Regardless of the heat wave, I love summer, compared with the brutal wind blasts of December. I know that the summer climate doesn’t satisfy everyone, but the chance to breathe the warm air and be greeted with the bright sunshine is very comforting to me. Summer makes me happy, but I must confess to being very irritated by one subject. I refer to the Yankees and the Mets.
Once upon a time, during my very naïve years, I was told that money buys anything. I didn’t really believe that, because with the passage of time, I saw many instances in which money bought nothing. I know wealthy couples who are the most miserable people. I’ve watched companies flush with money fall apart due to mismanagement.
But I wonder how two great sports franchises, flush with cash, can perform so badly.
Being a lifelong Yankees fan, I will start with my gripes about them. Media reports indicate that the current payroll of the team is around $280 million, which places them close to the top of the list of the big spenders.
With that kind of money and a fan base that pours millions of dollars into the club treasury, how can management justify the fact that their team is in last place in the American League East?
There’s no doubt that Aaron Judge’s toe injury has been a major setback. But there are many other players who take the field each day and do nothing to win or make the loyal fan base happy. If you follow them as I do, they look like a bunch of people who just show up to collect a paycheck and go home.
They are listless, bored and totally disconnected with the job of keeping baseball America’s so-called pastime.
If these players were street sweepers, I could understand their listlessness. Pushing a broom can be a very dull job. But when players are paid millions of dollars, the fans are entitled to watch a team that is energized and trying to succeed. Have you ever watched the Little League World Series? It pays to tune in and watch kids yell and scream when a teammate gets a base hit. They hug a fellow player when he strikes out to encourage him to do better the next time he’s at the plate.
There are many big league examples of hunger for victory. The Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays are good examples.
Their players come out to play with smiles on their faces and are determined to win. The lack of passion that the Yankees display is similar to what I observe about this year’s Mets team.
The Mets’ owner, Steve Cohen, is a very wealthy man. He can buy just about anything he wants just by dialing his cellphone. He has invested billions in a team that has been called one of the best that money could buy. When he broke the bank to hire Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, Mets fans were jumping for joy.
The rest of the lineup is All-Star quality, but the team could end up in fourth or worse in the NL East at season’s end.
When some team owners speak to the sportswriters, they sound like the kid who claims the dog ate his homework. They moan about injuries and claim that it will be just a matter of time before their players catch fire. They’re afraid to complain about their players for fear of upsetting them. They seem to forget about the dollars they’re shelling out to those employees.
Many of us longtime Yankees fans wish George Steinbrenner was still alive. When he was, and Yankees players failed to perform, he publicly excoriated them.
And Steinbrenner was never reluctant to trade away a player who didn’t meet his standards.
It’s possible that the Yankees, and the Mets, too, will shake up their teams by the Aug. 1 trade deadline. And maybe they’ll send out a few blunt messages that we long-suffering New York fans are entitled to get our money’s worth when we buy those very expensive tickets.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.