Our old friend and esteemed road team Bruce Springsteen joined the exclusive-to-Wal-Mart club today with a highly lame, extremely thin greatest hits package due out next month. Wal-Mart will probably make a ton of money off of this, as will Bruce, and the masses will cry out against the unfairness of it all. A corporate monster digs its tentacles into yet another entity supposedly belonging to the commonfolk, and somehow we are all poorer for this despite the inherent mediocrity and ultimate pointlessness of it.
To put it another way: Bruce would still sell a ton of copies, no matter how poorly executed any disc of his might be. Wal-Mart, with or without Bruce, would still press on as an unstoppable juggernaut. Plenty of other artists will still sell music, as will plenty of other outlets. And anyone ready to decry Bruce as betraying his roots or character or ideology, let’s just step back and ask ourselves how close we’d be to our roots after personally raking in half a billion dollars over the course of our careers.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH BASEBALL?
Today, as we all know, the Yankees signed yet another free agent to yet another insanely large contract for some ridiculous number of years. The hand-wringing is well under way and the masses, as they are wont to do, have taken to decrying the machinations of the Yankees as bad for baseball and maybe even bad for the nation itself.
The thing is, the Yankees, in their own ridiculous way, are doing exactly what they need to do. Last year they missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994, and Yankee brass knows they’re not playing to the same low expecations we here in Chicago might have. They have a stadium to christen and marketing deals to lock up, yes, but people overlook three entirely crucial and actually relevant points:
- The Yankees had legitimate holes in their rotation and at first base.
- The Yankees have the means to fix these holes now.
- The Yankees are in a financial position to risk diminished returns down the line should these contracts go bad.
Imagine, for a second, the Sox were in this position. How would they have arrived there? By means of a stupid owner with too much money? Or by means of an owner who reinvested in the team and made some very smart, very profitable decisions – and put himself in a position to be able to afford losing?
AREN’T THE YANKEES IN THE MIDST OF THEIR NEW AGE OF FAILURE?
The Yankees’ riches haven’t bought them a title since 2000, but are they really any worse off for it? Perhaps that Yankee pride is a bit wounded these days, but did Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright really cripple team finances? Did Kei Agawa and Mike Mussina put the Yankees in the red? Did having Jason Giambi’s huge salary on the books really keep them from doing anything?
Think about that next team you hear how stupid the high-roller teams are, or how the Sox are 50 cents short, or how some bargain bin reclamation project plays the game the right way. Every team talks about winning at all costs, but the catch is that once you actually pull it off, you become the most despicable team of them all.