What if I told you everything you ever knew about sports was a complete lie?Don’t be so dramatic, Morpheus. But seriously, folks. What if some of the biggest truths you have been force fed by the media and disenchanted fans turned out to be a total lie?
I’m not talking about Pete Rose lying to save his own read end. And I’m not talking about whether or not Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire are any worse than Jason Giambi and Jose Canseco because two of those baseball players admitted to steroid use while two have denied it.
Nor am I talking about possible conspiracies that have occurred in history of sports. You know what I’m talking about, the cover ups that people insist upon like that the 1985 NBA Draft was rigged so Patrick Ewing would become a New York Knick. Or maybe you’ve heard the one about Michael Jordan “retiring” because the reality was that he was going to have been suspended for gambling.
I can’t prove any of those true or false, but I’m not here to try to do that. There is one big lie out there, and each and every year I continue to hear it, I realize more and more it was just an excuse to hate my beloved New York Yankees even more than most people already have.
MONEY BUYS CHAMPIONSHIPS
What a crock of horse apples. Well, I mean not entirely. Of course money buys championships in the simplest sense, because money buys everything. Owners aren’t bartering candy bars to bring superstars to their team for crying out loud. For those who don’t believe that money buys happiness, check out Bobby Bonilla’s big smile every July 1st. It certainly helps being in the top ten in finances in any sport.
Money helps to sustain championships and dynasties if you will, but buy them it does not. This whole adage was a simple way to make yet another excuse as to why the Yankees won more than other teams. It is a simple and easy excuse as to why opposing teams aren’t good. They can’t buy players like the Yankees, they can’t win. It’s as simple as that.
Living in Atlanta for the past twelve years, trust me, I hear it a ton. Braves fans do not like the Yankees (which I rarely ever have anything negative to say about the Braves, despite the daily abuse I take as a Yankees fan), mainly in part because they bought their championships in the 90s when the Braves were arguably the second most dominant team in the game. But, dear Wayniacs, what they fail to mention is the truth behind those championships… much like Red Sox Nation would do years later. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we?
The whole money buys championships ideology came around under the Steinbrenner Era. I’m talking about The Boss, not the two nitwits running the show now. Steinbrenner loved to spend money, there is no denying that. If you hit 30 home runs in the 80s or early 90s, you were pretty much guaranteed a multi-million dollar deal by Steinbrenner the following season. The thing was, the Yankees didn’t win in the 80s or early 90s.
Not only did they not win, they didn’t really compete. From 1982 to 1989, the New York Yankees were indeed first or second in spending, and they had two second place finishes in eight years to show for it. 1985 and 1986 were those two second place seasons. In 1985, the Yankees — armed with big money players like Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly— led the league in money spent. You know who was second? The Atlanta Braves, who were 66-96 in the NL West that season (remember those days TBS fans?).
Jumping ahead to 1986, the Yankees would finish second place and miss out on the playoffs yet again. They were the second highest paid team that season. You know who was number one? The Atlanta Braves, who finished 72-89. Money clearly didn’t buy championships.
Flash forward to the 90s. Everyone who knows baseball knows that after the 1994 strike, there were two certainties in baseball: the Yankees and the Braves would make the playoffs.
The Yankees would dominate the league in highest salary for their reign in the late 90s. Every year but one, however. In 1998, the Baltimore Orioles went out and tried to outspend the Yankees, because as everyone knows money buys championships. The Orioles would finish 79-83 that season, while the Yankees would set a then record by going 114-48 en route to one of the most dominating seasons in history.
You see, everyone of those years that the Yankees and Braves were arch playoff rivals, everyone of those years that the Yankees were dominating the league in money spent, nobody was crying that the Braves were the kings of the NL each year with the highest payroll, were they? Because they were denied the facts.
Baseball built up this big lie. They led you to believe that Atlanta was a small market team since the mighty billionaire Ted Turner handed over the reigns. They led you to believe that the Braves were doing it year in and year out with homegrown talent.
Now, I won’t lie, the Braves farm system during that span was remarkable. But here’s the thing people leave out: none of those stars — Hall of Famers mind you — had to leave during that playoff run. Do you know how the Braves were able to keep all of that talent around for so long? They paid them. A lot of money. Do you know how many championships they won? ONE. Do you think had a team like the Royals had that many stars come up on the farm that they would be able to retain them? No shot. Money does not buy championships, folks. (Little side note folks. In 1993, the Braves made this Greg Maddux fella the fourth highest paid player in Major League Baseball. You may remember him as the ace of the staff who won three Cy Youngs in a row as well as nine straight NL East titles with him as the ace. Yea, the Braves are totally saints who don’t spend money.)
Because they weren’t winning, and more importantly, because they were losing to the Yankees, people failed to realize one important thing. Everyone of those seasons, the Braves were in the top four in spending in baseball. They were dominating the National League often times spending more than any other National League team. But no one ever said the Braves were buying their NL Championships, did they? So you see, it’s ok to spend a ton of money and do well because of it, as long as you’re not the Yankees. The difference is that the Yankees win… and money doesn’t buy championships.
The Braves and Yankees success in the 90s and early 2000s wasn’t based on buying championships. It was having the money to retain champions. That’s a big difference.
The Yankees were similar to the Braves in the sense that homegrown talent became the center piece of their dynasty. The Core Four Era had begun and Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Ramiro Mendoza, Bernie Williams were at the root of their championships. The Yankees went out and got players that other teams could afford but didn’t want to pay like Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Luis Sojo and Scott Brosius because there were “better options” available. Not one person cared when the Yankees traded for them at the time, only when they became champions and suddenly, they were “bought”.
Sure, the Yankees were able to bring in high profiled pitchers at the deadline each season, but that was a luxury they could afford. You see, while the Yankees spend the most money, they also make the most. That’s because of every Yankees fan… and you and every other Yankees hater.
Ever see For the Love of the Game? Major League? The Sandlot? Who are the bad guys in those movies? The Yankees, right? You think George allowed that to happen without a little pushback his way. Now ask yourself this. If Major League or The Sandlot are on, do you turn it off? Didn’t think so. Thanks for buying us David Cone.
Money doesn’t simply buy championships. There is so much more to it than money. I’ll say it again, money helps sustains champions. If it were true, the Yankees wouldn’t have lost as much as they have in the 2000s. The Yankees and the Phillies have the same amount of World Series titles this millennium and both have grossly overpaid much of their current roster. Neither have seen the playoffs in a couple of years. Money isn’t even buying them post season appearances, never mind championships.
Having the right pieces in place and being able to sustain them with money does. That’s why the Yankees won in the 90s and can’t win anymore. That’s why the Braves went to the playoffs for a million straight years. Just because they didn’t win as many World Series as the Yankees didn’t mean they weren’t at fault for outspending the bottom third of baseball by $30 to $40-million a year.
Take a look at the Dodgers and the rebuilt Padres. They have all these high profiled, high salaried players in place. The Padres are absolutely horrific and the Dodgers are annually good enough to make it to the first round of the playoffs. Whoopty doo. Guess what? The Dodgers spent $60-million more than the Yankees have the past two seasons… EACH.
Why was it ok when the Red Sox were reeling off championships behind a Top 3 payroll every year? Because they were the Anti-Yankees. They went and spent money so someone could beat the Yankees, so it is all forgiven. But did you see the different between what the Red Sox did and the Braves and the Yankees did?
The Red Sox would go out and win a World Series, and then what? The would disappear for a few seasons. Heck, the 2013 World Series was surrounded by two of their worst seasons in the past few decades. That seems to me way more like buying a championship than building a good team, doesn’t it? How many more people think that the Yankees buy championships than the Red Sox? See?
Quick, which owner is the most hated in the NFL (well, living owner, I’m sure a few people may still vote Al Davis)? He’s that multi-billionaire down in Dallas, right? He sure has won a ton of championships since Jimmy Johnson left, huh?
Everyone is so surprised that the San Francisco Giants have been able to compete and reel off three World Series in five years. Why are you so surprised? Money buys championships, right? The Giants have been in the top ten in spending for the last half of a decade, outspending quite a few teams by at least $50-million. That must be the only reason the Giants are so good. For those of you who think they didn’t have money to retain Kung Fu Panda, think again. The Giants still have the fifth highest payroll in baseball, outspending the bottom team by nearly $110-million.
Bringing in big time free agents doesn’t guarantee success. The Yankees proved this. Once O’Neill, Tino, Brosius and the rest began leaving after the 2001 debacle (that was the World Series that an alleged steroid user won with a walk-off hit, but no one ever cares about because, hey, he beat the Yankees), the Yankees have never been the same.
Why? They don’t bring in players that believe in the greater power of the team. That was the down fall in Miami with the Heat. They can tell you all they want that the Heat come first, but come on, people. How do LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh not win four titles in a row (aside from the fact that my San Antonio Spurs are nothing short of amazing)?
People want the accolades of hitting home runs under the bright lights of Yankees Stadium. They want the chance to be on TV four nights a week (seriously, I have gotten to watch the Yankees no less than three times a week this season, and I don’t have YES or any MLB package and I live in Atlanta). They want the World Series trophy without having to actually earn the trophy. They want it because they signed with the Yankees, thus they expect it.
Whatever. You want to know what wins championships? Making money. Marketing your team so their is always revenue coming in to spend. Understanding that just because the Yankees spend $200-million, those spending $150-million while there are still teams that are spending $60-million to stay afloat are just as “evil”.
That’s the system that’s in place. Look, do I think that not having a salary cap in baseball sucks? Of course, but the Yankees play by the financial rules they are given. Hell, I bet the amount they paid in luxury taxes each year was enough for Miami to cover Giancarlo’s contract.
And none of this means I hate the Braves or their fans. I just used them as a primary example because of their winning pedigree during the same span as the Yankees dynasty.
Once you realize that five of the top ten in spending in baseball haven’t won a championship this millennium, you’ll soon realize that it takes a lot more than money to win a championship. Winning more than two? Hell, that’s an equation only Norman Einstein has figured out.