Damn Yankees! A Brit's baseball question

Having been raised in the UK, I’ve only ever had a vague awareness of baseball and how it works. I knew it was “America’s National Pastime”, and that Babe Ruth was a famous player and that a home run was a good thing, but that was about it. Until about five years ago that is. I was working a summer job in Houston one year when my boss invited me out to see an Astros game with his family. He couldn’t believe that I’d never seen a game on TV, let alone a live one, so he insisted on introducing me to the game.

I had popcorn. I had a hot-dog and some coke. I listened as he explained what the numbers on the scoreboard meant. I watched as the batter swung, heard the sharp crack of the bat, smiled as the crowd leapt to its feet with an appreciative roar.

I was hooked.

Five years on and I still love the game. I hardly ever get to watch it over here in the UK, and I dream of the day I go to Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium and watch another live game. I’m thrilled by the depth of the game, and the theatre before me. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the 'Stros, but after a careful and considered decision, I think I’m a Red Sox fan. Not sure why, but they just have something that appeals to me.

So here I am, a British Baseball fan, stranded thousands of miles away from a real game, and with one burning question on my mind - Why the hell are those Damn Yankees so dominant? How come they’ve won the World Series time after time, with an almost monotonous regularity? Is it just that they can out-spend their rivals and buy up all the big talent, or is there another reason?

Please fill me in, guys - what’s the deal here?

The cynics and Yankee haters will tell you that it is money, pure and simple.

Yankee fans and people with better critical thinking skills will point out that other teams spend nearly as much money without the same level of success. Also the Yankees have had long stretches when they weren’t that good, including from the mid 1960s to the early 70s, and again from the early 1980s to the mid 90s. During this last period they were near the top of the baseball payroll as they are now, but had almost nothing to show for it in terms of Championships.

I have heard it posited that their success tends to attracts better people at all levels of their organization…the people who have always wanted to work for or play with the Yankees eventually end up there, and they all want to win Championships. Success breeds success. If Pedro Martinez was pitching for the Yankees he would have been pulled earlier in game 7. Nothing personal, Pedro, but we are trying to win a Championship here.

Some advice Bibliovore. Don’t torture yourself by being a Red Sox fan. Come over to the Dark Side and be a Yankee fan. And get yourself to another game ASAP. If you liked baseball in Houston you’ll love it in Boston, New York, Chicago, or St. Louis.

It’s mostly to do with money. They are simply able to get the best free agents. And if a big free agent signing busts, they can afford to put the huge salary on the bench, and get someone else. And in the last few years it has even corrupted the draft. Each Year there are one or two players in the draft who are considered likely to be very good. It’s not an exact science, and they often fail, but they have a decent chance to become a superstar. The draft is designed to give the bad teams a chance to get better by getting one of the good prospects. But lately the good prospects are getting such huge signing bonuses that the poor teams can’t afford to draft and pay them. If a poor team has the first pick, they often can’t take the best player, instead taking the best player they feel that will accept what they can afford to pay, And leave the best player for a rich team to draft.

There is an additional fact that they do have a huge tradition, and are considered the highest stage in the sport. Given even offers, many players will choose the Yankees over other teams because they can play for the legend. Which ends up being a beneficial circle. The good players go to the Yankees, the Yankees are good, the Yankees get the most attention, the good players want the exposure to get more commerical deals, The good players go to the Yankees.

Or in short,

There are three or four other teams that can pay alot to their players, due to the large fan revenue they generate as well. Yankees, Mets Braves, and Dodgers are among them. The Yankees you know about, The Braves have good success but never quite went all the eay, but the Mets suck, and the Dodgers are mediocre. So it’s not an absolute, figuring out how to write the huge paychecks is an of an art that the Yankees are best at, but the Yankees are still the highest payroll in the league.

I was seriously considering becoming a Yankees fan for awhile, but it just seems too damn easy, you know? Kinda like someone who’s just beeing introduced to Basketball becoming a Chicago Bulls fan when Michael Jordan was in his prime - it feels like I’m just jumping on the biggest bandwagon without giving it much thought.

Guess I’ve just got a thing for underdogs, and I guess you don’t get more “underdoggy” than the Red Sox. Except perhaps for the Cubs, but I do have some pride…:smiley:

So you think it’s because the best people are drawn to the team at all levels, regardless of how much is spent?

And yes, I’d LOVE to watch another live game, but it looks like I’ll have to wait until next season now. Any Boston fans out there wanna buy me a ticket? Uh, for the game, that is - I wouldn’t ask anyone to pay for a transatlantic flight…

Nearly as much?

Thats 50% more. than anybody else. The amount they pay more than the second place teams is basically the entire payroll of 13 teams. And throw in the tax and thats 190 million they are spending for payroll.

Yankee fan here. A few observations:

  1. Yes they spend more money.

  2. Yes they can afford to bench expensive flops, and replace them with expensive talent - arguably this provides a minor advantage, but minor advantages mean a lot in baseball.

  3. The Yankees teams that have done well may have had role-playing superstars, but the Yankees have always been built around one thing: pitching. The only current team that has a similar approach has been the Braves, and for some reason they can’t turn that corner (and, as I think about it, the A’s have focused on pitching a ton, too). Other teams, like the Diamondbacks, may have two huge superstars but lack overall pitching depth. (I still can’t believe the Yanks traded Branden Clausen for Aaron Boone, even though Booney hit the homer that beat the Sox in Game 7).

  4. Yes, they have a cycle of success that attracts most players and feeds on itself.

  5. All in all, is having a team like the Yankees in baseball all that bad of a thing? Yankees fans love them, non-Yankees fans love hating them, and every other team is hoping to face them in the World Series 'cuz it makes winning that much bigger of a deal. If baseball was starting out today, I suppose I would want parity, but with the history it has, I enjoy the dynamic of the game - I just wish Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, etc., could play more like Minnesota or Oakland - i.e., small budget teams that work with what they have to maximize their performance…

Hmmm…so it seems that big spending does make a big difference. How, then, are smaller, poorer teams supposed to compete? How do they make the most of what little they’ve got, as wordman suggests? And how did the Yankees get so rich in the first place?

Another thing concerning the money angle.

I’ve heard - no cites - that the Yankees spend a lot more money on international scouting than other teams. Does anyone know if this is true?

With no international draft in place, do the Yankees get the best prospects because they are able to throw money at them? If they are a bust so what - they can just sign someone else. Or do their minor league affiliates have to foot the bill on mistakes?

(Heh - I’m sure that was clear as mud)

Of course it’s a bad thing. There’s a reason baseball reached it’s popularity peak in the 80s. The top payrolls were fairly similar to each other and different teams were winning each year.

Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City, the Mets, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Oakland, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Toronto, Toronto, Atlanta. That was the order of World Series titles each year between Yankees championships during the 80s and early 90s.

And it wouldn’t be so bad now if the Yankees weren’t outspending every single team by $50 million. But right now, most fans don’t have a reason to cheer for their team with continued Yankee payroll dominance. But they are. Anytime you have a team that can just keep increasing its payroll over every other team and poaching top talent until they win a World Series title it’s not good for the sport.

I have to agree, Neurotik. If the Yankees win again this year, it’ll be “ho-hum, so what’s new?” I’d much prefer a tight race beteween several possible contenders rather than an on-going monopoly on the top spot. It’s just boring when one team dominates so decisively (except for Yankees fans of course). But then again, I’m just a newbie to the sport (and a Brit to boot), so what the hell do I know, eh?

That’s the idea behind the divisional playoff system. The American and National League Central divisions are considered to be composed of “poor” teams, but the playoff system guarantees each of them will have a team make the postseason. A pretty good team in a weak division could make the “wild card” spot in the playoffs, as well.

Once you reach the playoffs and need 3/5 or 4/7 victories to advance, anything can happen.

But even if a “poorer” team makes it all the way to the series, won’t they just be blown away by the Yankees (again)? And where did they get all that money in the first place? Is New York significantly richer than other American cities, or do the fans just spend more? Is it all down to advertising or TV rights or merchandising or what?

Smaller teams compete by making trades and moves in order to excel in a very short-term period of time. It’s not uncommon to see a small-market competitor trade off big-time developing talent for 1 or 2 impact players so they can make the final boost at the end of the year. In the long run, it hurts the organization, but it’s worth it if they win (see: 2002 Angels, 2001 Diamondbacks*).

*The Diamondbacks won in 2001, right?

I agree. I don’t give a damn who wins the league championship or the world series, or even the game I’m watching. I even root for the Angles to be down in the second division because then I can drive down to Anaheim during the week and see a game without having to fight a big crowd.

I just like to watch the skill and grace of the players. Sometimes it is amost like ballet.

I used to go to hockey games for the same reason until the NHL ruined their game by all the fighting.

That’s “Angels,” and I reviewed too. Accuracy seems a hopeless quest for me.

Ah, but you’re only one click away from the best baseball discussion site on the web. NetShrine keeps me sane through winter’s baseball void.

No, a poorer team would not necessarily be blown away in the WS because anything can happen in a short series. That’s part of what makes the postseason so fascinating. The smaller sample size can magnify a team’s or player’s performance. A couple of hot pitchers or hot hitters can have a few good games, or a couple of cold players can have a few off games and all of a sudden time’s up, the series is over.

It’s a wonderful study in contrasts. Teams play a gruelling 162 game regular season schedule which ensures that those teams whose players perform as a group at a consistently higher level than the majority of their opponents will finish the season with better win-loss records. Their reward is entry into a post-season tournament where a brief hiccup (which would probably be statistically irrelevant if it happened over the same number of games in the regular season) in their performance will probably mean the team will find themselves sitting on a dugout bench, heads in their hands, while their opponents hold a celebration on the field.

As for where the Yankees got all the money in the first place: the quick answer is they have a very large and loyal fan base, their own broadcast network, and their principal owner, George Steinbrenner, is a rich man.

Yes, Munch, the D’Backs won in 2001.

All of the above. New York is by far the most populous city in the country. It’s not even close. So they have a much bigger media market and so they get a lot more money from broadcast rights and attendance. Plus, since they’ve been successful recently, their ticket prices are a lot higher. So it’s a double whammy, they get more money per person and they get more people than a lot of other teams. The Mets have the same advantages and they used them wisely in the '80s, but have since fallen prey to stupidity.

If you want more information on how a small market team can compete, pick up a book called Moneyball. It’s extremely biased, but it gives you some insight into how Oakland is consistently winning and what their philosophy is.

The Angels didn’t do that. The only trades they made were to get Appier and they only gave up Fat Mo for him (who is no longer playing). And to get Kennedy, but that was more of a salary dump move to get an expensive fourth outfielder (Edmonds) off the books.

But they didn’t empty their farm. In fact, they have a stronger farm system now than they did 3 years ago.


I hear the Devil Rays are hard-up fopr boosters.

Or, you could become a Royals fan like yours truly.

Not to get off topic but what year did you stop watching NHL hockey, 1928? Fighting seems to be way down over the last 5 years (if not longer). No stats, but I’ve been and seen plenty of games over the last 30 years and the game today is not as fight oriented.

Anyway, Bibliovore I am glad you chose to root for someone other than the Yankees. One reason they have such a large fan base is because people take the easy way out and root for the perennial winner. I am guessing you can compare them to Manchester United. That is why a lot of people my age also root for the Dallas Cowboys/Oakland Raiders and Boston Celtic/ LA Lakers even though they are not from those areas. They were all strong teams in the 70’s and 80’s when we were growing up.

Being from Queens, NY it was only natural that I root for the Mets (and hate the Yankees), Jets (American Football) and Rangers (hockey). Its been a long tough road but I’ve held my ground. To this day I have only witnessed two championships. Mets in 1986 and Rangers in 1994. These teams may be grossly mismanaged but they are my grossly mismanaged teams.

By the way, I had to also watch the Yankees wins 7 or 8? World Series, the Islanders and Devils (hockey) win 4 and 3 Stanley Cups respectfully and the Giants (football) win 2 Super Bowls.

Bottom line on the Yankees:

  1. They draft well. Helps also to have more resources nationally and worldwide than anyone.
  2. They can afford to sign big $ free agent players (and disregard their salary if they bust). They have signed Baltimores best Pitcher (Mussina), Oakland’s best power hitter (Giambi), and Japan’s best power hitter (Matsui) in each of the last three years. They also signed Cuba’s best refugee pitcher(Contreras) this year and are paying him $8 million a year (for 4 years) to work mostly as a reliever.
  3. They can afford to keep their players. If they were a small market team, Jeter, Bernie Wiliams, and Posada (to name a few) would be on different teams by now. The media would then be talking about where Soriano will be playing as a free agent in a few years.
  4. Players want to go there to get bigger exposure. There is no bigger stage to play. But with the good exposure comes the bad exposure. Although bad exposure seems more frequent and magnified if you aren’t winning (see my Mets).

No matter what team you pick just be sure to stay with them. Wear the logo as proudly when they are in last place as you would when they are in first place. Just realize that first place finishes may be few and far between.

A recent book called Moneyball has this as its theme. Very interesting reading, and a good insight into some of the subtler aspects of baseball.
[I may be your US counterpart – a yank with a fascination for cricket.]