The Bethlehem Nine

December 24, 2012

Any reader of this page quickly learns of my reverence for baseball.  The regular reader may also discern my reverence for Holy Scripture, and perhaps even comprehend my fervent belief that these two interests are divinely connected.  We’ve all heard the old joke that baseball existed even before this world, because the Bible begins with the statement that “in the big inning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  What bigger inning could there be than the one where the earth’s ground was first cultivated into a park of green grass and the high blue sky set over it to cause fielders all kinds of fits on sunny days?  Perhaps you will accept this interpretation of Genesis 1:1, or perhaps not, but in this Advent season I hope that the suggestion at least makes you think about the relationship between sport’s greatest game and life’s greatest mystery.

I have been studying this year’s Hot Stove moves by all 30 MLB teams as they try to make themselves into winners, either on the field or at least at the box office.  As the pace of free agent signings increases, I am reminded of last year and how obtaining even the most prized player of a generation does not guarantee a spot in the playoffs, much less a World Series title. Baseball is still a team game and every championship team has an excellent ensemble cast, no matter how large the contributions of certain individuals may be.

Because I was already considering a B.A.B.E.S. Christmas greeting, and because I often think of my faith in baseball terms, I began to consider the Christmas Story as a General Manager might. While it is clearly the story of one superstar figure, the great victory that is represented by the Nativity Scene actually includes many essential supporting players that became stars themselves. Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of all these players, in very short order I had filled all the positions on the diamond and “The Bethlehem Nine” was born.  The name may not be as catchy as the Bronx Bombers or Big Red Machine, or even the Mudville Nine, but if I was a GM in the celestial league I’d really like my chances with this line-up.  The idea may be a bit over-the-top, even for me, but it’s Christmas Eve, so as a Christmas gift to me please  consider the following player evaluations in the Spirit of the Season in which they are offered.

Building the Bethlehem Nine (there was no DH in God’s plan):

Every winning club starts with a strong battery.  The B-9er’s were totally set there:

Starting Pitcher –  Holy Spirit:   Often referred to as the third-person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is actually the staff ace that all coaches dream about.  A No. 1 starter able to throw smoke (with a wind-up and delivery as pure as a dove), HS is also blessed with a devastating off-speed pitch that would upset the timing of even the most devilish hitter.  (I always smirk at a commentator’s frequent use of the word “devastating,” but the 3rd Webster’s definition – “to overwhelm” – certainly seems to apply here.)   We all marvel at Cy Young’s 517 victories, or Nolan Ryan’s 27 seasons and 5,714 strike-outs, but even those lofty numbers are nothing when compared to a pitcher who is said to have hovered over the field even before the first mound was formed.

Catcher – Joseph:  He looked like the classic lug toiling away in the tools of ignorance (sure, Mary’s innocent….), but Joseph surprised everyone by his ability to adapt and handle even this epic curve ball from the Holy Spirit.  (He’s one pitcher who calls all His own pitches.)  Joseph, of course, always preferred the straight ball, but learned to trust his pitching coach and go with whatever the staff ace decided to throw his way.  He thus proved to be an example for many backstops to come.  What other source could Yogi have had for this bit of wisdom? “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

In addition to a stellar battery, we all know how important it is for a baseball club to be strong up the middle. No problem there for this team from the House of Bread (the meaning of the name “Bethlehem”):

Shortstop – Angel Gabriel:  Every great club has a shortstop who serves as the team captain, controlling play on the field and keeping everyone positive off the field.  What better fielder could you find than one slick enough to appear magically in a house unfettered by space and time? And what better voice in the clubhouse than one able to greet the team’s new high-priced free agent with:  “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Second Base – John the Baptist:  The second sacker always plays “second banana” to a star shortstop, but the middle-cog in a double-play combo is very important, especially one who as a veteran player graciously yielded the spotlight to a new star. (“I must decrease and He must increase.”)  Of course, despite his modesty, JtB also talked some serious trash with his rivals (“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”).  I bet no one tried to take him out with a rough slide at 2d!

Centerfield – Heavenly Host:  Even in the band-box park that is Bethlehem, you would still need a centerfielder who can cover ground and direct the corner outfielders authoritatively.  The perfect example is the anonymous angel calling out to the shepherds exactly what is happening, where they should go and even what signs to look for in the later innings. For at least one momentous night, there were in fact angels in the outfield.

In addition to needing the critical positions covered, every championship team must have strong role players.  Once again, the Bethlehem Nine filled its needs perfectly:

Right and Left field – Shepherds:  Please forgive the stereotype, but who else did you expect to find in the corner outfield positions?  These guys patiently watched over their field in isolation, but then skillfully sprang into action when the ball miraculously came their way – and they didn’t lose it in the Light!  Making even the difficult play look routine, they joyfully returned to their positions “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”  Oh, that all players were so coachable and ego-free.

1st and 3rd base – Wisemen:  (I know what you’re thinking – that there were 3 wisemen, not 2. But in fact the text only uses the plural term “magi” and does not designate how many there were, just that there was more than one.)  Conventional wisdom says that a team must have big production from the power corners, although these are not usually considered “role” players.  But in fact, it is simply their role to put up the big offensive numbers which most have in the past and for which they are now likely the highest paid players on the team.  No wonder they are expected to carry the team to victory against even the toughest opponents.  These wisemen from the East (Ichiro? Matsui?) not only brought 5-tool gifts with them, they also foiled nasty King Herod’s attempt to ruin the team, first with a luxury tax and then with a plan to kill all the prospects in the farm system.   Through the ages, baseball has survived the actions of any number of evil doers who would abuse the game and its players for personal gain.  Someday we will all know the truth that it is more blessed to give than receive. (Not to mention, “love your neighbors.” I adhered to my Advent pledge of earlier this month and did not make the obvious connection between Satan and NYY.)

And that’s my starting 9 for the expansion team in Bethlehem.  But of course a winning baseball club consists of more than just the starting nine.  You need a good utility player, a clutch pinch-hitter and a lights-out bullpen.  The Billy Beane of Bethlehem had those needs covered, too.

Utility/pinch-hitter – Simeon and Anna:   It seems every World Series Champion has a journeyman player who has been around for years (Edgar Renteria), and/or an aging superstar trying to prove he still is an elite player (Lance Berkman), and each finally gets to shine in the clutch moments of the post-season action.  So we see in Simeon and Anna who while notable in their own areas for years of faithful service were not really considered important until given the opportunity to star in the Christmas Story’s victory tradition -the presentation of the Christ child for circumcision. Perfect! And perfect timing!

Set up man – Mary:  Although most people believe the structured use of the bullpen is a creation of modern baseball, there is at least one historic example of note.  Even the best starter takes an early exit sometimes; and even the greatest closer doesn’t always want to get a 6 out (or more!) save.  You need a dependable bridge that keeps you in the game who, while not the star of the team, nevertheless makes victory possible.   Why do you think a good set-up man (or, in this case – woman), can always find a team and stay in the league year after year after year?  Mary played her part faithfully and completed a long career, and for that she deserves our lasting praise, if not a life-time contract.

Closer -The Christ Child – Well, no surprise here, although I took my time making the call. He’s the one everyone is expecting to see when the game is on the line, the one against whom the opponent has “no chance.” (Think Jon Kruk against Randy Johnson in the 1993 All-Star Game.  A blasphemous comparison, perhaps, but that scene is instructive.  The Scriptures never give any physical description of Jesus, and for one at-bat at least the most powerful force in the Universe could be represented by a 6’10” lefthander with a snarling face.  Just as scary an image as a rider on a white horse with a sword in His mouth, and a telling contrast to the babe in a manger.)  As with some of the lesser great closers, the process of getting the last out may not be what you really expected, or even hoped for, but nevertheless the ending remains certain.  “Game Over” for the black hats.  “The Light shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

So there you have it – my best explanation of how baseball is a template for understanding anything, even the incarnation of the Great Commissioner.  I’m sure this is clearer in my mind than yours, and probably much more interesting to me than you.  But, again, I hope you find the suggestion is interesting and that perhaps it will even add a bit of cheer to your off-season.

MERRY CHRISTMAS.

(JSR) © 2012

Love Your Enemies – Part 2 (Marvin Miller and Bud Selig)

December 13, 2012

Five stories seen on the web last night:

1)  Union members threaten violence in Michigan over the legislature’s new “right to work” law that will further diminish union influence in the American work place;

2) tea party leaders vow to fight the re-elected President’s plan to raise taxes on businesses and the wealthy, saying this will stifle growth and cause another recession or financial crisis like 2008;

3) the NHL cancels all games through December 31, as the owner’s lock-out has now eliminated nearly half the season with no resolution in sight;  

4) MLB announces that the average salary for 2012 was a new high,  $3.2 million; and

5) expecting billions of dollars in revenue through a new TV deal, LAD’s payroll for the upcoming season approaches $250 million with two new free agent signings, including a 6 year, $147 million contract with Zack Greinke (and just now LAA has signed Josh Hamilton for five years, $125 million).

Marvin Miller died last month at the age of 95.  As most of you know, he was the architect of the rise of the Major League Baseball Players Association as a very powerful union in the 1970’s, earning players the right to become free agents and sell their services to the highest bidder.  While I generally side with management on most labor issues, I recognize a great performance when I see it, and Mr. Miller’s legacy is one that every MLB player should honor everyday.  Many baseball writers expressed this same sentiment in memorials following Miller’s death, which seems contradictory to me since some of them (along with HOF-member players and executives) must be responsible for the BBWAA’s continuing refusal to vote Mr. Miller into the MLB Hall of Fame.

In a similar contradiction, my management tendencies have rarely caused me to support Allan Huber “Bud” Selig in his efforts during 20 years as MLB Commissioner. Yet, despite the personal animosity I felt toward Miller in my youth, when I learned that a “strike” in baseball could mean more than a batter’s swing and miss, and toward Selig in my middle age (is there any part of the game still sacred?), I believe the times are proving that each of these men has been very good for baseball.  Therefore, in the spirit of my Advent-season pledge to love my enemies, I grudgingly give them both credit for keeping baseball out of the negative headlines referenced in stories 1-3 above.  Instead, as evidenced by stories 4 and 5, Miller’s and Selig’s performance statistics are definitely worthy of a hall of fame (business, if not baseball).  They also go a long way toward proving that labor and management can both succeed under our capitalist system when they have the right product to sell and are willing to cooperate in the marketing effort, even if that willingness comes only after some hard-fought battles where both sides lose some of the time.

In 1975, when Miller brilliantly engineered the successful legal challenge to the perpetual application of the reserve clause on behalf of Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, the average MLB salary was $44k.  As noted above, the average salary for players in 2012 rose to $3.2 million. Even an English major like me knows that inflation won’t account for this nearly 100 fold salary increase in less than 40 years – not 100%, but 100 TIMES.   Clearly, free market enterprise has been very good for baseball players, but surprisingly it has not been a financial death-knell for MLB owners as many predicted, and it certainly hasn’t killed the sport even though the percentage of revenue spent on salaries increased from 20% in 1974 to over 54% in 2001.  Who gets credit for that? Well, capitalism for starters, but that’s for another post.  For now, just recognize that Marvin Miller gets credit for the legality of rising salaries, and Bud Selig must get some, perhaps the lion’s share, of the credit for the owners’ ability to pay higher salaries.   I see these two points as related because there is no denying that baseball has enjoyed enormous growth since the advent of free agency, both in attendance and revenue.  Although I’m not the business professor in our family (my brother is), there must be some connection between the emotion free agency brings to the fan base (both positive and negative), and the increased revenue derived from that emotion.  Therefore, Miller’s legal victory at least set the stage for an increase in baseball’s popularity which owners have exploited under Bud Selig’s leadership, whether they know it or not, or will admit to knowing it.

When Selig became acting commissioner in 1992, the average player salary had risen to $1 million and the total attendance had increased from 29 million in 1975 to 55 million. As I reported in my post “The Only Real Game…”  (11/05/12), total attendance in 2012 exceeded 72 million, and had been even greater in the prior year.   More importantly for owners, under Bud’s leadership total MLB revenue has increased from $1.5 billion in 1992 to over $7.5 billion in 2012.  With new TV deals in several markets, including LAD, it is estimated that revenue for 2013 could approach $9 billion.  Even in Barry Goldwater terms, that’s starting to sound like real money.

When your company has increased total revenue over 600% during your tenure, you are generally considered to be an effective CEO, even if industry followers decry your failure to police PED use among players and grouse about traditions being trampled by innovations such as interleague play, an All-Star game that “counts” and the expanded post-season.  Further, many will say that TV cable deals are largely responsible for the revenue increase, but even if that is so doesn’t the popularity of the product have a direct bearing on the fees paid? And who more than Bud Selig has molded the product that is the current MLB game? (New stadiums in 26 markets; interleague play; expanded post-season; multiple TV outlets including its own network; quicker games – except NYY v. BOS, of course – instant replay and numerous other developments over the past 20 years).

The owners’ satisfaction with Bud’s job performance is evident by their keeping him as “acting” commissioner for 6 years, then removing the qualifier and extending his contract multiple times.   Twice he has delayed his retirement plans at the owners’ request and is now set to leave the office in 2014, when he will be an octogenarian.  If you have been on the job for nearly 20 years, are approaching 80 years old and they still want you to come to work every day, you must be doing something right.  And in my opinion, he has done as much right for the players as he has for the owners.

The most important component of his success, of course, arose from his greatest failure – the 1994-95 players’ strike that cancelled the World Series for the first time, something two World Wars hadn’t done.  Fans were outraged and swore never to return.  Then just when everyone assumed MLB was dead, it climbed out of the morgue and has since gotten healthier than ever, based in large part on 18 subsequent years of management and labor peace – soon to be 22 with the ratification of a new contract extending through 2016.  Selig has to get credit for much of this since he is the constant figure in the process.  It shouldn’t be an insult to say that a man who grew up in the car sales business has proven to be as astute a negotiator as the former leading man for the United Auto Workers union.  Nor should it be forgotten that Selig clearly has a sense of baseball’s place in American history and how it can impact the nation’s psyche for the better.   During his tenure MLB has played a very important role in our national reflection and the rebuilding of our national self-confidence. (Remember September, 2001, and why “God Bless America” has replaced “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” as the most-sung anthem during the 7th inning stretch.)

On a more practical level, perhaps Selig’s best work came not against the players or regarding the performance of the game, but rather against his wealthiest owners, whom he convinced in 2000 to share revenue among the franchises.  This agreement provided the necessary balancing of the economic impact of free agency and allowed small market teams at least a chance to make money if not win championships – and let’s face it, NYY, BOS, LAD and LAA need teams in the fly-over states to play against or there wouldn’t be a league.  If you’re really interested, see the Sport Journal’s article “Is Revenue Sharing Working for MLB?”, ISSN 1543-9518, where the impact of disparity among local revenue is analyzed in pains-taking detail.  Alternatively, if you’re only moderately interested, read the next few paragraphs.

Although 2012’s annual Winter Meeting came and went last week without any public debate or friction, rest assured that the labor/management salary drama continued off-stage. We learned enough through the media to know that several actors had changed roles, some no doubt due to revenue sharing and luxury tax (ask Hal Steinbrenner).   LAD is now playing the part of NYY (“take our money, please!” $240 million and counting for 2013), and NYY is doing its best to impersonate OAK (“we must abide by our budget!” – they lost Russell Martin in a bidding war with PIT?)  LAA’s signing of Pujols, Wilson and now Hamilton further shows that even the younger team in a large market has money to burn.

Most observers – fans and experts alike – will assert that the business model is still broken when one team can spend nearly 10 times more than another on its annual payroll (the Astros currently have only $30 million committed to player contracts for 2013). However, when your product is popular enough to generate revenue to support a $250 million payroll to produce it in one market, and yet agile enough to where the same product (or even better) can be produced in another market for less than $60 million (see Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman), don’t you have the perfect storm of labor and management success?  You do, in my opinion, and I applaud the owners and players (management and labor) for seeing just that.

As Congress debates with itself and the President about seemingly impossible budgetary problems for our national government, our National Pastime could supply some of the answers.  Of course, I think that baseball holds the answer to almost every question in life, but it would at least be informative if Mr. Miller’s actions were studied.  He first made small but important gains for the players before taking on the citadel of free agency.  Further, his shrewd strategy was also always carried out in a calm and gentlemanly fashion.  Wouldn’t it be helpful if Congressional leaders investigated MLB’s successes under Selig’s leadership as aggressively as it did its PED failures?  MLB’s balance sheet is more than a little better than the country’s.  Indeed, when our Nation looks to be heading downward on an irreversible path, MLB is there to show that it doesn’t have to end that way.  Mr. Miller and Mr. Selig, representing labor and management, have shown the way to a hard-fought but fair compromise that can be beneficial to all.  politicians, take note.

I must admit that the somewhat terse statement Selig released on behalf of MLB marking Miller’s death suggests that the owners still harbor grudges, and Selig was one of them for 12 of Miller’s 17 years as head of the MLBPA.  It is obviously difficult for some owners to come to terms with free agency, even though the adjective “free” should also apply to them in the sense of the freedom NOT to bid on players unrestricted by a contract (unless of course they colluded with other owners and all agree not to bid….)  Rather than fretting over the industry’s rising labor costs, these owners should focus on the revenue rise and overall increases in franchise values.   Net operating revenue may still be a challenge some years, but for some time now and for the foreseeable future balance sheets among MLB franchises look very healthy – even when they are examined as Monthly Operating Reports before the Federal Bankruptcy Court, as in the recent cases filed by TEX and LAD.  So long as attendance remains strong and the cable TV operators can pay the fees they have agreed to pay, baseball’s future, and the future of its players, will be very bright and leaves no cause for owners and players to be enemies. That should make for Happy Holidays for MLB owners, players and fans.  Now, if the government will just take note.

(A personal note: Lest you have any doubt about my schizophrenic personality, you should know that I am the product of a mixed marriage. My father was management and my mother was labor.  Of their myriad personality differences, perhaps none was more telling than this fundamentally opposite view of life.   As is often the case with offspring, I got some of the tendencies of each gene pool, and I never know which is going to control my thinking.  However, I learned a good while ago in the practice of law that you are not going to succeed if you can’t even envision your opponent being right. How can you ever understand his arguments and counter them, or hope to come to an agreement to resolve them, if you don’t start by acknowledging the possibility that your opponent’s position is right and yours is not?  “Come now, let us reason together.”  Is. 1:18.)

(JSR) © 2012

Love your enemies – Part 1 (the Yankees)

“Scott, your commentary is excellent, but you need to retain SOME sense of objectivity when discussing my beloved team.”         Email from B.A.B.E.S. member Bill C.

December 1, 2012

I hope that you all had a blessed Thanksgiving and that it properly prepared you for the December holidays.  As we enter the season of Advent, Hanukkah and Kwanza, considered the “most wonderful time of the year” even by those who adopt a secular point of view, I have been thinking about my attitude.   I confess that I have been less than kind lately in my posts, particularly toward the professional media; and of course I am never kind toward the Yankees.  In the Spirit of Christmas, the December holiday I observe, I have decided to try to better apply one of the teachings of its principal figure, who urged His followers to “love your enemies.”  What better place for me to start than with the New York Yankees?

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like NYY.  Hardly any post goes up on this site that does not contain a snide comment about the Evil Empire in general, or the Steinbrenners, A-Rod or even Brian Cashman, specifically.  I confess that even when I expressed some sympathy for A-Rod in  “Leaves of Grass”  (10/22/12), it was with a cynical, belittling tone.

Although I’m sure no one in pin stripes – either the uniforms or the suits – has lost any sleep over what I think about him, lately I have begun to feel badly about it myself.  Well, not really “bad,” but just a little unsure of myself. Self-doubt is so uncommon for me that I was actually beginning to analyze this strange feeling when I received Bill’s email quoted above.  His “beloved team” is, of course, NYY, and the timing of his gentle rebuke seemed more than an interesting coincidence. (Can a Yankees fan be gentle? – Oops, there I go again).

As most of you know, my main criticism of NYY has been that there is no honor, or shouldn’t be, in winning World Series titles by simply spending the most money to assemble a team of the most productive players then available at each position.  That has been the NYY business model for over a century, starting shortly after the franchise relocated from Baltimore in 1903 to become the New York Highlanders (changed to the Yankees in 1913).  Babe Ruth was, of course, their best purchase in 1920 (even though he was already the highest paid player in baseball), but he was certainly not the first.  Many one-sided trades were made because the Yankees had cash to send along with players (this didn’t just start with the “Boss”).  Some owners, however, would not sell their best players for cash, and it wasn’t until Marvin Miller broke the reserve clause in 1975 that NYY’s standard operating procedures were fixed.  (More about Mr. Miller, R.I.P., and the MLBPA in the next post.) What was to come through free agency was foreshadowed by the signing of Catfish Hunter, who became available due to a contract SNAFU by the A’s and promptly was made the highest paid pitcher in the game – by NYY, of course.

Many Yankee free agent signings followed, as we all know. Some generally successful, like Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi (?) and other big hitters, as well as pitchers Roger Clemens, Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, Jimmy Key and David Wells (twice!).  Many others were not so successful.  A few of my favorites are: A.J. Burnett, Kenny Rogers, Hideki Irabu, Kyle Farnsworth and Carl Pavano!  Old habits are hard to break.

Just consider NYY’s 2012 roster:  No. 1 starter – free agent (highest paid at the position); 1st baseman, free agent (highest paid at the time); 3rd baseman, free agent (highest paid of all MLB players); right fielder, free agent to be (agreed to trade just so he could play for NYY); catcher – free agent; DH, free agent; closer (after Rivera’s injury), free agent  (signed as set-up man for closer money).

With the possible exceptions of Martin at catcher and Ibanez at DH, where is the skill in assembling that line-up?  Maybe some credit is due for the Swisher and Granderson trades, but despite all these transfers, who was their best player?  Most would pick Robinson Cano, homegrown.  And who was/is their Captain, the heart and soul of the team?  Derek Jeter, homegrown, of course.  Thus, the only two Yankee-developed players in the starting 9 happen to be the team MVP and the team captain.  Do you see my point?  If you don’t, take a look at Richard Justice’s current column on MLB.com (“Winning the Off-Season Doesn’t Always Translate to Title,” 11/29/12). He gets it, and probably explains it better there than I am here.

To be clear, my dislike is not just because NYY has won so much. I admire greatness in sport that leads to domination, such as with Jack Nicklaus (my childhood hero) or Tiger Woods or Roger Federer – all of whom I faithfully cheered for in every single competition (even when Tiger was being unfaithful).  The fact is that they were/are the best at their craft, and it is our obligation as sports fans to respect their athletic greatness.  And that brings me back to my point, where is the craftsmanship in buying the best player at each position?  Isn’t that the reason most NBA fans objected to LeBron and Chris Bosh conspiring to play with Dwayne Wade in Miami?  Where was the sport in that?  Of course, winning an NBA title proved harder than most expected, just as winning a World Series remains hard no matter how much money is spent.  In addition to NYY, consider BOS, LAA, MIA and LAD.

Anyway, back to NYY, which has actually fielded teams that I liked, or at least respected.  The 90’s dynasty team was built around very likable players Bernie, Tino, Paul, Derek, Jorge, Andy and Mo, most of whom the Yankees developed.  (Can you believe that 3 of those last 4 will STILL be on the 2013 roster?)   And even if you hated the way he handled the bullpen, you have to admit that Joe Torre was, and is, a likeable guy. And who could dislike Don Zimmer (other than Pedro Martinez)?  Certainly those teams had some high-priced free agents, but the heart and soul of the teams, and the reason why they won championships, were the players that NYY developed and who grew up Yankees, not those who were already grown-up and tried to change their stripes through the power of green.  Most of the time the pressure of that green, added to  inflated expectations and the stress of living in NYC, leads to failure – not championships. To me, there is simply something more admirable, perhaps even noble, about the titles won with Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Ford (all lifelong Yankees), than those won with Jackson or Clemens or Rodriguez or any other established star who moved to NYY at the peak of their careers.

However, there is reason for me to back off my criticism of NYY other than just to get into the Christmas spirit.  Consider this quote from Hal Steinbrenner last Spring announcing that the team will reduce its payroll to below $189 million by 2014:

“If you do well on the player development side, and you have a good farm system, you don’t need a $220 million payroll,” Steinbrenner said, in a rare public appearance Thursday. “You don’t. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent.”

Brian Cashman, meet Billy Beane.  Truthfully, Cashman has done a nice job finding important pieces for the club over the years and, who knows, with less money to spend perhaps he will look harder and finally be recognized as an astute GM.  And be honest, NYY fans, wouldn’t World Series title #28 achieved with less than the highest payroll in MLB feel just a little sweeter? I think so and I would welcome it (well, at least tolerate it).

So, here is my Christmas gift to NYY:  I pledge to be nicer toward you and, perhaps, even to become an admirer if you begin to win the old-fashioned way – with players you developed or believed in when most other teams did not.  In addition, I will try to follow my manager’s directive and start to love you, my baseball enemy.  If that happens, how can we remain enemies?

And I think that is His point.

(JSR) © 2012