Back in December, right before Christmas, the Yankees agreed to an eight-year, $180 million contract with first-baseman Mark Teixeira, completing a two-week spending spree the likes of which had never been seen in professional sport. A mere three months after the economic collapse—which coincided with the Yankees’ missing the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years—the Steinbrenners decided to spend $423.5 million on three players. The Yankees were not a terrible team in 2008, when they were left out of the postseason, but the mere specter of missing it again impelled them to pay whatever it took. Deciding to spend $423.5 million didn’t assure victory. But it didn’t hurt.
While the rest of the country groans about the Yankees’ buying a 27th World Championship, those of us dropping $10 for a hot chocolate at Yankee Stadium know that nothing about winning comes cheap. If we pay for the best, we expect the best. This year, it worked.
In many ways, the whole 2009 Yankees season felt more like 1996’s than those of the dynastic titans that won from 1998 through 2000. The players were older, sure, but the congealing of disparate personalities—hambone Nick Swisher, android Twisted Sister “fan” Mark Teixeira, pie-throwing doofus A. J. Burnett—into an unexpected hive mind produced its share of charm. This was an easy Yankees team to cheer for. Gone were the seedy egotists like Roger Clemens and Gary Sheffield. It was these new guys commingling with the old standbys—Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte—that made the enterprise seem comfortingly less mercenary.
Still, let’s admit it: If you put those three December zillionaires on the Red Sox or the Angels, those teams would be having the parade. It’s perhaps fitting that the Yankees won the day after Mayor Bloomberg—who spent a comparatively frugal $100 million—bought himself a third term, albeit with a closer margin than he might have liked. Money, in politics and in sports, is how the sausage gets made. In the nine years since the Yankees last won the World Series, we convinced ourselves that Swisher and Jeter and Teixeira & Co. are Just Like Us: Yankees, friends. This year they are. Next year, if they don’t win, they’ll go back to being the overpaid malcontents we thought they were before.
Which is another reason to bask in the Yankees’ World Series victory as much as possible. Sports are uniquely designed to make you either happy or angry. The happy times don’t come along often. Regardless of the reason we have them, they must be appreciated. That’s what they’re there for.