Sam Donnellon: Yankees vs. Phillies: More than just the money

Phillies' Jayson Werth, who says he doesn't think about salaries, talks with Robin Roberts, who pitched for the Phillies in 1950, the last time the team met the Yankees in the World Series.
Phillies' Jayson Werth, who says he doesn't think about salaries, talks with Robin Roberts, who pitched for the Phillies in 1950, the last time the team met the Yankees in the World Series.
Posted: October 27, 2009

YANKEES OUTFIELDER Nick Swisher never hit more than 24 home runs in a season until this year, only batted .219 in 153 games for the Chicago White Sox last season.

He bats eighth for the New York Yankees, and made $5.3 million this season.

His contract, which still has 2 years to run, calls for him to make $6.75 million next season and $9 million in 2011.

Jayson Werth hit 36 home runs for the Phillies this season and knocked in 99 runs, a breakout year. Like Swisher, he hit 24 home runs the previous season, but batted .273, stole 20 bases and drove in 67 runs.

Werth made about $3 million this season. In any other business, this kind of discrepancy would drive the better-performing, lesser-paid employee nuts.

And you, Jayson?

"Honestly, I don't sit around and think about what other people are making," he said. "It's probably the last thing on my mind. What we do think about is doing the little things right to win ballgames. Playing right. Playing hard. Playing the type of game we've been playing all summer."

Once, and it was not that long ago, the Yankees were used as a reason why the Phillies would never win it all. This Yankee made that much, that one made that much. They signed this free agent for all those millions and when he didn't pan out, they signed that one for even more money. They sent scouts to Japan, to Panama, to Guatemala, to Venezuela. They set up baseball academies.

The five highest baseball salaries of all time belong to Yankee players. This season, the Yankees' payroll was around $208 million, tops (by far) in the major leagues. Again.

According to ESPN, the Phillies spent $111 million, eighth in the majors in spending.

In the George Steinbrenner era, the Yankees' greatest strength has been this: They cover their bets. They cover their mistakes. And cover and cover and cover and, well, you get the idea.

Salaries chartThe Phillies? Once upon a time they signed David Bell to that whopping $3 million a year contract, and they would not even entertain the idea of sitting him on the bench so they could move Placido Polanco to third and give that kid, Chase Whatshisname, a chance to see what he could do at second.

And that Ryan Howard? Well, if Pittsburgh were willing to part with Oliver Perez, Jim

Thome might have retired here.

So it's a convenient recreation to say that the Phillies have arrived at their second consecutive World Series solely through the acumen of the two general managers who followed Ed Wade. Wade didn't give Adam Eaton $8 million a year, didn't sign Geoff Jenkins to a 2-year, $13 million deal, didn't answer bullpen gaps by acquiring both Antonio Alfonseca and Jose Mesa inside of the same season.

When Wade made his mistakes - Bell, Dennis Cook, Turk Wendell, Andy Ashby, yada yada yada - well, there was no cloaking device available.

Once the new stadium was up and running, once 45,000-plus flooded through the gates, Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro had that. They could cut Jenkins, leave Eaton off the 2008 postseason roster, incur the salaries of Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco. They could pay good money for Matt Stairs and Greg Dobbs to sit on the bench and wait for their chance. They could take a $1 million flyer on Pedro Martinez - a move that, as much as Lee, may allow them to repeat as world champions within the next 9 days.

The Florida Marlins beat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series with a lot of young, lightly paid talent. Josh Beckett was on that team. Likely Game 2 starter A.J. Burnett was, too. New York's payroll dwarfed Florida's that year. In 2001, Arizona rode the mercenary arms of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

The Yankees have their own rich history of mercenaries, of course. Roger Clemens, David Cone, David Wells, Mike Mussina, El Duque, the list rolls out like a Deep Sea scroll.

But this will not be a contest between the haves and have-nots.

Really, it's a contest among stars at different intervals of their careers.

Derek Jeter, in his seventh World Series, is 35. Andy Pettitte, once almost traded to the Phillies, is 37. Mariano Rivera will turn 40 in a month, Johnny Damon will turn 36 for Game 7, if there is a Game 7. Alex Rodriguez is 34.

The Phillies' key stars are all in their late 20s and early 30s. The irony here, if that's the right word, is they are more experienced in their bullpen - and, with the exception of Rivera, better paid. The salaries of New York's infield represents about 70 percent of the Phillies' total salaries.

"It's always been the case - people love to talk about the money the Yankees give out," Charlie Manuel was saying yesterday. "But the Yankees have what, 27 banners flying over their stadium? They got those for a reason. Because they want to win. And for so many years they always think they're going to win the championship of baseball.

". . . Playing the Yankees and what they stand for?

"That's enough motivation." *

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