When I was young my father taught me a lesson that I still have not forgotten. I believe the topic came up after a day of trading baseball cards with a friend. He said “Son, there are many things in the world that can make a person happy, and you must always remember that money isn’t everything.” So far, in my 22 years of existence, I have concluded that he was right. Money isn’t everything, and having it doesn’t make a person happy. It also doesn’t assure that person anything, including a world championship.
If you don’t want to take my word for it then ask Michael Ilitch, the owner of the Detroit Tigers, who steamrolled over the New York Yankees last week in the American League Division Series.
Over the past couple of years, Ilitch and Tiger’s general manager David Dombrowski have carefully crafted a 25-man roster that has a total payroll of $82 million, giving the Tigers just the 14th highest payroll this season.
The Yankees, on the other hand, had the highest payroll, a number just shy of $200 million, making it the richest team in MLB history. And, even with George Steinbrenner dishing out $200 million this year, he will yet again sit in his recliner at home to watch the World Series.
The entire Detroit team makes less than the four highest paid players on the Yankees, but as they showed everybody, money doesn’t guarantee a thing.
Yet, because of the money that the Yankees are making, everybody expects them to win. If they don’t, then people assume that some catastrophic phenomenon must have gone terribly wrong to make them lose.
I’m not going to lie, the night the Tigers won game four to clinch the series was an extremely happy night for me. If the Sox aren’t going to win, all I had left was to root against the Yankees.
My mood quickly changed the next day when all that I saw on TV and read in sports sections from across the nation was journalists in awe, questioning what was wrong with the Yankees.
Was it Joe Torre’s fault? Is Alex Rodriguez ever going to be able to perform in the clutch with a Yankee’s uniform on? Who is Steinbrenner going to sign this off-season so that this doesn’t happen again next year?
All of these questions were being asked, and the whole time all I can think about is, “What about them Tigers!”
The Yankees didn’t just lose, the Tigers won. There weren’t angels helping them throw harder or swing faster, they simply outplayed a team that didn’t want it as much. Detroit had something to play for. Everybody went into the series saying that Detroit would be lucky to win a single game, and they played with a chip on their shoulder because of it and then reminded everybody that there was a reason they won 95 games this season.
They believed that they could win, and while they were on the field they hustled and it paid off. When Detroit centerfielder Curtis Granderson and his $335,0000 salary (.026 of what Yankee centerfielder Johnny Damon made this year) was called on to hit, that’s exactly what he did as he belted two homeruns in the series. When their starting pitchers, whose salaries combined are less than nine individuals on the Yankee roster, were asked to step up, they did.
After the Tigers finished the sweep of Oakland on Saturday, they will now wait a week until they begin the World Series. And no matter which team they face, the Mets or the Cardinals, the two teams playing in the World Series will have a combined payroll less than that of the Yankees.
So this off-season, Steinbrenner can dig into his wallet and overpay more veterans to sign with the Yankees, but as my father told me 15 years ago, money doesn’t buy happiness. Nor does it win championships.