The Red Sox and Yankees have been flipping and flopping the AL East lead for what seems like months. The pennant race may not be decided until the last day of the season, but everyone should know the most impressive team.
The Yankees—it’s not even close.
For the first time in what seems like decades, the Yankees really made no major moves heading into the season. The Bombers’ biggest acquisition was Rafael Soriano, who hasn’t provided much.
Cliff Lee did the unthinkable and snubbed the big-money Yankees to form a dream combo in Philadelphia. This left CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett as the top two starters in pinstripes, a very top-heavy combo. The offense was always strong, but an MVP-caliber season from Curtis Granderson and the most runs scored in baseball later, this team has the second-best record in the league behind only Lee and his dream team.
The Yankees have done something with what was, by contemporary standards for this team, next to nothing. They have taken the overspending argument and smashed it straight over the heads of the skeptical small-market cynics.
However, don’t think I now find a team that still has the largest payroll in baseball endearing—actually quite the opposite. They are the most impressive team in baseball based on their success with limited spending. This does not mean they are the best team.
It is an important distinction to make and an ironic point when considering this is the justification Yankee fans generally give to defend their big-market position.
The Red Sox decided to dust off their checkbook in lieu of the Yankees’s ineffective offer to Lee, signing, or overpaying, one of the top free agents in Carl Crawford. They also traded for Adrian Gonzalez who Theo Epstein knew he was going to have to make one of the highest paid players in the league.
Gonzalez has been worth every cent, but that is not the issue at hand.
My point here is that the Red Sox spent all of the money and having just the third-best record in baseball at this point in the season is akin to underachieving. This pressure manifested itself in a very palpable way early in the season, when the Sox—the odds-on World Series pick—started the season losing the first six games.
When they hit rock bottom at 2-10 they might as well have called it quits, phoned it in, hung up the cleats, sent the Yankees on their merry way to the pennant—need I go on?
As any reasonable, unbiased observer could have predicted, the big spenders hit their stride and are the best team in the AL, their 11-4 record against the Yankees this season is proof enough of that.
However, the team that is too old, doesn’t have enough pitching, doesn’t hit for a high enough average but has the best record in the American League, is by far the most impressive.
Yankees are the most impressive, but not the best in the AL