Why the Yankees Are Bad For Baseball (and why it's appropriate)

A friend of mine, quoting someone else, once explained that the appeal of baseball was the fact that there was no clock. The reason that guys like us love the game so much is because, if you are playing well, then you always have a chance to win, because there's no predetermined expiration. During any given baseball game, there's hope, hope born from hard work and determination.

That is one of the many reasons I love baseball. In the grand scheme of things, though, I think there's something else. For me, it's the same reason that Batman is my favorite comic book character -- not because of the character himself, but because of his history, one which has reflected American society over the years. Each incarnation of Batman is different, but it's possible to see how its determined by our culture. Baseball is much the same, so much so that fans and historians generally embrace the more shameful sides of the sport. As Chris Claremont would say, we love the sport, warts and all -- and, I think, in part because it HAS those warts.

And that brings us to the newly crowned champions of baseball, the New York Yankees. Like the Negro Leagues and Mark Maguire, the 2009 New York Yankees accurately reflect the times, even if that reflection isn't all that pretty.

It's not hard to see that the American middle class is shrinking. It's also not hard to see that rampant greed, left unchecked, has left this country in the worst economic state in decades. And it's no coincidence that the Yankees would be the champions of baseball during all of this.

Yankee apologists generally point towards the fact that the Bronx Bombers haven't won a World Series since 2000 as proof that money doesn't equal success in baseball. This is a hallow argument. Money doesn't matter as much in the post-season, it's true, because they're short series; even an average team can pull out four wins in seven tries with a little bit of luck and resourcefulness. Ironically enough, that's the beauty of baseball's post-season, the fact that anything can happen.

The same, however, cannot be said for baseball's regular season, because over 162 games, money most certainly matters.

Quick, pick the teams that will make post-season from the American League next year! You probably said the Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, and whoever loses the least number of games in the Central. And you know what? Chances are good you'd be right on all counts. You don't have to look any further than the last decade to see that.

A team like the Royals or the Pirates can't afford to invest large sums of money into a single player, say a pitcher, and expect to make the post-season if that pitcher gets hurt. The Yankees gave Carl Pavano nearly $10 million a year. He spent the majority of that time on the DL. The Yankees made the post-season 3 of those 4 years. Losing a player who made that much money wasn't a problem for the Yankees, who could simply get other players who cost just as much. That's not an option for mid and small market teams.

And it infects every aspect of baseball. People seem to believe that the Red Sox trade for Josh Beckett was a brilliant move created through pure, baseball savvy. What they forget is that, aside from sending Florida the exceedingly talented Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox also had to agree to pick up the tab for Mike Lowell who, at the time, was signed to a monster of a contract. Lowell was the rider on any Beckett deal, which automatically took all but the richest teams out of the running.

There is no parity in baseball because the season is so long and the money gap is so huge. The post-season means nothing; the regular season tells the tale.

But we are a society that has slowly but surely been ruined by greed, slowly but surely watched as the divide between the upper class and the middle class grows. Baseball is a reflection of our country, and the Yankees are the perfect champions for 2009.

Let's just hope something changes soon on both counts.