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Welcome to the Dark Side

Red Sox use familiar formula to reach baseball's mountaintop

Posted: Thursday October 28, 2004 4:45PM; Updated: Thursday October 28, 2004 5:48PM
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The Red Sox take after the Yankees in many ways.
Al Bello/Getty Images

A bloated payroll. Mercenaries up and down the roster. A large Northeast city celebrating a World Series title. The media, with its East Coast bias, shoving it down your throats.

The Yankees?

Guess again. It's Red Sox, circa 2004. Or, as I like to call them, "Yankees Jr."

Once this occult fascination with ghosts and curses dies down, many average baseball fans will wake up and realize who they've been rooting for this whole time. Talk about beer goggles. This morning after won't be pretty.

The past couple of years many of us have portrayed the Red Sox in the same vein as the Cubs, lovable losers whose fans remain loyal throughout every heartbreaking moment. Cinderellas. The $185 million Yankees? They are the bullies, and we band together like lemmings to see them get their noses bloodied. But if the Red Sox are the underdogs, what does that make the Twins? Does that mean the Royals are downright Liliputian?

The Red Sox have the largest payroll -- $120 million -- of any team ever to win a World Series. If you ever have accused a team of buying a championship, then that same charge has to apply to these Red Sox as well. With that much to spend, the surprise should be if they don't win a championship or at least come close every year.

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Of the four Yankees teams to win under Joe Torre, the highest payroll was $112 million in 2000. In 2001, Arizona shelled out $85 million for its title; the Angels spent $62 million for their 2002 crown; and the upstart Marlins' payroll was $54 million in 2003.

Torre's champions, while highly compensated, also had more than a few homegrown players on them. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte were drafted and developed by Evil Empire, Inc.

How many among the Red Sox regulars can be considered "homegrown?" Trot Nixon and, if you want to count him, rookie Kevin Youkilis (two at-bats this postseason).

It was the Red Sox who brought the Star Wars analogy into play with this rivalry when they labeled the Yankees the "Evil Empire." That would make the Red Sox the Rebellion -- Johnny Damon as Chewbacca? Darth Vader as Pedro's daddy? -- which just blew up the Death Star to free the galaxy of tyranny. But in the final analysis, that analogy doesn't quite work. It's more like one Death Star blowing up another.

Financially, Boston and New York have distanced themselves so greatly from the rest of major league baseball that they can afford to use the other 28 teams as their own farm systems.

Nothing better illustrates this point than the tug of war these franchises waged over the services of Alex Rodriguez and his insane contract last offseason. Who else but the Yankees and Red Sox were equipped to take on that kind of price tag? That was just a preview of things to come. Every year will be an exercise in mixing and matching parts from downtrodden teams (i.e. Curt Schilling from Arizona) in hopes of fabricating a champion.

Congratulations, Red Sox. You have figured out how to beat the Yankees. You have become them.

Jacob Luft is a Baseball Producer for SI.com.

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