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.

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.