It could be the Ray fan inside of me talking, or living in a city that knows about long droughts of championship-less streaks(Blackhawks, Cubs and White Sox Pre-2005) but the free-spending ways of the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs have become more and more comical as years pass. One wonders, Does throwing money at the highest priced free agents really solve the problems that plague teams that are supposed to be winning real championships rather than the "paper championships" that the pundits and national media throw upon them?
Look at the Yankees, they've won 26 championships in their storied history. There is no mistake that the Yankees are the greatest organization in baseball, when it comes to winning the World Series. However, since 2000, they've won none and seen 2 of their own division rivals win a championship or win an AL Pennant. What makes it worse was that the long-time punching-bag known as the Tampa Bay Rays lost the season series against the Yankees in 2008, but beat out the rival Red Sox for the Division and shut the Yankees out of the playoffs for the first time in Derek Jeter's career. They've got the best players that money can buy, but what do the Rays and Red Sox know that the Yankees don't? I've got a theory, but I'll get to that soon enough.
The Cubs, oh the Cubbies, seem to be the Anti-Yankees in the terms of Championships. They've been World Series Title-less in over 100-years, however there's no doubt how well-known and historically significant that they're known worldwide. Everyone who knows baseball knows about "The Billygoat Curse" or "Bartman". However, they've also become a free-spending team, as of late, and they too have nothing to show for it. The closest they've been to the World Series in this millenia was in the 2003 season when the legendary "Bartman" incident took place and eventually sent the Firesale-friendly Florida Marlins to their eventual World Series championship over the New York Yankees. The money has been spent, the "right" manager has been hired and still nothing. Lou Piniella has as many playoff wins for the Cubs that he did when he managed the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Here's my theories why teams that, on paper, should lay waste to their competition...don't and continue to give their fans headaches and/or ulcers.
While it can be argued that a team's chemistry has no effect on it's Win-Loss record, I believe a team's positive chemistry can overcome hundreds of millions of dollars and create "cinderella" stories. When everybody on a team ignores individual performance for the "greater good", this team is more likely to outperform the team whose lined with the best players who put up the best stats and make the most money.
Why? The players who are getting paid the most money from being the best players (because they put up the best stats) also put a lot of undue pressure on themselves to consistently match and surpass their bests on a yearly basis. They do things that they don't normally do and shy away from doing what they did to get them to that "big money" contract. Perfect examples of this is Alex Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu and Alfonso Soriano.
When a team of individuals put the concept of disregarding what current logic says is the best for them as an individual and instead strive to be the best 9 players on a field at once, magic happens.
Its not known if there's discourse and jealousy in the current Cubs and Yankees clubhouses(Torre says there WAS when he was managing the Yankees), but I've got a feeling that there was more then the normal in those 2 than in the other 7 playoff teams' clubhouses.
"Buy needs, not names"
The Yankees in the last decade decided that if they outspent the competition on the top free agents, they'd be locks to be the champs. Instead of fixing glaring holes and needs, they bought names and started the downward spiral that eventually led to the ending of their playoff streak to 2 of their own and hated *gulp* rivals. No big surprise in this offseason, they continued their spending and spent a half-billion dollars on names and not exaclty their "needs". Mark Teixiera will be the Yankees best free agent signing for the last 20+ years just because he was a "need" that they filled, rather than a "name"(though, this can be argued also)
In the same breath, the Cubs have locked themselves in contracts and name players that don't exactly fit "needs." Milton Bradley is the lastest example of this. Lou Piniella has longed for a lefty to break up a righty-heavy line-up since his hiring, so the signing of switch-hitting Milton Bradley can be seen as the team fulfulling a need. However, does the signing of Milton truely make any sense? He isn't truely a lefty and his past(both in injuries and his temper) didn't make him the best player to fulfill this "need". Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn probably would've been better fits, due to their healthy pasts and handedness. Time will tell if Milton surpasses his career high of 120 games played and make Hendry proud when he holds a NCLS or World Series trophy over his head.
So, does money really bring you happiness or was Notorious B.I.G. right when he said "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems"? For those 2 teams, it was the latter.