Here they come, the non-stop flow of condescending and ill-informed New York media types, saying everything from how this trade indicates the magnetic allure of NYC to how it indicates a running curse on the Red Sox. This trade indicates many things, but not either of those two.

First: A-Rod wanted out of Texas, and he didn’t have a first choice. He would have gone to Boston (hell, he agreed to cut his own pay to get there), and the only other team that could really put together a realistic deal and assume his salary was the Yankees. So any columnist who makes this about the mystique of the Yankees is not living in the current MLB economic world. In fact, there are a few towns he would have waived his no-trader for in order to have a taste of the post-season. Where was Jack Curry when A-Rod decided on Texas? Did he write about the lure of Arlington? Or, what about the lure of 85 years without a World Championship? If he had gone to Boston would there have been a column about the mystique of playing for a perennial loser? That is an easy story to write, so predictable from the hacks in this town.

Second: Curse? This was about money. The Red Sox had an internal cap on what they would pay for A-Rod, and they certainly made vast efforts to close a deal based on their financial criteria but couldn’t. Whether it was because any more than that number rendered them unprofitable (highly unlikely), less profitable (somewhat likely), and inflexible with regards to next year’s free agent signings (very likely, as Tek, Lowe, Pedro, Mueller, Ortiz, and of course the floating Nomar are all up), this party can only speculate. The Yankees, on the other hand, will never have such issues – their local cable money and licensing take makes the cashflow problem moot, and the Owner’s dementia renders even lesser profitability a non-issue (to his credit). There’s no curse involved here – to me any invocation of that is a writer’s crutch, the lowest common denominator of Red Sox/Yankees storylines. The Yankees move doesn’t alter the Red Sox’ lineup, it doesn’t control who gets injured, it doesn’t cause managerial brainfarts at crucial times. As a Sox fan, it gets tiresome to hear everything ascribed to a “curse”, particularly when it’s clear that money is the issue here, and not some supernatural mumbojumbo. It’s frankly condescending.

And, in Boston, the media isn’t exempt either. Today Dan Shaughnessy calls this a “crushing blow” to the psyche of Boston fans, which it certainly isn’t. To this poster, it’s not a surprise at all, a big move that could have been predicted (actually, was predicted) and that fully articulates the economic divide that the Yankees have between them and the rest of the league (Boston, LA, Mets all included in the “rest of the league”). Sox fans posting at SoSH seem to be of a totally mixed, non-uniform mindset (wow, how surprising!). Some seem to be lamenting this move as further proof that the Yankees are “evil” (not sure how this proves evilness more than any other talent-grab they have perpetrated), some think that the Red Sox should not be surprised about this counter-offensive (after all, the Sox had a HELL of an offseason, to this point the Yankees had had some embarrassments and it seems logical that this would be an answer), and some, like Gehrig38, who think this is a good move for the Yankees but no nail in the Red Sox coffin (right on, G38!).

So who is going to write the great story about this whole A-Rod saga? I am pretty sure who it won’t be (Chass, Curry, Shaughnessy). Here’s hoping Gordon Edes can follow his great summary on the Boston/Texas dealings (available at the Boston Globe archive, and a journalistic classic) with a similarly objective piece of documentation, and put all the bozos in NY (and a few others in Boston) to shame.

6 comments… add one
  • SF makes many valid points here. One issue: True, the deal does, on a superficial level, “articulate the divide” between the Yankees and the other teams in the league. But to what extent that divide is legitimate remains a serious and unanswered question. It’s easy for journalists and fans and even (publicly) other owners to hold up Steinbrenner as a target. But those other owners need to do more than just say they “can’t keep up.” Let’s see the books. Steinbrenner has made some wise business decisions and spends his money on his team. What exactly is happening with clubs like Atlanta, the Mets, the Cubs, the Dodgers, and the Sox (both red and white)?

    YF February 15, 2004, 12:05 pm
  • How do you open the books? I agree, that would be highly illustrative, and would either lend credence to the existence of the “great divide” or kill the myth once and for all. However, the logistics of such an audit would be impossible to work out: witness the current NHL Financial Report by Arthur Levitt, a man with a good reputation for trustworthiness – it shows most teams as huge money pits. Add in an atrocious television deal, terrible licensing fees, and one realizes that if there’s any league that seems to be falling apart at the seams financially, it’s the NHL. Even a layperson might be able to take Levitt and the auditors at their word and assume the report has a degree of legitimacy. Still the armature of the NHL Players’ Union sees no accuracy in the books, and practically called the report fraudulent this week. The MLBPA would be a more daunting foe in working out any kind of independent audit, it’s a far more powerful union. Of course, we all know that the Owners would be similarly difficult. I fear that what you call for, however desirable, is like a Playboy playmate’s wish for world peace.

    SF February 15, 2004, 2:59 pm
  • SF is missing the point here. (And, btw, if SF doesn’t like comments about medication, he should not compare YF to a Playboy bunny.)
    If MLB makes its numbers available then the public can have a legitimate debate about their interpretation. Keep in mind that thanks to collective bargaining, the PA has access to this information, though it remains confidential. (As part of the latest negotiated agreement, the players are entitled to something like 52 percent of all MLB revenue.)
    The economic problems of baseball are not rooted at 161st Street and River Avenue. It’s convenient to believe that they are. The reality is that they are not.

    YF February 15, 2004, 4:53 pm
  • Who said the financial problems were rooted in the Bronx? What happens in the Bronx, and almost exclusively in the Bronx, only indicates that baseball as a whole has a problem.
    My point is that “opening the books” means one thing to one group (the owners) and another thing to another group (the players’ union). Getting them to agree on what “open books” are is a sisyphean task, and you do a fine job of oversimplifying that task.

    SF February 15, 2004, 7:21 pm
  • Again, you simply don’t have your facts straight. The players and the owners DO, to a large extent, agree on those numbers–the entire collective bargaining agreement is based on them.
    Things get complicated when we start understanding MLB franchises as part of large media conglomerates.
    But the only way the economic system of baseball is ever going to be repaired is if that system is opened to public scrutiny. If you think this is a lost cause, than the war is already lost and there’s no hope for the future. To me, that’s absolutely outrageous. You’re way, way, way off base here.

    YF February 16, 2004, 10:43 am
  • You obviously have no clue what the NHL just attempted to do. Read up here and then you might want to rethink your posts. The MLBPA and the Owners will have a very difficult time ever agreeing on how profitable or unprofitable franchises are, precisely because of what you say. The “books” are one thing to one party and another to the other – how revenues are defined is hardly logical. That you deny this is inexplicable to me. To then tell me that I don’t have my “facts” straight is basically an insult – I am not talking about facts, but about perceptions of what numbers to use. I am pretty sure you can’t even tell me what these numbers are – what are the Yankees “revenues”? Are they the YankeesNets revenues? Do they include any of the side YES network deals with Manchester United? How is the YES network defined as part of the overall Yankees organization, and do the revenues generated by it count towards the Bombers’ bottom line? What about the Marlins? Does Huizenga commingle anything across his media holdings? It’s an enormous problem, one you rightly point out then go on to deny.
    I also don’t think this league is a “lost cause”, by any means, but I do think there should be some severe changes to the league in order to increase the quality of play and foster greater popularity (contraction being one of them, a shorter schedule being another, just to put those on the table). You suggest that everything will be clearer once these so-called “books” are opened. I suggest you stop living in fantasyland.

    SF February 16, 2004, 11:55 pm

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