Did the Yankees buy their title?

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Here are the first two I’ve seen of what I am sure will be many sour grapes reactions to the Yankees’ title today:

Kevin Cowherd of the Baltimore Sun:

I hate the Yankees. I feel like crying whenever they win. Still, it was inevitable that the season finish this way. The Yankees were the best team in baseball — the best team money could buy AGAIN.

Scott Miller of CBS Sports.com:

The World Series takes personal checks. Credit and debit cards, too. Score one for the Yankees, and their bankers. Hideki Matsui as World Series MVP? Maybe. The three home runs were clutch, and the World Series record-tying six RBI in Game 6 were smashing. But the chief bean counter who sat behind the desk last winter and approved the expenditure of nearly $425 million to hoist CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett aboard the U.S.S. Yankee? Now there’s a true Yankee.

Personally I find this line of reasoning to be tired and lazy.  Everyone has their own ideas of what ails baseball from a business perspective, and certainly the Yankees are playing a different game than everyone else these days.  But counting the Yankees’ titles and chalking them up to dollars alone is nonsense.

The Yankees payroll is obviously gigantic, but it did not come out of general lockstep with all of the other teams until around 2002. Before then they didn’t always lead the league — they were behind the Orioles in 1998, for example, — and when they did lead the league, only a couple of million bucks separated them from a pack of the next highest payrolls.  In fact, 2002 was the first time they were as much as $10 million higher than anyone else. Before then: four titles in the Jeter era.

The Bombers’ payroll exploded in 2002 and continued to escalate through 2008.  They somehow managed to buy no titles during that time.  Much is made about signing Sabathia and Teixeira this year, but their 2009 payroll is actually lower than 2008’s.

I’m not going to drink the Yankee-fan Kool-Aid and say that there’s some level playing field out there. But if the past fifteen years have shown anything, it’s that even if you can buy general competitiveness, you can’t simply buy a World Title. To get that, you have to be smart, you have to execute and you have to be a bit lucky too.

The Yankees were all of those things this year, and to leave any part of that out is to fail to tell the whole story.

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.

Shelby Miller is in the best mental shape of his life

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.

Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.

So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]

Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.

I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.

Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”

Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.

It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.