I won’t bore you with commentary on whether Roger Clemens is worth $18 million dollars playing, part of the season, for the New York Yankees. I also won’t comment on whether he will be able to lead them to another World Series title. My answer to both questions is no but that is not the point of this post.
Last time I checked baseball was a team sport. And the Yankees have not won much of anything in the post-season in recent years because they are not much of a team. Notice I did not say that they not full of talent, they clearly are; I said that they are not much of a team.
One quick way to destroy a team or organization is to set different rules for different members. No matter what the reason for these special rules, this expediency will corrode team spirit. Despite Clemens being the highest priced player on the team he will not be required to be on the bench for every game. He won’t have to make road trips when he is not scheduled to start and he will be allowed to fly home between starts. Basically he just has to show up for his starts and earn around $10,000 a pitch.
The spectacle at Yankees stadium on Sunday, when Clemens announced to the crowd during the 7th inning that he will return, reminded me of professional wrestling. In Clemens’ empty promises I heard the empty words of wrestlers’ promises to save the day. Most in the Yankee stadium crowd went appropriately delirious.
Of course, unlike wrestling, baseball is not fixed, but the Yankees have become mere entertainment and not a serious team. There is nothing wrong with entertainment, but I would rather watch the great Yankee teams of the late 90s. Players such as Bernie Williams, Scott Brosius and Paul O’Neil are retired but they were clutch, and they were a real team.
A real team usually plays above the mere sum of their parts; a collection of talents usually plays below the sum of their parts. A real team delights us because they frequently delight us with inspired and heroic play. A collection of parts almost always disappoints.