By any standard other than the one used by Steinbrenner, the Yankees did very well last year. They beat their rival, the Boston Red Sox to win the American League Championship and get into the World Series. Then they lost the Series in six games. However, Steinbrenner was outraged since the Yankees hadn't won a World Series since way back in the year 2000.
To someone who roots for a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908 — the Chicago Cubs — that complaint sounded a bit greedy. It was like the guy who won $50 million in the lottery two years ago, but cries that he hasn't won anything "lately." (By the way, these same Cubs always seem to have a pretty good following, win or lose). Nonetheless, Steinbrenner reacted to the Yankees' "disastrous" season as he always does — with his checkbook. He hired some of the best and most expensive players available.
The Yankees already had the largest payroll in baseball last year, but now they really have the largest payroll. Yankee players will get an estimated $183 to $190 million in salary this year. Only three teams have payrolls half that. With players and a payroll like that, George has forced Yankee fans to have ridiculous expectations. Each loss must be a humiliation for them.
The Yankees spent the most money last year, and they didn't win it all. So, there's no guarantee that money will be able to buy a championship this year, either.
What will George do then? Will he spend even more money to get even more of the game's best players? Will he start paying them billions instead of millions? Maybe he'll buy the other ballparks, and not allow other teams to use them. Maybe he'll buy all the bats and balls in the world, so only his team will have them.
This brings us to the whole question of what is the fun in being a Yankee fan, anyway? If your team is expected to win it all and it meets that expectation, where's the thrill? when their . It's human nature to root for David over Goliath. But what do Goliath fans get out of the experience?
I know it's more fun to see your team win than lose, but at what point does it become meaningless? Let's say I challenged my neighbor and two of his friends to play three-on-three basketball. If I hired Kevin Garnet and Shaquille O'Neal to play alongside me, my team would probably win every time. But what would it prove? It might be enjoyable to watch the Harlem Globetrotters beat the Washington Generals once in a while, but would it really be fun to go to every game and watch them win 162 in a row? Every year? I guess it would be for Steinbrenner.
There are many unpredictable things in a baseball season — injuries, a ball takes a funny bounce, a fan sticks his hand where he shouldn't, players age before they were expected to, young players become great before they were expected to, or a player with more heart than talent wins a game. These kinds of things probably drive George crazy, because he can't control them with a spreadsheet. And of course, these unpredictable, very human things are exactly why baseball is so much fun.
So, Steinbrenner and the Yankees aren't going to achieve their perfect 162 game-winning season this year. Ironically, George is going to have to echo the oft-heard chant of the traditionally hapless Chicago Cubs: "Wait till next year." Actually, I'll bet there are a few other things he could learn from the Cubs.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver