Proof There is a Baseball God

The American baseball fan base is divided into two distinct camps. The first are Yankee fans who revel in the team’s 26 World Series championships. These are the fans who point to the storied past of the most prestigious franchises every to play the game. They speak in reverent tones at past heroes such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and the countless dignitaries of the game. They wear the white and blue pinstripe jerseys and dark blue hats with pride knowing that their team has no equal when it comes to success in baseball. The second group of fans remembers a fateful day in January 1973 when a shipping tycoon purchased the Yankees for at the time an unheard of price of $8.8 million. That shipping tycoon was none other than George Steinbrenner. From that moment on, they Yankees would differentiate themselves from other teams with a win at all costs attitude. Steinbrenner could at best be classified as a hands-on owner and at worst a meddling disruption. He demands that his employees and players perform their jobs to perfection. He demands success and has shown a tendency to remove any and all roadblocks from in front of the team to give them no excuses. As a fan from the first camp these are the qualities that you love about the Steinbrenner era. To those fans in the second came these are the traits you despise. There does not appear to be any middle ground when it comes to the Yankees. You either love them or hate them, it’s that simple.

The detractors from the team say that Steinbrenner has done more to disrupt the equilibrium of baseball than any other single person in the history of the game. Where all the teams should act in unison for the betterment of the game, Steinbrenner thumbs his nose at the collective group and does whatever it takes to win. An admirable quality that every baseball fan would love their owner to take but it is an attitude that few can afford. With the seemingly bottomless bucket of money, the Yankees merely outbid everyone for every player. If there is a player that could help their ball club, it is a “money is no object” exercise to bring in what pieces are necessary to win. This year for example when left fielder Hideki Matsui and right fielder Gary Sheffield went down with injuries, the Yankees didn’t look to their bench or farm system to replace these players for the duration of the injury. Instead they went out and found teams willing to part with their all-star players and rented them for the remainder of the season. This obviously made it easier to win but at the cost of a payroll that exceeded $200 million for the year. So when they made the play-offs it was no shock, it was expected that if you have a line-up that consisted of every player in your starting line-up having at least 1 all-star appearance that you should make the play-offs. It is no longer a matter of earning a title as much as it has become an entitlement. For the other teams in the American League Eastern Division it is somewhat unfair to expect your team to unseat this juggernaut since few franchises have the cash streams needed to sustain this path.

In the first round of the playoffs the Yankees face the Detroit Tigers who are the Cinderella of 2006. Three years after losing over a hundred games in a season, the Tigers have rebounded to make the play-offs for the first time since 1984. In game 1 of the series the Yankee All-stars took advantage of a couple of bad pitches and crushed the Tigers to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Columnists everywhere wrote off Detroit and began to question whether they Yankees would even lose a game with their potent offense. So when game 2 came and the Tigers actually beat the Yankees these same columnists proclaimed that it was simply an off night for New York and that the offense was too good to be denied. Game 3 saw former Arizona Diamondback Randy Johnson another all-star and likely first ballot Hall of Fame pitcher take the mound against Kenny Rogers whose past performances against the Yankees had several wondering if it was Kenny Rogers the singer pitching instead of Kenny Rogers the athlete. This time though Rogers threw a masterful game taking game 3 and leaving the Yankees one game away from elimination.

The fans from the first camp were in shock and disbelief that their vastly superior team was being shown up by a group of kids whose collective payroll was less than a third that of the Yankees. The second camp of fans was readying their victory cigars and had their dancing shoes on to prance upon the graves of the 2006 Yankees. Game 4 started off bad for New York and progressively got worse each inning. In the end it was the young Detroit Tigers whose pitchers had the lowest ERA in all of baseball who were victorious over the Yankees marking the sixth year since the Yankees were last World Champions. Immediately following the game a press release was given by George Steinbrenner’s publicist stating George’s profound disappointment and frustration at being ousted from the play-offs in the first round. The message further went on to express his desire to reevaluate the team and make whatever changes are necessary to become better. This should have delighted every Yankee fan and every agent of every athlete as that is Steinbrenner-ese for “we are going break the bank to get whatever we need to win”. Personally, I think this is just living proof that there is a baseball god and treats all of his teams equally.

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