PERCEPTIONS: Baseball OK after A-Rod trade

PERCEPTIONS by Steve Feitl: With all stars in eight of nine positions, the Yankees have become a necessary evil in baseball.

By: Steve Feitl
   Darth Vader and the 1980 Soviet Olympic ice hockey team have something in common. And no, it’s not that they both wear helmets.
   But I’ll get back to that trivia point in a second.
   First I’d like to address the New York Yankees’ trade this weekend that brought the reigning American League Most Valuable Player and Gold Glove shortstop to the Bronx to play third base.
   Alex Rodriguez is, of course, more than just arguably the best player in baseball; he’s also the highest-paid athlete in all of sports, with a 10-year $252 million contract. That puts him in a tax bracket few can imagine, and even fewer can afford.
   The Yankees are among those few. With A-Rod on board, the New York baseball franchise now owns six of the 12 highest contracts in the game. It’s a competitive advantage that borders on non-competitive.
   And Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo says it’s bad for baseball.
   Sportscaster Bob Costas says it’s bad for baseball.
   Even actor and Boston Red Sox fan Ben Affleck says it’s bad for baseball.
   With all due respect to the first two gentlemen (I’m largely indifferent to Affleck’s opinions on the national pastime), I beg to differ.
   Alex Rodriguez on the Bronx Bombers is not bad for baseball.
   Alex Rodriguez on the Bronx Bombers is, in fact, good.
   Alex Rodriguez on the Bronx Bombers is the single act that should unite baseball fans around the country.
   We’re all together now. We’re all against the Yankees.
   Dodger fans are accustomed to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, while the Brewer fans enjoy a more laid-back existence in Milwaukee. But they both can root against the Yankees.
   Mariner fans have large collections of raingear in Seattle, while Devil Ray fans sport lots of swimwear in Tampa Bay. But they both can root against the Yankees.
   Sure, fans have complained about the Yankees for years. There’s the 26 World Championships, the high payrolls, and the mercenary-for-hire view of free agency. But it’s gotten out of hand now. They have an All-Star at eight of nine positions. Their approximate $190 million payroll will be more than five times that of the league low. The line must be drawn here.
   It has to be a united front though, so I’m sorry, but Red Sox fans will have to forgive Mets fans for Bill Buckner. There’s no need for territorial rivalries between the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, or the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants. There’s only one enemy now and they play in "The House That Ruth Built."
   The Yankees may be an evil empire as so many people like to proclaim. But they’re a necessary evil.
   Because every good story needs an antagonist. Surely, Rocky Balboa’s victory in "Rocky II" would not have been so triumphant if Apollo Creed hadn’t been such a cocky, heavily favored champion.
   And that’s where Darth Vader and the Soviet hockey team come in. They’re both examples of seemingly unbeatable forces. And when they fell, something special happened. In the "Star Wars" saga, it brought balance to the Force. In the Olympics, it brought together a nation.
   I’m not suggesting a Yankee loss in October would transcend sports like the U.S. hockey team did 24 years ago. They may not even lose.
   But if they do, the fans of the 29 underdog baseball franchises will have something to celebrate.
   And if that does happen, just like in the "Star Wars" saga, we can then hope for sequels.
Steve Feitl is the managing editor of The Lawrence Ledger and a lifelong New York Mets fan. Sympathy cards can be sent to sfeitl@pacpub.com.