In the Broadway show Damn Yankees—and the book that inspired it, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant—it took the power of the devil and a make-believe slugger named Joe Hardy to finally take down the Bronx Bombers. Well, baseball commissioner Bud Selig doesn't have access to the devil, so he's playing with the details.
Selig has appointed a 14-member panel, which he cryptically calls the "special committee for on-field matters," and last week word leaked to SI's Tom Verducci that the group had been discussing a "floating realignment" plan that would essentially turn baseball teams into vagabonds. The plan, which everyone admits is in preliminary stages, would allow teams—based on such factors as payroll and geography—to move from division to division at the start of every year in some sort of quixotic quest to find where they might best compete.
In addition to being silly and nonsensical (one person actually suggested to Verducci that the Cleveland Indians, who have not won a World Series since 1948, might move to the AL East in a kamikaze mission to sell more tickets), the plan is just another transparent and illogical effort to deal with the Yankees problem. New York's average payroll over the last five seasons is more than $200 million dollars. That's $70 million higher annually than the payroll of the Red Sox, who rank second in that regard. There have been countless strained arguments to defend this disparity—the Yankees ownership cares more; the Yankees represent the best of capitalism—but none of that makes fans in Baltimore or Toronto feel any better.
The truth is that no team can compete financially with the Yankees—not even Boston—and no team will volunteer itself to try. Selig has long been an advocate for "hope on Opening Day in every ballpark," but goofy ideas like this one won't get that done. A better idea would be to give losing teams more of a chance at acquiring young talent, both in the draft and internationally. Beyond that, Selig and non-Yankees fans everywhere simply have to hope that the quirks of baseball and the whims of the playoffs will give the other 29 teams a chance. You never know when the devil will decide to get involved again.
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LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN Smart drafting and luck will have to suffice to bump Jeter and A-Rod from their throne.
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