I got myself in a little hot water over on Facebook a little while ago when I referred to the New York Yankees as the parasites of major league baseball. But this is something I have been thinking about for years, having been a Twins fan and a baseball fan since the early sixties.
I just now went through the Yankees 25-man roster of players they are currently using in the post-season playoffs. Out of those 25 players, only 11 of them have played their full career, or most of their career, with the Yankees. And most of those have only been in the majors for three or four years. The ones who are major stars and have been on the Yankees the longest are Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera. Andy Pettitte almost makes that list, except for a three-year stint with the Houston Astros a few years back.
Every other star, or super-star, the Yankees have on their roster became a star on another major league team first, and then was lured to the Yankees by humongous contracts. And if you look back through the history of the Yankees, especially through the Steinbrenner years, that is the way it has always been. Other teams have lived in fear of the Yankees coming and taking away their biggest and greatest star players. It probably goes all the way back to when the Yankees signed Babe Ruth away from Boston.
Why are the Yankees seen this way? Because they are the biggest fish in the pond. They are the major market team in the major leagues. Sure, some other teams are in major markets as well, but compared to New York, well, there’s no comparison. And it’s hard to blame the players for going to the Yankees when they are offered such incredible contracts. Who of us wouldn’t like to be paid millions of dollars a year for the job we do?
This past winter the greatest concern here in Minnesota, baseball-wise, was whether or not Joe Mauer would sign a contract with the Twins, or if the Yankees would be able to lure him to New York. Nobody was worried whether or not he would sign with the Dodgers, or the Astros, or the Cubs, or the Mariners. No, it’s New York everybody is concerned with, because it’s New York that actively pursues the superstars of all the other teams in the major leagues. And I suppose we can’t blame them, either, because they do have the money to do it.
And that is why I decided to refer to the Yankees as the parasites of the major leagues.
The problem is, it’s like the Yankees are trying to buy a winner, rather than to make it themselves. One source of pride we have as Twins fans is that many of our stars are “home-grown”, that is, they have come up to the major league team through the Twins’ minor league system. And we take a lot of pride in players like Joe Mauer, and Kent Hrbek, who were born here and choose to play their careers with the Twins rather than go someplace else, sometimes for more money. We also take pride in players like Harmon Killebrew, and Kirby Puckett, to name just two, who though born in other places, chose to play for the Twins. That’s something you can’t buy, but the Yankees still try.
It’s not my intention to offend the Yankees fans out there, or the fans of any other team. The Yankees have proven they are an outstanding team once again this year. I can’t deny that. But I guess the difference is in how you get there.