Friday, May 14, 2004


Until I got to Texas in 1988, I never said “Yeehaa!” Now I say it every now and then, usually while riding my bike. I can’t find an entry for “Yeehaa” in any of my dictionaries. It’s an exclamation. It’s boisterous. It means something like “Yeah!” or “Yowzer!” I might say it, for example, while roaring down the main street of a Texas town, hoping locals will absorb some of my energy and excitement (or at least notice me and wonder about my mental condition). I’ve said it while flying down a hill at forty miles an hour. You don’t say “Yeehaa”; you scream it. It’s visceral. Guttural. It's designed to frighten the dead. Some people pronounce the word “Yeehaw.” There’s a television advertisement for a local window company in which the salesperson says “Yeehaw!” before breaking a pane of glass with a crowbar. It seems inauthentic to me. I probably hear “Yeehaa” two or three times as often as “Yeehaw.” I like the “y” words. I say “Yikes,” “Yowzer,” “Yeehaa,” and “Yastrzemski” all the time. Okay, I made that last one up. I’m in a baseball frame of mind this evening. My adopted Texas Rangers and my home-state Detroit Tigers just started their televised game. All is well in the world. Yeeeeeeehaa! “Buying a World Series Title” It has become fashionable--indeed, all but obligatory--to complain about Major League Baseball’s hierarchical salary structure. Teams such as the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves spend significantly more in player salaries than do teams such as the Florida Marlins and Minnesota Twins. It is said that this hurts the game. Some teams are “out of it” before the season begins. Titles should be won on the field, not purchased by the likes of George Steinbrenner. But having a high-salaried team is neither necessary nor sufficient for winning a World Series title. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2000, even though they spent more money than any other team during each of the past three seasons. The most recent winners--the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, the Anaheim Angels in 2002, and the Florida Marlins in 2003--were not among the biggest spenders. Florida was among the smallest. This isn’t to suggest that money plays no role in how things turn out. Of course it does. There’s probably a correlation, historically, between how much a team spends on salaries and how it fares on the field. I, however, think this is good for the game, not bad. For one thing, it creates underdogs. Everyone outside of New York wants the big, bad Yankees to fall on their faces, and recently they have done so. This is delightful. It’s great to know that a team of young, comparatively underpaid players can topple giants. It's great to see the presumption rebutted, the rule excepted, the norm transgressed. Imposing a salary cap, as the National Football League has done, will damage the game of baseball. It will turn the hated Yankees into just another team. America needs both Goliaths and Davids. It’s part of the morality play that is baseball.

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