The "Hot Stove" league a.k.a. Baseball's free agency period has been very intriguing to say the least in that the Boston Red Sox stole Carl Crawford away from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with a $142 million deal for the star outfielder. Even more interesting is the New York Yankees getting spurned by Cliff Lee in favor of the Philadelphia Phillies, who actually landed the coveted left-hander for less money than what the Yankees and Texas Rangers had offered. Despite the fact that I'm a Yankee fan, I have to admit that it was a wise move on Lee's part because he's much more likely to have success in the National League, a pitcher-friendly league, than in the hitter-frienly junior circuit. Plus, I'm glad that Lee signed with an NL club, so we don't have to face him too much during the year except in interleague play, which may or may not happen next season, anyhow. But, as a Yankee fan, I have to admit that I am getting rather perturbed about a double standard that has been perpetuated for years now and is very relevant to the goings-on of this latest Baseball free agent season, especially as it concerns the Yankees business style and the Red Sox's acquisition of Crawford plus a trade to add Adrian Gonzalez to their mix.
Let me preface explaining that double standard by stating that when Theo Epstein, the Red Sox wunderkind GM, managed to sign Crawford away from the Angels and the Yankess plus acquire Gonzalez, they were lauded by many in the media to be some very smart moves and garnered a lot of credit for Epstein as a result. Now, everybody in the media is heralding the Red Sox as a World Series Favorite coming out of the American League. Now, I agree that Epstein is a good general manager. He was as responsible as anybody in the Red Sox organization for the success they had in the last decade with 2 World Series titles to their credit. So, I don't have a problem with the credit he's gotten. What I do have a problem with is when Yankee GM, Brian Cashman, a fine GM in his own right, does the same things Epstein has done, it's not viewed in the same way by the public or the individuals that shape the public's opinion. As a matter of fact, it's often criticized by many in the media and by the fans as being greedy, evil and just another attempt by the Yankees to buy another World Series title. Trust me when I say that if the Yankees had acquired Lee or Crawford, the screams would've been loud and wide.
Why is that?
Honestly, I wish I knew. I do know that a team can't just simply buy a World Series or any kind of championship for that matter. It's take more than just free agent signings and trades to be the last team standing at the end of the season. To suggest otherwise is as ridiculous as it is ludicrous. So, I just can't begin to understand why so many people in the media and out are so critical of the Yankees. I've often heard that this a country that loves winners. And, The Yankees are the winningest franchise in the history of Major League Baseball and in all of sports for that matter. So, the constant criticism and hatred really makes no sense, especially given the Yankees are an absolute model franchise. They have an appearance code that ensures that the players look professional at all times, which shows respect for the game, the league and the profession for that matter. They play within the rules that are in place. And, they contribute more money than any other team under Baseball's revenue sharing program. And, the sad part about that is the teams that are getting a portion of the revenue the Yankees generate every season aren't even using that revenue to improve their ballclubs. I'm talking about the Kansas Citys and Pittsburghs of the world, who take whatever revenue they get and just laugh all the way to the bank. Winning is a decision that only a few teams in Baseball have made consistently, including the Yankees. Their commitment to winning, the revenue they generate for the league and how they generally conduct themselves on and off the field shouldn't be criticized. They should be lauded no differently than when the Red Sox make the smart moves they've made this offseason.
It's called consistency, America.
If anything, the criticism that so many people lodge against the Yankees should be directed towards the clubs that are consistently bad and are showing NO signs of improvement. Those clubs have the same opportunity as the Yankees and all the other successful franchises do, but they aren't taking advantage. That's something to be criticized. Not to mention the fact that, technically, the Yankee owners, Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, aren't the richest owners in baseball. When he was alive, Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad was worth more than any of the other owners in Baseball, but couldn't hang on to players like Torii Hunter or Johan Santana. The Nationals, who are starting to show signs of life, had an owner named Theodore Lerner, who was worth 3.2 billion as of April 23, 2009. He no longer owns the team, but when he did, he didn't do much with it obviously. All that said, below are the billionaires currently owning teams in Major League Baseball and their net worth:
1. J. Joseph Ricketts, Chicago Cubs; Net Worth: 1 Billion. In fairness to Ricketts, he just bought the Cubs, so we should reserve judgment on him.
2. Arte Moreno; Net Worth: $1 billion. Yes, he lowered beer prices when he took over back in 2003, but lost a chance to sign Crawford and also failed to keep Mark Teixeira, who was gobbled up by the Yankees.
3. Robert Drayton McLane Jr; Net Worth: 1.5 billion: The Astros, since losing to the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series, have been one of the worst teams in baseball over that span.
4. John Malone, Atlanta Braves; Net Worth: 2.4 billion. The Braves returned to the playoffs this season after a short time out of them and have been one of the most consistent teams in baseball the last 19 years. They just don't seem very competitive in the free agent markets, although they excel at developing home-grown talent and typically very well-managed.
5. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Seattle Mariners; Net Worth: 4.2 bil. It's hard for me to criticize the Mariners owner given the offseason Seattle had last year in which they landed Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins. It just seems that the Mariners are a bit snakebit right now.
6. Michael Ilitch, Detroit Tigers; Net Worth: 1.5 bil. Up until signing Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers were one of the worst teams in all of baseball, especially during the Alan Trammell managerial years. They are more competitive now and resigned Magglio Ordonez for 1 season and also signed Victor Martinez away from the Red Sox. And, they replaced Trammell with Jim Leyland previously, one of the more successful managers in the Majors. So, they appear to be moving in the right direction with Ilitch's money.
7. John Fisher, Oakland Athletics; Net Worth: 1.1 bil. The Billy Beane (one of the co-owners of the A's) Moneyball ship seems to have sailed in Oakland. That philosophy hasn't really helped the A's in keeping all-star caliber players (Matt Holliday comes to mind) or generating consistent playoff appearances in a division that has been dominated by the Angels up until this season. So, Fisher, if he is serious about making Oakland competitive, needs to ante up a little bit and, perhaps, see about getting a new stadium for the A's to play in as well.
So, long story short, some of the billionaire owners on that list are making moves to improve their respective ball clubs and some are laughing all the way to the bank and the Yankees are responsible for none of that. They are responsible for their own team and overall business and, quite frankly, do a damn good job managing and running all of it, despite what the ignorant public has to say about it. In conclusion, the double standard with the Yankees and Red Sox is short-sighted at best and just plain foolhardy at worse. I strongly advise those that would criticize the Yankees for being committed to winning and fielding the best possible product try looking below the surface a little bit, stop listening to what the liberal media fills their heads with and do a little more research on the state of baseball. They'll be amazed what they find. Until next time, keep on keepin' on in the name of sports...