Sure, New York has won 27 World Series to Kansas City's one. But things are different at Kauffman Stadium these days.
Reuters/Ray Stubblebine/Dave Kaup
You wouldn't know it from the scoreboard, but the Kansas City Royals are better than the New York Yankees.
Sure, the 2010 American League champion Texas Rangers beat the Royals in extra innings last night. Yes, the Yankees stopped a six-game losing streak by beating Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and last night bested Baltimore in a 15-inning thriller.
And yes, the Yankees have won the World Series 27 times, while KC hasn't had a winning record since 2003, and finished dead last in the AL Central in six of the last seven seasons. The Royals haven't even made the playoffs since 1985, when VHS was beating Betamax to win the video format wars, and the George Brett-led Royals beat St. Louis to win the I-70 World Series.
But the Royals are still a better team.
To begin with, things are different at Kauffman Stadium these days. KC General Manager Dayton Moore, who helped build the Atlanta Braves' dynasty that won an unprecedented 11 straight NL East titles, is in his fifth season with the Royals. Moore is finally seeing his efforts to remake the team pay off. Strange things are afoot at the K. Shocking things. Good things. Like, it's mid-May, a quarter of the way through the MLB season, and the Royals are still hovering near respectability, with a record of 20-22.
The Yankees do have a little bit better record, at 22-19. But the Bronx Bombers, no big shock, also have baseball's highest payroll—a tad over $202 million. Kansas City, meanwhile has the game's lowest payroll, at about $36 million. The Yankees therefore are spending an extra $165 million dollars and so far have precisely two more wins to show for it. That's not smart shopping. But wait. It gets better. Under baseball's revenue-sharing plan, the richest teams pay into a fund that supports the poor one. That means, basically, the Yankees are covering a big chunk of the Royals' payroll. Which, if you think about it, makes those supposedly sophisticated New Yorkers look like a bunch of suckers, chumps, rubes, marks, and patsies.
And by the way? The Royals have the better shortstop.
In his fine book Fielder's Choice: Baseball's Best Shortstops, Prof. Michael Hoban, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at City University of New York argued—pretty successfully, too—that Derek Jeter is one of the worst defensive shortstops of his time. That book came out in 2003, and it isn't like Jeter has been getting faster with age. No one does, and lately the territory the team captain can cover has been shrinking like the British Empire after Churchill.
Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, on the other hand, has the range of Gary Oldman. He's also got a nuclear-powered slingshot where his right arm should be, and throws to first like he's holds a grudge against glove leather—tools he put to good use robbing, for instance, Victor Martinez and Orlando Cabrera. Sure, Escobar is flirting with the dreaded Mendoza line, hitting around .220. But Jeter isn't much better at .253.
The Royals have a better third-basemen, too. The Royals' Wilson Betemit is batting .316, while Alex Rodriquez swats a feeble .250. Sure, A-Rod has shown signs of warming up, hitting two dingers on Tuesday against Tampa, then going 4-for-7 on Wednesday night. But at least you'll never see Cameron Diaz feeding popcorn to Betemit at the Super Bowl.
There is no Yankee to compare with Jeff Francoeur, either. No, not because "Frenchy" had just 54 RBI for the Mets all last season and already has 26 batted in for KC. It's because no Yankee ever hit a ball all the way to Denmark.
The Royals' roster is baseball's youngest, with human fireplug Billy Butler a clubhouse veteran at age 25. The Yankees have the game's most decrepit dugout, averaging a rheumy 30.8 years. Jeter is 36. A-Rod is 35. Bartolo Colon is 37. Jorge Posada's knees are about 80. Mariano Rivera is 41 and looks it. Witness last night's third blown save of the year. The New York Post's Joel Sherman wrote that the Yankees "have more aging icons than any other team." Which is true. They also have more aging icons than a Friar's Club Roast attended by the Sex in the City cast held in a museum devoted to Byzantine religious art.