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I'm Changing My Vote

After much consternation and internal debate, I finally indicated here that I'd be "rooting" for the Yankees in the World Series. I didn't really want them to win; I'd be all for the "both teams losing" option if that were somehow within the realm of feasibility. Since it's not, I acknowleged that there are compelling arguments for both sides, and while I recognize that the Mets play the Phillies far more often during the regular season than they do the Yankees by a factor of three, the primary reason I rationalized supporting the Yankees actually had more to do with the perception of either team's prospective championship.

If the Yankees win, some part of the postmortem coverage will be along the lines of, "Back where they belong", or whatever, because the Yankees are synonymous with World Series Champions and the crown is rightfully theirs and the multiverse is thrown into chaos when someone else rules the day, or so the story goes. It's trite and obnoxious but I can live with it because at the end of the day I think most people realize that sort of reaction is tongue-in-cheek. The Yankees will also be lauded for assembling a team of immense talent, which they have actually done, and if they go on to win we can at least all sleep well knowing the best team in baseball was crowned as the sport's champion.

The last part of the Yankee championship reaction will be -- and should be -- how they outspent every other team by anywhere from $50 million to $170 million. The Mets had the second highest payroll in baseball and the Yankees still outspent them by a third on player salaries this season. The Yankees spent something like $80 million more than the Phillies in 2009, a disparity that exceeds the actual payrolls of half of the teams in baseball. They will have won because they fielded the best team, but they fielded the best team because they spent more money than anyone else. You can argue that with no salary cap in place the Yankees are free to spend what they like, but saying they are playing by MLB's rules doesn't mean the same thing as saying they're playing by the same rules as everyone else, because they're not, at least not in spirit. Having the wherewithal to lavish a fifth of a billion dollars each year on ballplayers gives them a massive advantage over the pack, and anyone who says otherwise is either deceitful or delusional. I don't begrudge the Yankees their money (the Mets, after all, have plenty of their own to spend), but let's quit pretending that everyone is on equal footing here.

That's the story of the Yankees: talent, moolah, and an objectionable sense of entitlement (for both the team and its fans). Should the Phillies win their second consecutive World Series title, the ensuing media coverage will not focus on the fact that they're an extremely talented team, which they are and for which they -- and their front office -- deserve plenty of credit. No, instead the post-series coverage will focus on how the Phillies wanted it more, how they raised their game, narrowed their focus, came up big, came together as a team, and otherwise displayed a level of grit, passion, and grission that only the truly great teams can be blessed with. In other words, all of the things that we rail against here because they are statements that are so utterly devoid of content as to actually offend the players whom they are used to describe, if only anyone would realize how inane these slogans actually are.

So for me, the reasoning behind my rooting for the Yankees had less to do with either team than it did with the anticipated deluge of absurd post-series media piffle. Unfortunately, the best laid plans -- and my seemingly well-crafted rationalizations -- fell apart under the crushing weight of reality, as I quickly learned how hard it was to not root for the Yankees to fail in miserable ways. For so many years I have relished Yankee failures and agonized over their successes that no amount of inner reasoning could undo that. As Cliff Lee and the Phillies walked all over the Yankees in Game 1, I found that I didn't really care so much that the Phillies had won but that I was quite pleased with the Yankees' futility. Game 2 was no different, as I cursed every A.J. Burnett slider off the plate that was called a strike and found that I genuinely wanted Ryan Howard (or whomever) to go yard.

So ingrained in my being is rooting against the Yankees that I can't even will myself to do otherwise. And so it is with awkwardness and little fanfare that I now reluctantly declare myself a World Series supporter of the Philadelphia Phillies. Except for Shane Victorino. Eff that guy. He can still cram it with walnuts.