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Friday, October 5, 2012

When It’s Worth Investing Some Money

Perhaps you know by now that I’m a HUGE Yankee fan.  I love baseball.  I like watching sports but baseball is my favorite, and for me, it’s all about the Yankees.  I know lots of people who hate the Yankees, too.  I love the Yankees for lots of reasons - one is that they play hard and they make their fans happy.  Year in and year out, they’re consistently a great team.  They’re also a team rich in baseball history - most baseball legends you hear about, at some point, were Yankees.  I also admire the charity work that the Yankee organization does.

So what’s there to hate about them?  If you’re from Boston, I completely understand.  Red Sox fans are supposed to hate the Yankees.  I also understand some resentment toward them if you’re a Mets fan, since they’re cross-town rivals.  But what I do know, because so many Yankee haters have told me - the reason a lot of people hate the Yankees is because they’re an enormously wealthy team with lots of money to invest (actually that’s reinvest, because they’ve been spending decades accumulating said wealth), and they invest that money in great ballplayers.  When a team has ballplayers of that caliber, they tend to win.

Yankees win the World Series

Well, there are lots of teams going into the postseason - 10 in total.  Of course the Yankees are in.  The Yankees are the team with the highest payroll.  Is that why they win?  Partly.  But there are always factors to consider.  Injuries happen.  Players get sidelined, sometimes for almost the entire season.  Sometimes the team just doesn’t perform well, for any number of reasons.  Take the Red Sox for example.  I’ll admit that the Red Sox usually have a good team, and by “good,” I mean they usually finish the season over .500 and often make the playoffs.  This year, they finished in last, by far.  There were some injuries, and the team didn’t quite take to their new manager, and there were probably some other factors as well, that led to a very bad season for the Sox.  Bear in mind - the Red Sox have the third highest payroll in the major leagues.  So yes, the Yankees finished in first, and they spent the most money on their ballplayers.  The Red Sox finished 26 games behind the Yankees, with the third highest payroll, out of 30 teams.

Here’s a list of the 10 teams that made the 2012 playoffs (and wild card games), and their rank regarding payroll:
New York Yankees - 1st highest
Baltimore Orioles - 19th 
Texas Rangers - 6th 
Oakland Athletics - 29th
Detroit Tigers - 5th
Atlanta Braves - 16th
St. Louis Cardinals - 9th
Cincinnati Reds - 17th
San Francisco Giants - 8th
Washington Nationals - 20th

For the full list and all spending figures, here’s the link: 

So my next question is, how often do each of those teams make the playoffs each season?  Well, the Yankees make it pretty much every year.  Texas and Detroit make it often, Atlanta makes it somewhat often, and the Cardinals and Giants make it in pretty often as well.  The others don’t make it in quite so often.  And those teams that make it in often are in the top half of spenders on payroll.

My point is, a team like Oakland can make the playoffs, but it doesn’t happen all that often.  Same with the Nationals or Orioles.  Sometimes, it’s worth spending a lot to increase the chances of good results.  Good ballplayers, good coaches, good management, good front office, good scouts, good trainers, the list goes on - it all costs money.  And the teams willing to spend a lot, often see good results.  Not always (e.g., Red Sox and Phillies this season), but often.

To me, teams like the Yankees spend a lot of money on their roster  and the fans should appreciate it.  It demonstrates just how important it is to the organization to win, and that’s why people buy tickets and apparel and attend games.  In fact, George Steinbrenner did everything in his power to build the team up, reinvest capital, and field the best possible team, because every year, he wanted to win the World Series.  And oftentimes, his Yankees did win it.

What does this have to do with wine?

Mitjavile wines from Bordeaux - pricey but not outrageous at all - great quality

Well, often I push for bargain hunting, but not the kind where people are encouraged to buy cheap, mass produced, poorly made products, for the sake of saving some money.  I encourage hunting down well-made products that are hidden gems, and you’ve got to be a good scout to do that.  But for those special occasions, when we want to be sure we’ve got a good bottle, we usually spend some more money on it.  We all know the kind of wines I’m talking about - the ones we read about, the ones in the “other room” at the wine shop, the ones on the special section of the restaurant’s wine list.  No, I’m not saying we’ve got to spend a thousand dollars on the wine.  But a willingness to invest some money into a reputable bottle often translates to a satisfying bottle, and that’s what we want.  Can a significantly less expensive bottle be satisfying?  Absolutely.  But sometimes we’ve got to do some serious hunting to find very good bottles that are inexpensive.  (That’s why I tend toward wines from Sud-Ouest, Campagna, Languedoc, Sicily, etc.)  But it’s easy to see just how many great bottles come from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Tuscany, Piemonte, Napa, and Sonoma (and others, too).  But when we want some of those wines from those regions, we’ve got to spend some money.  And how often will they show well and be satisfying?  Most times.

Just like the Yankees.

But for a wine to be great, it can’t just be thrown together.  The winery spends a lot of money - on good land, on a good winemaker, on good barrels, on proper storage, and good equipment, and countless other things - and those are the reasons that particular winery makes a great wine.  Quality is their priority.  But it all takes money - lots of money.  And aside from scores from critics and the history of the region, those factors are what drive up the cost of these products.  Still, we’re usually pretty confident that what’s in one of those expensive bottles will be fantastic.

Perhaps a bit extreme, but can’t go wrong with this.

Love them or hate them, to me, the Yankees are the Classified Bordeaux of baseball - rich in history, consistently great, and expensive.  And 2009 was a spectacular year in Bordeaux.  And the Yankees won the World Series during that 2009 harvest season.

So while I push for being a good scout and educating ourselves so that we’re able to hunt down good deals on awesome wines, sometimes it’s absolutely worth it to ensure something special, great quality, and a wine with a great story - invest some money sometimes, it can really pay off.

Yankees win!  (as usual)

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