I Want to be More Like the New York Yankees

This isn’t easy for me to say. Growing up in Washington, DC, I was born and bred to hate the Yankees, and I’ve spent the first 98.5% of my life thus far doing so. But after 12 years of living in New York City, I’ve turned a corner. Some may call me a bandwagon fan. That’s fair, but, in truth, they’ve won several World Series since I’ve lived here, and my affinity toward them started in the beginning of the 2009 season.

You’ll remember, they spent much of the first few weeks of this season in last place and struggled all the way up to the All-Star Break. I laughed out loud at how miserable they were, but I began to take an interest in them. So why am I not surprised that, despite that start, they’ve played their way into their 40th Pennant win? And, very possibly, to their 27th championship title? (Sorry, Philadelphia.)

I’m not an avid baseball fan, so I can’t really comment in-depth on the Yankees history, but watching them from the eyes of a fan this year, rather than foe, I have come to really admire some of their big-picture traits. The Yankees, after all, like every other professional sports team, are also a business, and there are key attributes that contribute to the success of their franchise that can’t be ignored. Every individual field has different contributors to success, and this list is by no means all-inclusive, but this is what stands out to me:

The Money – While not an attribute, per se, you can’t mention the Yankees’ success without also mentioning their payroll. The Yankees are the richest team in the MLB and can afford to pay the highest salaries. Blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to argue for or against revenue sharing and salary caps, but it’s worth noting that Steinbrenner manages the money masterfully. Sure, sometimes he’s bet big and lost (Jose Contreras? A-Rod until this post-season?), but he bought the Yankees in 1973 for $10 million, and turned them into a $1 billion team. He is a good owner (arguably the best), and that goes beyond just having money, it’s what he does with it. Because, in the end, money doesn’t always equal success—just ask the Knicks or Dan Snyder and the Redskins.

They Don’t Panic – The Yankees never seem to lose their cool. OK, maybe some of Girardi’s calls seem panicky, but the Yankees, as a team, have composure. Have they seen the post-season so often it doesn’t mean as much any more? Maybe it still means as much, but experience gives them perspective. They have lost games. They have gone through slumps. They have lost playoff series. But the next game/week/season they always come back with a “why shouldn’t we win this?” attitude and then actually do win. Any one of us who has suffered setbacks in our personal or professional lives knows this is not easy to do, but the fact that they do this so well is the reason why you never count them out.

Everyone on the Team Plays His Position – No, I am not talking about field position. I’m talking about the if-you-were-to-make-a-movie-of-these-guys positions: The Fan Favorite (Jeter), The Bad Boy Headliners (A-Rod, Johnny Damon), The Veteran Workhorses (Posada, Pettitte, Matsui), The Exciting Underdog (Melky Cabrera). Assembling a team (athletic or otherwise) that not only understands their actual responsibilities, but also the emotional roles each one plays, is fundamental to group success. It’s a diverse collection of personalities, but they mesh together and (mostly) support each other, and that’s what makes an “assembly of players” into a team.

They Know the Haters Will Hate – In any competitive industry the most successful team/company/figure will have haters. Competitors hate you for being so tough to beat. Contrarians hate you for being the perennial favorite. Sometimes your fans even hate you because you’ve set their standards so high. But deeply rooted within all this hatred is respect. Those who are least respected are typically pitied, not hated. The Yankees seem to get this, and they let criticism and jeering just roll off their backs. It’s taken me 33 years to be able to say this, but the Yankees (as a brand, not always individually) have a lot of class.

Being “the Yankees” of any field is a lofty goal to shoot for, but thinking about these contributors helps give me some perspective on their achievements. One day I hope to have assembled a team and built a brand that emulates this kind of success and class. In the mean time, will the Yankees win the title again this year? Soon we’ll see. Will they continue to be the #1 dynasty in baseball? Fuggedabout it.

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