Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dollars Don't Win Rings - But It Helps

Let me start by saying I hate the New York Yankees. I dislike George Steinbrenner as an owner. I hate their arrogant swagger and I was pleased when the Diamondbacks and Marlins beat them in World Series this decade. But I don't hate how they spend their money.

I don't hate it because it doesn't matter who you can convince to play on your team, you still have to win on the field. From 2001-2008, the Yankees won zero World Series. Since the start of the 2004 season, they've only reached one ALCS and famously blew a 3-0 series lead to Boston. They bought a slew of free agents - Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon - and had nothing to show for it.

If more owners had that money, they'd chase free agents too. But it's not about chasing the big-name free agents, it's about team chemistry and filling needs. That's why the Washington Redskins have sucked under Dan Snyder, he buys the biggest names but doesn't address the bigger needs.

The Lakers in 2003-2004 had bought Karl Malone and Gary Payton - giving a solid PF and PG to a strong team - but what happened? They lost a chemistry-heavy Detroit Pistons (nevermind that Malone was hurt, Shaq was almost a non-factor and Kobe was gunning too much)

And in the playoffs, it doesn't matter how big your paycheck is. You have to produce against a team that has time to scheme against you.

The reason the Yankees won the World Series is because they finally bought guys who produced all year and in the postseason. CC Sabathia deserves a ton of credit for going 19-8 during the season (11-2 in the second half) and 3-1 in the postseason. $151 million well spent in Year 1.

Mark Teixeira led the AL in home runs and RBI's during the season but was faintly quiet during the ALCS and World Series. But don't get me started on overrated AJ Burnett - blame it on 3 days rest but when I peeped his stats (props to Tyler Conium for the heads up), dude is an average pitcher. But I digress.

They won the World Series because A-Rod woke up from his October slump to have one of the greatest postseason efforts. They won because of veteran leadership from Derek Jeter (.407 BA), Mariano Rivera (another flawless WS), Andy Pettite (who won 2 games) and Jorge Posada - the Gang of Four with five rings. 

And I'll give Damon props (.364 BA). That Game 4 double steal changed the Series and he arguably could've been World Series MVP.

Players just stepped up when they had to. With unlimited money, I can bring anybody I want to a team but I can't buy the effort they show on it. You can't buy chemistry, you can only build it through immeasureables. 

So while I begrudge the fact the Yankees have another World Series ring (and anticipate when they come to Dodger Stadium in June), they won not just because they make more money, but because they earned it with their production. And yeah, buying a workhorse Top-5 pitcher and one of the game's most consistent hitters helped a bit too.

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