Thursday, November 05, 2009

One More Thought on the Yankees

I was talking to my brother tonight about why the Yankees' victory is such an indictment of the way that Major League Baseball runs and I felt defensive enough to explain why my beloved Barca, a team that spends more than every other team in La Liga save one, is not subject to the same criticism. The first two arguments were obvious: (1) Barca has a very productive youth system and you can't criticize them for buying a championship when seven of their eleven starters against United in Rome were home grown; and (2) Barca might out-spend most of the rest of Spain, but there are a number of clubs elsewhere in Europe that spend equivalent amounts, so Barca doesn't stand out like the Yankees do when the latter spends 33% more on salaries than any other team in baseball. I've made these arguments before and I like them.

The third argument came to me tonight. Barca play an exciting style that has a defined formation and thus, a way of playing that is uniquely theirs. Even if Barca spent twice as much as any other club in Europe, it would still need to fit those players into a system where they could work together. Thus, its success would depend on good coaching.

The same is true in the NFL and, to a lesser extent, the NBA. If Daniel Snyder were permitted to spend as much as his heart desired, he could assemble a team full of all-stars. However, football being a structured game that requires teamwork, the Redskins would not succeed without smart coaches fitting the players into the right schemes and then calling the right plays. If Washington won the Super Bowl in an uncapped NFL, there would be some criticism, but we would still have to give credit to the team's management for being smart.

What makes baseball fun to analyze statistically is that there is no scheme, style, or teamwork required. The performance of an individual batter against an individual pitcher can be isolated and the outcome can be graded. One doesn't have to take into account whether the player was on a team that played to his strengths because the player's teammates don't matter. The upshot is that there is no skill required in deploying a roster once it has been assembled. Thus, I don't have to give an ounce of credit to the Yankees' management for being smart in any sense other than marketing the team well and squeezing concessions out of the city in connection with the new stadium. The Yankees accumulated a pile of talent because they have more money than any other team and then simply rolled that talent out onto the field. It didn't take much acumen to sign Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira in the winter; it didn't take much acumen to put them in their places in the summer and fall. In the end, don't we want to respect our champions for being a little smarter than the rest?


Anonymous said...

No coaching, are you kidding? Girardi taught ARod how to be clutch! He also had to keep chemistry tuned properly; how's Matsui supposed to hit well if Johnny Damon is criticizing his life decisions/telling a joke at Matsui's expense to Robinson Cano in the dugout?

SDM said...

Sorry Michael, but your justification doesn't really hold up. Just because there are a few other teams that spend as much or more than Barcelona (at most 10 teams in the entire world), doesnt mean Barcelona do not have a massive advantage.

I hate to admit it, being a ManU fan myself, but the big European teams continue to win every year because they spend huge amounts of money, sign all the big free agents, and also pick up every talented kid they find and dump them in the farm system.

Which is exactly what the Yankees do, and lets face it, so do the top teams in College Football.

Any professional sport without a salary cap will always have a competitive advantage for the top teams, and the only way a new team gets into the elite is if they are bought out by, for example, a Russian billionaire.

Otherwise, its just about always going to be Barca and Real in some order at the top.

Michael said...

SDM, you're correct if you just look at La Liga. Barca and Real spend far more than anyone else, although as I said, Barca's youth system ensures that they don't field a mercenary XI. However, if you look at Europe as a whole and you consider the Champions League as the key competition for European super clubs, then there are a host of clubs that have revenues and expenditures to match Barca's.

Ryno said...

Voted Top 5 blogs in the AJC? Not too shabby Michael - keep up the good work!

chg said...

I can't tell if Anon is serious or not. I hope the post is a joke, but I have seen so many baseball fans talk about "clutch", I wouldn't be surprised to learn some of them believe you can actually coach clutchines.