From the mid-90s to present day, it's been quite fashionable to hate the New York Yankees. While there are plenty of reasons, most of it sort of boils down to a thinly-veiled jealousy. What's been different about the Yankees when compared to your favorite team? They have and will spend money on whatever they feel they need to contend. Yankee players must be clean-cut and check their personality at the door. They seem to be better looking. And, of course, they always find themselves in the running for yet another World Series title.
But something has seemed different for a few years now. The club hasn't taken a trophy home since 2001, their bulbous payroll has been largely squandered on useless bullshit, the Red Sox have established themselves as the new and true consistent force in the American League, and every other day a Steinbrenner family member makes an ass of himself in a very public manner. All of these factors have made anti-Yankee sentiments take something of a tempered hiatus. Until right about...now.
A very high percentage of baseball fans like to get their kicks by whining about how much money the Yankees have at their disposal due to their deal with the YES Network and, well, their tendency to win baseball games. Be as it may, I'd like to present to you a brief comparison. The following are payroll figures from the past seven seasons. The first number is the payroll of the team on the left, the second is the Yankees payroll.
2002 Los Angeles Angels $61,721,667 vs. $125,128,583
2003 Florida Marlins $48,750,000 vs. $152,749,814
2004 Boston Red Sox $127,298,500 vs. $184,193,950
2005 Chicago White Sox $75,178,000 vs. $208,306,817
2006 St. Louis Cardinals $88,891,371 vs. $194,663,079
2007 Boston Red Sox $143,026,214 vs. $189,639,045
2008 Philadelphia Phillies $98,269,880 vs. $209,081,577
So yeah, the Yankees sure do spend a lot of money. But what have those seven teams on the left column done with lesser payrolls that the Yankees haven't? They've won a World Series in the past seven years. The Yankees have even gone so far as to miss out on the postseason entirely (2008) in spite of all that money they're forking over. During the past seven seasons, the only team to even come relatively close to spending as much money as the Yankees has been the Boston Red Sox, who have enjoyed the most success in baseball during that stretch (World Series wins in 2004 and 2007). As the years pass, it seems like the Yankees have forgotten that their reign of terror over baseball during the Joe Torre era (I don't care about his book at all) was accomplished because of homegrown talent (Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada) and thrifty acquistions (Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez), not giant splashes in the free agent market. The Yankees used to utilize their financial heft to merely keep around the good players they'd managed to develop. As of late, they've been using that same money (and then some) to keep those same players happy (even if they're well past their prime or even functionality) and to sign free agents with very little in the way of a successful track record.
All of this misdirection has slowly quieted the anti-Yankee lobbyists. Over time, baseball fans have learned just to snicker at Yankee misfires, realizing that they can spend all the money they want if they're going to spend it on the likes of Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Tony Womack, and even an aging Johnny Damon. So why, all of a sudden, have the media and fans reverted back to turn-of-the-millennium mode and begun Yankee hating at the speed of sound? Because the Yankees appear to have stopped merely spending and started thinking. If you're going to spend a ton of money, why not spend it on the very best players available, even if it's going to cost you just a little bit more? After all, if you have the money, and you're going to spend it anyway, why overspend on a fish fillet sandwich at McDonald's when you could just head across the street and have lobster?
Yes, the Yankees are going to be good again. Not that they've really ever been what one could call bad (they've not once been the Royals or Pirates), but they're more than likely going to be a lot of trouble for the Red Sox and Rays. In a very strong free agent class, New York has nabbed three of the top four free agents available. And they've occasionally been linked to the fourth member of that group (Manny Ramirez). A team that needed another bat in light of an aging lineup added Mark Teixeira, arguably the gem of this offseason's free agent crop. Teixeira will benefit from hitting behind Alex Rodriguez, and it's not like he ever needed a strong supporting cast to hit anyway. This same team had a pitching rotation littered with holes. So what did they do? They didn't bother with giving big money to Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez, who could, if everything broke right, succeed. They gave bigger money to C.C. Sabathia, easily one of the game's five best starting pitchers, and A.J. Burnett, an excellent starter in his own right who possibly has the best raw pitches in all of baseball.
This is why you hate the Yankees again. Maybe you never stopped. But even if you didn't, get ready to hate them more. Get ready to tell all your friends that it'll all be okay, because they're just as stupid as they ever were. C.C. Sabathia is going to wear himself out after all those innings he's pitched. A.J. Burnett's going to happen upon another horrible injury that results in his ultimate downfall. Mark Teixeira is going to, um, turn into a pumpkin. And as for the great players the Yankees already possessed, like Alex Rodriguez, well, screw them too. After all, he took steroids or something. Shame on him! He's a bad person. He's also going to hit more home runs than any player in baseball history. It's okay if you want to shout out all these tired, boring, explanations of why the Yankees will fail to your friends. Just have your backup tirade ready for when you're wrong.