As the 2006 Major League Baseball season has started, it goes without saying that the New York Yankees (along with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs) are one of the most popular teams in baseball. What you may not know is that the Yankees are also one of...check that, THE most hated and despised team in MLB. There are hundreds of thousands of websites, the biggest ones offering up various t-shirts, hats and other schwag with either "Yankees Suck" or some other variation on it. Players who leave one team to sign with the Yankees are often ostricized.
Before any Yankee fans out there try to say the my Point of View is tainted because I am a Red Sox fan (the BoSox being the arch-rivals of the Yankees); it's not just Boston that hates your team. One of the anti-Yankees websites was selling a Yankees Suck T-Shirt in not only the colors of the Red Sox, but the Mets, Orioles, A's, Mariners, and Braves as well. Besides, this column is not about pissing on the Yankees, you can find literally a million websites that do that already, it's about figuring out why the Yankees are so despised.
After doing some research I have come up with a list of the main reasons why there is so much hatred for the team from the Bronx (in no particular order).
#1. Too much money to spend
It seems like almost every top free agent lands in the Bronx. In recent years in particular their payroll has skyrocketed to mammoth proportions. It seems as though if the Yankees want them, they get them and pay too much money for them on top of it. Let's compare the starting lineup and rotation of the 1998 World Champion New York Yankees with the 2005 team that was eliminated in the American League Divisional Series (first round of the playoffs).
1998 Yankees Starting Lineup
1. 2B Chuck Knoblauch (aquired from Minnesota in a trade)
2. SS Derek Jeter (drafted by the Yankees)
3. RF Paul O'Neill (Free Agent, last played with Cincinnati)
4. CF Bernie Williams (signed as amateur Free Agent, entire pro career w/Yankees)
5. 1B Tino Martinez (acquired from Seattle in a trade)
6. DH Darryl Strawberry (Free Agent, last played in independent minors)
7. C Jorge Posada (drafted by the Yankees)
8. 3B Scott Brosius (acquired from Oakland in a trade)
9. LF Chad Curtis (acquired from Cleveland in a trade)
1998 Yankees Starting Rotation
1. David Wells (Free Agent, last played with Baltimore)
2. David Cone (acquired from Toronto in a trade)
3. Andy Pettite (drafted by the Yankees)
4. Orlando Hernandez (signed as Amateur Free Agent, Yankees first pro team)
5. Hideki Irabu (acquired from San Diego in a trade)
Looking at this team, the majority of superstars or soon-to-be superstars are either amateur FA signings or drafted by the Yankees themselves. This comes from the time when Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was in legal trouble and the majority of transactions were handled by GM Brian Cashman. Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez were not household names and ended up having their best years in New York. Darryl Strawberry was mired in drug problems by this time and way past his prime. This would be the first stint with the Yankees for Wells (who is now with Boston), he would be traded to Toronto for Roger Clemens following this season. Knoblauch, Brosius, Curtis, and Irabu had far from great careers.
Total Salary for the 1998 New York Yankees (including all players): $ 63,159,898
Regular Season Record: 114-48, 1st Place AL East
Won the World Series, defeating San Diego Padres 4 games to 0 (4-0)
2005 New York Yankees Starting Lineup
1. SS Derek Jeter (drafted by the Yankees)
2. 3B Alex Rodriguez (acquired from Texas in a trade)
3. CF Gary Sheffield (Free Agent, last played with Atlanta)
4. DH Ruben Sierra (acquired from Texas in a trade, second stint)
5. LF Hideki Matsui (Free Agent, superstar in Japan)
6. C Jorge Posada (drafted by the Yankees)
7. 1B Jason Giambi (Free Agent, last played with Oakland)
8. CF Bernie Williams (signed as amateur Free Agent, entire pro carrer w/Yankees)
9. 2B Robinson Cano (drafted by Yankees)
2005 Yankees Starting Rotation
1. Randy Johnson (acquired from Arizona in a trade)
2. Mike Mussina (Free Agent, last played with Baltimore)
3. Kevin Brown (acquired from Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade)
4. Jaret Wright (Free Agent, last played with Atlanta)
5. Carl Pavano (Free Agent, last played with Florida)
A much different team, but that can be partly justified by the passage of time at first glance. The 2005 lineup is chock full of legitimate superstars. Texas was able unload the great but vastly overpaid Alex Rodriguez on the Yanks after a deal with Boston fell through. Sheffield is a straight up hired gun, having played for 6 teams in his career. Giambi is another big time signing, as was Matsui. Randy Johnson whined and bitched until he was traded by Arizona, to the Yankees in particular. The Yankees of 2005 made a bigger splash during the off-season, picking up as many big names as they possibly could, but it ended up for naught.
Total Salary for 2005 New York Yankees (including all players): $ 208,306,817
Regular Season Record: 95-67, Tied for 1st Place AL East
Lost to Los Angeles Angels in ALDS 3-2
Steinbrenner seems content to try to one-up the competition (namely Boston) during the off-season by signing big name free agents, forsaking what got them to those championships in the late 1990's: players brought up through their farm system, and some odds and ends that came together and gelled for some killer teams.
Take a look at the 2005 team salary, no other comes close to it. In 2005 only two other teams had salaries over $100 million, nevermind $200 million! The Yankees seem to have an endless amount of money to spend, and this tends to piss fans other teams, especially the smaller market teams who cannot hold on to players who might get too good (i.e. expensive). Let me state that I believe the stingier teams need to fork over some more cash or else they will continue to lose each year (ahem, Pittsburgh and Tampa), but the Yankees have gone over the deep end. Steinbrenner seems intent on continuing this tactic to buy a championship, but it hasn't worked. The Yankees have not won a championship with a salary over $100 million, only one team has: the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
At the end I will go more in depth in the year by year salary increases, but for now I'm going to move on to other reasons why the Yankees are so universally hated.**
#2 Nobody Likes A (Constant) Winner
While sports dynasties are often admired and respected, they also bring about alot of resentment. You get those sports fans out there (myself included when it's not one of my teams) that just wait to relish in the team's downfall. The New York Yankees have won 26 World Championships over the years, along with 40 American League Pennants. No other team even comes close to these numbers. Seeing the Yankees win year in and year out over such a time span has brought about an enourmous anti-Yankee backlash. Add in the Yankees fans who constantly bring up this storied past, even in the face of a current string of disappointing seasons (with their payroll they should be expected to win year in and year out), and the resentment continues to be fed.
#3 National Media Coverage
The Major channels to broadcast baseball games nationally are FOX and ESPN. FOX has a blantant slant towards the Pin Stripes, each year showcasing quite a few Yankees games during the season, and when the playoffs come around the series that the Yankees are in in the first round is always in FOX spotlight. ESPN likes to mix it up a little, by adding the Red Sox, and every so often the Mets or Cubs, but again the Yankees take top billing. The media onslaught that is the New York Yankees, especially when they are playing Boston, is sickening for fans of other teams that get little or no coverage. Even with the in-game commentary on FOX in particular there is a very strong Yankee bias. The fact that the FOX and MLB suits are practically begging for the Yankees to advance far each year doesn't help. Neither does the fact that of the last three World Series' to not feature the Yankees, only the Red Sox/Cardinals Series of 2004 drew high ratings. The Angels/Giants Series of 2002 and last year's White Sox/Astros Series were both ratings flops. Then again the Yankees/Marlins Series of 2003 was also a dud, along with another Yanks series which I will get into next.
#4 New York, New York
It's the biggest city in the country population wise, and the best according to those who reside there. Nevertheless there is a major anti-all-things-New York contingent in this country, in the southeast particularly. NYC is the basis for many movies, songs, novels and television shows no matter what year it is, and after awhile all the publicity that NYC recieves can be sickening. In 2000 both the Yankees and their crosstown rivals the Mets made it to the World Series. Billed as the Subway Series, it was ratings failure outside of New York. New Yorkers themselves are percieved to be rude, obnoxious, and overbearing to folks from the rest of the country. The anti-New York feelings went away in 2001 after the attacks of 9/11, but have since returned.
#5 The Yankees Edge
Over the years there have been many players who's careers have been enhanced by the mere fact that they played for the New York Yankees. Take for example current Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter. I am not saying he isn't a great player, he is. I'm saying he's not the fucking Messiah as the baseball media would have you believe he is. He isn't even the best shortstop in the majors. If were building a team and can sign any players I wanted I would choose Baltimore's Miguel Tejada. The two are both great defensively, just about equal. So let's look at their offensive numbers; their best years and their averages.
Derek Jeter 1999: .349 avg 24 HR 102 RBI (all career highs)
Miguel Tejada 2004: .311 avg 34 HR 150 RBI (all career highs)
Derek Jeter Career 162 Game Average: .314 avg 18 HR 81 RBI
Miguel Tejada Career 162 Game Average: .280 avg 28 HR 110 RBI
While Jeter has a better batting average, Tejada is a run-producing machine. His power numbers considerably dwarf those of Jeter's. Jeter has had one season in which he drove in over 100 runs out of 10, Tejada has 5 100+ RBI seasons out of 8. Yet many consider Jeter to be a better shortstop, and after Alex Rodriguez moved to 3rd when he went to the Yankees, the best in the game. If he were playing for Kansas City and put the same numbers he wouldn't be considered the best anything. Jeter has had the benefit of being on better teams, and the Yankees Edge.
Let's see how the Yankees Edge works with players from the past. Here I will compare "The Yankee Clipper" Joe DiMaggio with "The Splendid Splinter" Ted Williams.
Joe DiMaggio Career Highs: .381 avg ('39) 46 HR 167 RBI (both in '37)
Ted Williams Career Highs: .406 avg ('41) 43 HR 159 RBI (both in '49)
Joe DiMaggio Career 162 Game Average: .325 avg 34 HR 125 RBI
Ted Williams Career 162 Game Average: .344 avg 37 HR 130 RBI
As you can plainly see, both men were awesome. They were absolute terrors that make Jeter and Tejada look like shit by comparison. Power numbers are a complete wash, DiMaggio a slight edge in career highs and Williams a slight edge in career average. Batting average is a different story. That is considerable difference between the two, especially considering both of them have such high BA's to begin with. The fact that Williams played for 19 seasons as opposed to DiMaggio's 13 makes his numbers even more impressive. DiMaggio retired at 36, Williams at 41, and Teddy Ballgame still has a better career average in all 3 categories. Factor in that Williams played for mostly shitty Red Sox teams while DiMaggio played for mostly great Yankees teams and Williams' numbers become even more impressive. There is no doubt in my mind that both are two of the best players ever, but there is also no doubt in my mind that Williams was better. There is a debate that rages on to this day who was better, but I think I've made my case that DiMaggio has the Yankees Edge, and that's the only thing that makes it debatable. If Joltin' Joe weren't a Yankee it would be no contest between the two.
Hopefully I have given the uninformed (and Yankees fans) some insight into why the New York Yankees are so despised. Perhaps the next time you see someone sporting a YH hat (Yankee Hater), a t-shirt that says "Jeter Sucks and A-Rod Swallows" and a bumper sticker on their car that reads "I
BRAKE for Yankee Fans" (can't do the circle with a line through it here, but you get the idea), you'll have an idea as to why they would want to spend their hard earned cash to express their hatred for a team. As for me, while I do believe the Yankees suck, I'll spend my money on Red Sox schwag...and some good weed.
**Year by Year Yankee Payroll Breakdown, 1999-2005
The last time a team other than the New York Yankees led the Majors in team payroll is 1998 (a year in which the Yankees won the World Series) when the Orioles were the top spenders and the Yanks were #2. Since then not only have the Yanks had the highest payroll, they have set out to target the top free agents and trade for the most expensive players in what has been a futile attempt to buy a Championship. A year by year analysis lets us pinpoint when Yankees owner George Steinbrenner unleashed the power of his wallet and the biggest market in the country, and just how fruitless this excessive spending has been. Starting in 1999 let's compare the Yankees payroll to the #2 payroll (as in the difference between the two), what their spending bought them, and if they did not win the World Series, the payroll of the team who did.
NYY Payroll: $ 88,130,709
#2 Payroll: Texas Rangers $ 81,301,598
Difference: $ 6,829,111
How The Yankees Finished: Swept the Atlanta Braves 4-0 in the World Series.
NYY Payroll: $ 92,938,260
#2 Payroll: Los Angeles Dodgers $ 90,375,953
Difference: $ 2,562,307
How The Yankees Finished: Beating the New York Mets 4-1 in the World Series
NYY Payroll: $ 112,287,143
#2 Payroll: Boston Red Sox $ 109,675,833
Difference: $ 2,611,310
How The Yankees Finished: Lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-3 in the World Series
Arizona's Payroll and Rank: $ 85,247,999; #8
NYY Payroll: $ 125,928,583
#2 Payroll: Red Sox $ 108,366,060
Difference: $ 17,562,523
How The Yankees Finished: Lost to eventual World Champions the Anaheim Angels 3-1 in the ALDS
Anaheim's Payroll and Rank: $ 61,721,667; #15
NYY Payroll: $ 152,749,814
#2 Payroll: New York Mets $ 117,176,429
Difference: $ 35,573,385
How The Yankees Finished: Lost to Florida Marlins 4-2 in the World Series
Marlins' Payroll and Rank: $ 48,750,000; #25
NYY Payroll: $ 184,193,950
#2 Payroll: Red Sox $ 127,298,500
Difference: $ 56,895,450
How The Yankees Finished: Lost to eventual World Champions the Boston Red Sox 4-3 in the ALCS
Boston's Payroll and Rank: See Above
NYY Payroll: $ 208,306,817
#2 Payroll: Red Sox $ 123,505,125
How The Yankees Finished: Lost to LA/Anaheim Angels 3-2 in the ALDS
Chicago White Sox Payroll and Rank: $ 75,178,000; #13