Friday, February 20, 2009

My Dislikes: Yanks, Red Sox, and Redbirds

This topic is almost sure to draw criticism from at least two of my younger brothers, who root for teams that I'm going to discuss in this post. But I'm really just fishing for some comments from readers in general, and a little increased activity on my site after months of being stagnant.

I'm wondering which team(s), or fans of a particular team, you most dislike, and why? Everyone is more than welcome to share their thoughts and opinions. Yes, even fans of the teams discussed in this post, or others. And, if you hate the Royals, for whatever reason, I'd sure love to know why.

For me, there are just three teams that stand out above the rest when it comes to a dislike for particular franchises, and surprisingly, none of them are in the American League Central (although the White Sox were close).

Among fans of small market teams, I think there's a natural tendency to dislike teams that have overwhelmingly large payrolls. Obviously, the New York Yankees top that list, with the Boston Red Sox a close second.

When Gil Meche signed as a free agent with the Royals in December of 2006, his five-year, $55 million contract equaled former Royal Mike Sweeney's deal for the largest in Kansas City's history. Zack Greinke's recent four-year, $38 million package now ranks as the second-largest in terms of overall dollar value. But those pale in comparison to what the Yankees have been able to do.

This offseason, New York signed C.C. Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million deal, then added A.J. Burnett for five years and $82.5 million, and still had enough in the coiffers to ink Mark Teixeira to an eight-year contract for $180 million. And, keep in mind that Alex Rodriguez signed on the dotted line for 10 years and $275 million prior to the 2008 campaign. That's sick, and it's a primary reason behind my hatred of the Yankees, which happens to be my brother Brian's favorite team.

The Red Sox didn't make any major splashes in the free agent market this winter, and Boston owner John Henry has even been calling for a salary cap after the Yankees' recent spending spree. But, even with a lower projected payroll for 2009, Boston still ranked second in 2008 by distributing $147.1 million in salary to its players.

By contrast, Kansas City is getting set to increase its 2009 payroll to an all-time high of somewhere around $74 million -- yes, that's about half of what Boston spent last year, and a third of the $222.5 million the Yankees dealt out in 2008.

In my opinion, the ability to spend money like that creates an arrogance and an "East Coast is best" mentality that just oozes from fans of either of those two organizations. They often scoff at the notion that teams like Kansas City should even be able to be on the same field as their teams.

It's a cockiness and bully mentality that is fed by the fat wallets of their team owners, who have endless cash to spend thanks to lucrative television deals with YES (Yankees) and NESN (Red Sox), as well as top-grossing merchandise and licensing profits due to the enormous population located along the East Coast.

And it just drives me crazy, when listening to MLB Home Plate on XM Radio, to hear seemingly endless talk about either of those teams. Man, it'd sure be nice if I could hear something more than just the occasional brief mention of the Royals. I think, as much as anything, this stokes the hatred I feel for the Yankees and the Red Sox. Well, that, and the fact that Reggie Jackson acted like an ass when I asked him for an autograph at the College World Series a few years ago.

Granted, with 26 World Championships and a rich history -- wow, that word fits so well -- fans of the Bronx Bombers have obvious reasons to gloat. Red Sox Nation seems to always be competing with, but chasing, its rivals from New York. Sorry, Boston, but seven titles will always keep you in that chasing mode -- not that seven titles is anything to turn your nose up at.

With that in mind, though, and knowing that the Yankees are about to make their 2009 debut in a sparkling new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium, it really makes you wonder if venerable old Fenway Park's days are numbered.

Okay, okay...enough about the East Coast. I think my disdain is quite evident.

For most Royals fans, you simply have to look across the state of Missouri to find another rather obvious choice -- those, Redbirds, of St. Louis. Even though they play in the National League, I think, more than any other team, I feel a sense of satisfaction when the Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals.

My brother Matt (NOT pictured...thank God) is a die-hard fan of the Cards -- even though I have a picture of him from elementary school wearing his Royals jacket -- and he will assuredly be e-mailing me after reading this post. We go back and forth all the time, although there is a prevailing brotherly respect to our debates, which probably wouldn't exist if either of us was talking smack about our teams to just any other fan.

Obviously, I love to bring up the 1985 World Series anytime Royals-Cardinals is discussed. Of course, he automatically claims that series should have an asterisk by it due to Don Denkinger's call during Game 6. But I always respond to that by saying that if the Cardinals really deserved that World Championship, then they should have been able to come back and be more competetive in Game 7. And we all know that Kansas City then went on to kick the crap out of St. Louis by a score of 11-0, and celebrated the organization's greatest triumph.

The thing that I really dislike about many Cardinals fans, though, is their sense of arrogance. I can deal with my brother's pride in the Cardinals, but if you talk to an everyday fan of the Redbirds, they'll probably claim that they're the best fans in baseball, and that they're also the most knowledgeable crowd in the game.

For the most part, I think those claims by St. Louis fans are in comparison to fans of the other team in the Show Me State, which is why it bugs me. Cardinals versus Cubs is probably always going to be more of a rivalry to fans in the Gateway City, but I think their second love is to hate the Royals.

So, I truly enjoyed it last year when the Royals went to St. Louis and swept all three games at Busch Stadium. God, it would have been so fun to have been wearing all of my Royals gear, and sitting among the throng of red-clad St. Louisans as the young Royals won by scores of 2-1, 3-2, and 4-1. Imagine how cool it would've been to have been waving a broom back and forth as Joakim Soria recorded his third save in three days to finish the sweep! And, of course, Kansas City won last year's series against the Cards, four games to two, so Matt owed me some beers in our annual friendly wager.

There is no arguing the fact that Cardinals fans are loyal, and Busch Stadium is almost always full. But would those fans keep coming out to the ballpark if they had had to suffer through what Royals fans have had to put up with for the past decade-and-a-half? I don't think so. In fact, I think Busch Stadium would be about as empty as Kauffman Stadium has been in recent years if the tables were turned.

St. Louis fans I run into (like this guy) always love to bring up the Royals' struggles over the past 15-20 years. I'm just waiting for the day when the Cardinals head into a similar tailspin that lasts at least a few years, so I can make a comment or two about the dwindling attendance at Cardinals games, and about how mismanaged that franchise is. Kansas City's change in ownership, and Allard Baird, gave Cardinals fans great joy and satisfaction for years and years.

I want to feel arrogant and cocky again. I want to be able to respond with confidence to comments made by fans on the East Coast or across the state. I'm hoping Dayton Moore and David Glass are successful in restoring that sense of pride in being a fan of the Kansas City Royals.

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