They say money can't buy you happiness. They're wrong - especially when it's other people's money. The $200m spent by George Steinbrenner brought me a great deal of happiness last night, as they exited the playoff at the hands of the Angels, a team whose payroll is less than half that of the Evil Empire.
This happy event means none of the top three teams, in terms of salaries, even make it to the final four. Between the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets, that's $430m worth of talent who will be, like the rest of us, watching the Division and World Series as spectators. The East Coast bias hasn't got much to talk about this year, with Chicago the closest thing the Atlantic side of the country has left to a contender.
Those still taking part are the Angels (4th ranked), Cardinals (6th), Astros (12th) and White Sox (13th). Now while it's true that no team below 16th - the embarrassingly-bad Padres - made the playoffs, though the 26th-ranked Indians came this close, it seems clear that it isn't what you spend that counts, but how you spend it.
Have to say though, it didn't look good for Anaheim yesterday. Colon pulled, mid at-bat, after only one inning of work; Santana all over the place; the Yankees out to a 2-0 lead. But they clawed their way back, and even the presence of the most intimidating reliever in baseball history (R.Johnson, Esq.) couldn't do much given a three-run deficit. Oh, the Yankees threatened, and will no doubt whine incessantly about umpiring bias on a decision or two. But they couldn't do it, and will now take their over-paid asses back to New York. Go film some more credit-card commercials, Derek. You've got time.
However, the Angels now have to get back on the plane, and head back to Chicago, with less a pitching rotation, than a pitching blowout. The White Sox - well rested after sweeping Boston - must be licking their lips at the prospect. If they don't win tonight's game, they'll be kicking themselves. I predict whoever wins the opener will take the series.
In the NL, things look a lot more balanced. This is a classic "good pitching vs. good hitting" matchup, though likely Cy Young winner Carpenter is on the wrong roster. ;-) I still think St. Louis have the best balance, and will take this series, though it'll probably go to at least six games. And I think, whoever wins, it'll be the NL's turn to take the World Series - either team just seem too strong for the White Sox. Besides, ending two curses in consecutive years would be too much to expect! Though it'd give the Cubs great hope for 2006...
Over in the diaries, check out Hang Man's trade proposal, which has sparked a nice debate on what moves, if any, the D'backs should be looking to do over the close season. There'll be plenty more to discuss over the coming months, but this is certainly a good start.