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On Yankee dynasties

2004 May 11
by Skip Sauer

Bob Cohn lays out facts and useful observations on the modern Yankees and their predecessors in this column. A taste:

How can a team that has failed to win a World Series the last three years be wrecking the game when, once upon a lifetime, they absolutely laid waste to it?

During the 18 seasons of what might be called the “Yogi Yankees,” New York played in a single, eight or 10-team American League. While winning all those pennants and finishing no lower than third, they had an aggregate winning percentage of .624.

Let’s say the current Yankees “dynasty” began in 1994, when New York finished first but had no World Series in which to play because of the strike. Call them the “Derek Yankees,” after Jeter, the All-Star shortstop whose first full season was in 1996. In the ensuing 10 years, as Steinbrenner has outspent everyone by millions, they have compiled a .604 winning percentage, managing to reach or exceed the Yogi Yankees’ 18-year average exactly twice.

…Inequity? Rubbish, or something similar, says Jim Bouton, whose landmark 1970 bestseller, “Ball Four,” rocked the baseball establishment. He has continued to poke at the powers that be.

“It’s a charade,” Bouton says not only of using the Yankees as the poster child for baseball’s economic disparity but of the economic disparity, period.

“It has nothing to do with the Yankees,” Bouton says. “The owners needed to create a problem, and the solution is that the players should take less money. … It’s obvious that small-market teams do have a chance.”

Many have doubts about that, even though so-called small-market or moderate-sized payroll teams, the Florida Marlins and Anaheim Angels, have won the last two World Series. But there is no doubt that from the late 1940s into the 1960s, fans of other American League teams were resigned to their teams having almost no chance of playing in October.

Nowadays, largely because of the three divisions in each league and the wild card, more teams and their fans have hope. The Yankees? They are one of many good clubs. Indeed, they might prove to be great, especially if Jeter starts hitting and the pitching holds up.

Generations ago, they didn’t have to prove it. You knew they were great.

My take? Free agency allows the Yankees to recover more quickly from a series of blunders than they did in the past. But the limit on roster size means they can only sign so many players. Free agency allows all clubs to shuffle pieces of the puzzle in and out. As a result the Yanks face more competition each year for their roost at the top of the baseball world, and they are spending like mad to try and keep it.

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