldn’t they?” Do they really want the Yankees (Steinbrenners) to say “You know what, for the good of the rest of the teams we compete with, we aren’t going to try our best at putting the highest quality team on the field”? When I pose those thoughts to them, they concede that baseball is truly the one at fault as it has no salary cap. The NFL comes up as the comparison until I point out that over the past 20 years, BASEBALL has had more different champions than the NFL has.
For one of the first times that I can remember, someone actually touched on what I believe is the REAL problem with baseball (and the other major sports) and why the teams with more money seem to have the most success. Mike Greenberg of the “Mike and Mike” show on ESPN mentioned that it had been intimated that baseball needs contraction. He took that further and stated he believed other sports like basketball and hockey have spread themselves too thin and also need contraction.
Contraction is about more than just money. I believe that baseball’s problem of big-money owners/teams being the only ones successful is the result of having just too many teams for the pool of talent that is available. Let’s look at the math….. Currently there are 750 major league players spread over 30 teams (25 man rosters during the regular season). Say you keep the roster limitations but, reduce the number of teams by 5. Suddenly, there are 625 major league players and, 125 players who would in theory have been in the lower half (in terms of talent) of the original 750 relegated to the minor leagues. This results in: 1. Higher quality of play at the major league level. 2. Higher quality of play at the minor league levels (borderline major leaguers are now bonafide minor leaguers). Suddenly, because you have raised the level of play on some of the smaller market teams, they become more competitive with the larger market teams regardless of the amount of money being bid. Further contraction, makes this result even more pronounced. Unfortunately, because we are talking about “big business”, the quality of the product is not the highest priority. Money talks, and, the fact is, the more markets professional sports can get into, the more money they make. The best baseball teams will be the ones owned by the best businessmen no matter how you slice it. The once proud franchises in Pittsburgh and Oakland may never be able to compete with the “big boys” again simply because there are so many other, richer choices for players to choose from.
I am fortunate. I am a fan of the NY Yankees who reside in one of the top two markets in sports and who have been owned by wise businessmen that took advantage of their market to create other monetary opportunities to enhance their ability to land the highest quality players. Until baseball (and other major sports) wakes up and realizes that a quality product has to be a priority, I know, and expect, my team will continually succeed.