It's official, Red Sox Nation. Your team has officially completed the transition to the dark side. For better or worse, the Red Sox have now become the Yankees.
With the trade (and pending extension) for Adrian Gonzalez and the signing of free agent outfielder Carl Crawford, Theo Epstein and the Red Sox brass have erased any differences between their counterparts in the Bronx.
We've all heard the arguments over the years. No, the Red Sox don't buy championships like the Yankees. No, the Red Sox aren't bad for baseball, not like those Yankees.
Those arguments no longer apply, and if you're a fan of either team, you probably don't mind it one bit. Because that's loser's talk, right? There's nothing to complain about when you're standing at the top of the hill looking down.
Maybe we had the George Steinbrenner way all wrong. After all, Steinbrenner did bring the Yankees seven World Series titles. And in reality, which would you rather have? A middle-of-the-road payroll and a solid but not great roster or a payroll of nearly $200 million and a World Series trophy? I thought so.
This transition has been a long time in the making, too. As much as we don't like to admit it, the World Series championships in 2004 and 2007 came thanks to the Yankees mentality. Don't believe it? Prove me wrong.
While the 2004 championship run used less of the Yankees outspend the field mentality, the Red Sox still had the second highest salary on opening day with a payroll of $125,208,542. That's an average salary of $4,173,618.
Even though Boston wasn't anywhere close to the Yankees' payroll in 2004, which was $182,835,513 ($6,304,673 average salary), it still outspent the next closest team, the Anaheim Angels ($101,084,667 payroll in 2004) by almost $25 million.
The truth of the matter is that, had the Red Sox not traded for high profile, high salary players like Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Curt Schilling, they would not have won the World Series in 2004. It takes talent to win in any sport, especially on baseball's highest stage. If Theo didn't spend the money and buy the player, the Red Sox wouldn't have the championship. So, in short, Theo and the Red Sox bought a championship that year.
Boston's most prolific case of buying a championship, excluding the Celtics, came in 2007. Theo and the Red Sox one again ranked second in total payroll at $143,026,214. By comparison, the Yankees ($189,639,045 total payroll) didn't outspend them by all that much relatively. The signings of Daisuke Matsuzaka, J.D. Drew and Josh Beckett in 2006, all of which were pricey, ultimately led to Boston's second World Series title of the decade. Again, without Beckett, you don't win a title.
Spending a lot of money doesn't always result in a championship (see: New York Mets), but it certainly gives you a much better chance of winning. For instance, if the Red Sox ranked 25th in total payroll in 2004 and 2007, it's a pretty safe bet to say that they wouldn't be sporting the two World Series trophies.
There's nothing wrong with this philosophy in the least. If you have the finances to achieve the ultimate success, by all means, use it. Don't feel guilty because signing Crawford ends any hope of a Rays' World Series title in the near future.
It is true that having a handful of elite teams that are capable of signing elite talent is bad for the game overall. When the Sox pick up players like Crawford, the Yankees pick up players like C.C. Sabathia and the Phillies pick up players like Roy Halladay, you can pretty much kiss the chance of a Pirates-Royals World Series goodbye.
The game of baseball would certainly be more interesting to watch if every team had a chance to win it all at the start of each season. As it stands now, only about six or seven teams have a true shot at winning the World Series.
Sure, there's always the exceptions (the Florida Marlins), but for the most part, the teams that spend the most money are the most successful.
Yet it now appears that we've become no better than the Evil Empire we used to chastise for its constant overspending. But why fight it? Instead, let's just sit back and enjoy the success (and championships) that will ensue.
Because in the end, it's much better at the top looking down, isn't it?