Friday, October 9, 2009
The New York Yankees' rhetorical argument:
I don't buy it. That they haven't won more world championships in this modern era is a little surprising.
Here's their logos: a lot of extremely high paid players. This year, once again, they roll-out the best that money can buy. Their ace and #2 are brand new. The Yanks signed their ace (CC Sabathia) to a 7 year $161 million contract; their #2 (Jason Burnett) is making a fresh $82,500,000 over 5 years. That's the '08 off-season. Over the past decade they have signed huge free agent after huge free agent. Oh, and Mark Teixeira, their new first basemen, signed an 8 year $180 million contract. Those three contracts equal $423,500,000. Under the rules, they have done their job of creating a most capable team consisting of, essentially, the best players available. In terms of personnel (coaches, players) they have a strong argument. Most baseball fans would say the Yankees have what it takes to win it all. True. They do have the evidence, and one can reason from that evidence that the team is solid. A good argument.
Pathos: Do the Yankees evoke sympathy? Do you feel good about what they represent in the game of baseball? What do they represent? What emotions does one associate with the NY Yankees? Well, unless you're a fan (New Yorker, Front-runner, etc.), they symbolize what is wrong with baseball's salary structure. There is very little or no revenue sharing. You've heard it before: the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers can't compete with the Yankees or Mets, or Red Sox. The Yankees are the epitome of the HUGE market franchise. The financial reality might inspire fear in some fans. But I'm sure there is equal amounts of resentment. Such a structure isn't fair. Emotionally, outside the New York Yankee fanbase, the argument is pretty weak. A lot of people hate the Yankees.
To be fair, the team has a history of winning (numbers don't lie). That kind of success translates. People associate success with the Yanks. Even the New Yorker arrogance has come to represent a true American characiture, a ture American classic. However, in today's context of corporate excess and corruption, the Yankees have a lot of evidence to support that kind of operation. That doesn't translate. Emotionally, perhaps we have a split decision. They inspire a lot of excitement, a lot of success in big games with players that have performed very well. The fan-base enjoys the fruit of a very strong logos which has helped manifest a strong pathos. Unfortunately, not everyone shares these sentiments.
Ethos: The Yankees have a lot of credibility as a baseball enterprise. They have been hugely successful, become part of the mainstream culture, representative of the great American past time. Some might argue the Yankees represent American baseball better than anyone. If you're a fan, you trust your team is actively (aggressively) building a competitive team. The San Diego Padres fans (and surely other cities' fans) have lost faith in their teams. They don't trust management is doing its best to build a strong team. Perhaps the owner(s) want to make money (only), and since his/her team's market might be less conducive to growth, said owner has to make decisions that ensure he makes money: sign average players but still charge fans big league prices. NY Yankees fans don't have this problem.
Be that as it may, in the past decade the Yankees have lost a lot of respect/credibility. Sure, the fan-base might still be fanatical about its Yankees, but anyone watching baseball knows that they haven't been very successful in recent memory. In fact they haven't won a world series since 2000 despite having the HIGHEST payroll each year; despite each off-season signing the best free agent players available. I would love to link a list of the Yankee free-agents signed in the 21st century. This disparity represents a big weakness in the New Yorkers' ethos. They have contributed to the massive salary inflation and petered-out in the post-season. Having said that, their credibility (ethos) is not very strong.
Now, despite the association one makes between the Yankees and corporate excess, we have to be fair and say that the real indictment here is that of baseball itself.
I have to admit, I decided to do this after watching the Yankees win yesterday, beating the Twins in extra innings. All of these big free-agents pitching, hitting walk-off homers, etc., made me a little queesy. So, I thought, let's breakdown the Yankees the way Aristotle might on his own blog.
Having done this, I realize that the Yankees indeed have some rhetorical weaknesses. Emotionally and ethically they are vulnerable. However, they play by the rules. Baseball establishes the rules. The Yankees more or less abide by those rules. In the event that they have a luxury tax to pay for going over some sort of salary cap, they can afford that, no problem. The beat goes on.
Maybe we should take a closer look at baseball . . .