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And, because these are the Yankees, no one seems to mind that various members of Congress have been on the team’s case about all the public financing they received for the stadium, including tax-free public bonds and a new Metro-North station paid for entirely by the city and the MTA. (Heaven forbid Joe Girardi get a bonus, though!) The new stadium will open to endless plaudits, and the team will keep minting money and subsidizing the rest of baseball’s underclass. The Yankees have a monumental new home, and, in contrast to the fervor over the Citi Field naming in Flushing, have continued to walk between the raindrops publicity-wise for it. The Yankees have the best new stadium in baseball. Of course they do!

And through all this spending, all this living off a New York that might have vanished into the financial black hole, it’s worth noting that this team will probably kick ass. The starting rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, and Joba Chamberlain has been outstanding all spring, and the offense, with the addition of Teixeira and the return of Jorge Posada, should be strong enough to hold down the fort until A-Rod returns. To put it another way, as of press time, the Yankees still had not decided on a regular center-fielder. It’ll either be Brett Gardner, a slap-hitting 25-year-old rookie who probably wouldn’t crack the Kansas City Royals’ starting lineup, or Cabrera, a middling former prospect who appears to have worn out his welcome with the fan base. Baseball-wise, this is the most pressing issue facing the team—it certainly has many fans frustrated, as if it were inconceivable that they should not have another proven starter to install in center; this is the Yankees!—and if neither works out, the Yankees can just wait for other teams to fall out of contention and trade for whoever bobs up. (The Cardinals’ Rick Ankiel and the Brewers’ Mike Cameron are the most likely candidates.) If this is your worst problem, you’re doing pretty well.

Some of the blame for last year’s “failure” was put on the shoulders of Posada, or, more specifically, Posada’s torn right shoulder. He didn’t play the last two months of the year and had the worst hitting season of his career. He’s looking healthy this spring, gunning down three of four base-stealers in a game last week against Pittsburgh Pirates prospects. Asked if he realized how important he was to the team’s chances in 2009, replied, “I don’t know if I could have made a difference last year. We had a really, really bad year. I could have made it worse.” Last year, the Yankees won 89 games, the seventh-highest number in baseball and more than they won in 2000, the year of their last World Series title. Around here, that’s a “really, really bad year.”

And why wouldn’t it be? The Yankees are a relic of a time when New York did dominate, when we had the best of everything and were the center of the world, of finance, of media, of culture. And the relic persists, the myth goes on. If we cannot sell our financial institutions as the world’s greatest any longer, dammit, we sure can sell our baseball team that way. The Yankees represent all of us, what we once were … and what we might be again.


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