The Difference Between Can't and Won't

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It should come as no surprise that with the Yankees' 27th World Championship has re-invigorated critics and Yankee haters who are screaming  that the Bombers bought the best team in baseball, and by extension the World Series.  Also, the earth is round and Thanksgiving is on a Thursday this year.  Really people, is anyone even arguing the counter point?  As a Yanks fan I will readily concede that, year in and year out, the Yankees buy All-Stars like I buy sixers of Zima Bud Heavy.  That's why the tsunami of discussion on this topic is so perplexing.  Even more perplexing is how Joe Posnanski of SI.com tries to justify the renewed discussion.

A. Everyone knows the Yankees spend much more money than any other team to win games.

B. Because everyone knows it, people have been complaining about it for many years.

C. Because people have complained about it for many years, everybody is sick of hearing about it.

D. Because everyone is sick of hearing about it, nobody really listens.

E. Because nobody really listens, people don't talk about the Yankees spending much more money than any other team to win games.

This type of thing might play well in freshman philosophy class, but this hardly qualifies as "Inside Baseball" as the column claims.  It's little more than an elaborate excuse to rehash a gripe that has been run into the ground.  I'm not saying that Posnanski is wrong, or that the article isn't accurate...but there's a reason the Titanic isn't on the front page of The New York Times. 

The points are valid and the frustration is understandable, but these emotions are improperly directed at Steinbrenner and Cashman, when they should be directed at owners who place the bottom line ahead of the finish line.  I would like to see professional sportwriters try to establish once and for all whether other clubs "can't" compete with the New York Yankees or whether the "won't".  (disclaimer, the following is without any background in finance, economics or supported by what lawyers call "evidence" or facts.  Sorry, but the 11 cents of ad revenue this site generates each day, doesn't support such luxuries.) There is a big difference between saying that other teams "can't" compete with the Yankees, or they "won't" compete with them.  For example I "can't "dunk a basketball, it's a physical impossibility due to a combination of height, weak ankles and a wicked pastry habit.  I "won't" order a buttery nipple shot at a sports bar,even though they are absolutely delightful and I am physically capable of conveying that order to the barkeep.  See the difference?

The real question is whether other clubs are really unable to keep up with New York, or just unwilling.  I don't have the answer, but something tells me it's the latter.  The boys from the Bronx catch a lot of flak for being the most valuable team in baseball, and people assume that means that they are the most profitable from season to season.  According to the 2008 Forbes rankings, although they are the most valuable franchise by far, the Yankees operating income is in the negative and by far the lowest.  The top ten of the annual income list includes perennial cellar dwellers like the Nationals, Pirates, D-Backs, and Rangers, all of which pull in more than 20 mil per year.  This doesn't take into account that many of baseballs owners have far greater personal assets than Steinbrenner and nothing prevents these owners from investing their own millions or billions into their teams.  What do these numbers really mean?  At the very least, it shows that bad teams crying poverty are doing pretty well for themselves, and while they may not be able to spend dollar for dollar with the Yanks, they can certainly spend more than they do.

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