Thursday, November 05, 2009

the yankees win the world series, and that's a good thing

Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci says what I've been thinking since the New York Yankees won the World Series last night:
After years of seeing upstarts, hot teams and cursebreakers win the World Series and playoff baseball reduced to "a crapshoot," we got an old fashioned, the-best-team-won World Series. In most every winning clubhouse players blather about how "no one expected us to be here" and "we had to overcome a lot of adversity to be here," but it was kind of refreshing to see the favored horse bring a win home by a comfortable margin.
My St. Louis Cardinals are one of those teams to which he's referring -- in 2006, they were just barely over .500 during the regular season (partly due to injuries) but got hot just in time for the playoffs to win the Fall Classic. But I think the fact that that Cardinals team were the champions says something about how difficult it is to win the World Series. St. Louis had better teams this decade, but none of them snagged the big prize. Likewise, the Yankees have had consistently great, deep teams in the '00s, but they couldn't win it all. And now that they're on top again, there's a popular grumbling around baseball (especially among Boston Red Sox fans) that it's boring or depressing when the Yankees win because there's nothing exciting or inspiring about it.

But I'd argue the exact opposite: I think there's so much pressure on the Yankees that when they do win it's a testament to being focused and to ignoring all the expectations thrown at you. You can have the biggest payroll and the best regular-season record, but you've got to deliver in the postseason. The Yankees are the only team that if they don't win the whole thing, it's a failure. Why? Because they are supposed to win. They've got all the riches and all the best players. If they don't win, there's no excuse they can point to -- if they lose, it must be because of some deep character flaw within their collective makeup. If you're a sensitive soul, that sort of psychological toil can really mess with you.

I know people hate the Yankees for lots of reasons. I've torn into those arguments before, but I'll say again that I really do love this franchise. Having a significant payroll is absolutely a factor in winning the World Series, but it's not the only one -- as Verducci says, a lot of unlikely teams have pulled it off in recent years. So it has to be more than just money that makes a winner. CC Sabathia could have tanked this season, and Mark Teixeira could have blown out his knee in April. Money certainly puts you in position to be successful, but it doesn't guarantee anything. It takes more than that to win the World Series and, this season, the Yankees had enough of whatever that is to do it.