From September 11 to the end of the World Series, the Yankees were, for a brief shining period, "America's team," a symbol of New York's indomitable will and resilience. As negotiations with the Players Association heated, the Yankees were gradually transformed by the Boston Red Sox managementa group, by the way, that could buy and sell George Steinbrenner several times overinto the "Evil Empire." The New York area press, for some curious reason, has chosen to see things the Red Sox way.
Seven weeks ago, for instance, the Yankees made one of the more brilliant deals of the Brian Cashman era: They dumped an aging former All-Star third baseman, 37-year-old Robin Ventura, and picked up a current All-Star third baseman, 30-year-old Aaron Boone. To read the New York papers the next day, you'd have sworn that a cold, wet corpse, instead of one of the best third basemen in baseball, had been dumped at the clubhouse entrance of Yankee Stadium.
The shrillest reaction, predictably, was from Mike Lupica in the Daily News. The Yankees, he wrote, "were simply out to win at any cost. It is the real business of the Yankees, and it sucks the joy out of the season." Out of whose season, exactly? And why, we're entitled to ask, shouldn't Steinbrenner and Cashman be out to "win at any cost"? If the fans are willing to pay the price for the tickets and beer, what exactly is Steinbrenner supposed to do with that money? Pocket it as pure profit, as so many of those teams getting that fat luxury tax from the Yankees do? Or try to improve his team the best way he and his front office see fit?
If teams such as the Cincinnati Reds leave players like Aaron Boone and Gabe White (the real steal in the deal) out on the doorstep, is it less of a case of the Yankees "sucking the joy" out of the game or of the Reds spitting it out?