In America, the vast division of wealth has finally become so overwhelming that everything we know - politics, culture, sports - revolves around the particular circle jerk of billionaires who control it. Maybe it was always this way, but the top 1 percent felt compelled to disguise their power. Now, they don't bother. Whomever we elect President in 2016 - doesn't matter which party - will be the lapdog of a billionaire (or it will be Donald Trump, an actual one, cutting out the middle man).
And in baseball, this is time of year when the billionaires reveal who plans to win in 2016 - and who plans to take the year off. For about 35 years, winter was the season when Yankee ownership reaffirmed to fans its all-out commitment to winning. That era is over.
Yesterday, we learned that the Chicago Cubs are all in for 2016. They signed Jason Heyward, days after signing Ben Zobrist and weeks after getting Jon Lester. This makes them clear favorites next year. They signed Heyward on the same day the Yankees grabbed Domingo German, one of Cashman's Cutties, off the minor league scrap heap. German last winter was a stocking-stuffer in the Nathan Eovaldi deal, and he came highly touted as a hidden jewel. He threw one inning in spring training, walked off the field holding his arm, and then underwent season-ending surgery. We cut him loose a few months ago. Re-signing him was not only a show of organizational faith, but a way of forestalling organizational embarrassment.
Last year, the Cubs had the 13th highest payroll in baseball. This year, they'll shoot up into the top five. The Yankees - 2nd last year - might be overtaken by Boston.
The Cubs are owned by Tom Ricketts, an investment banker, whose family ranks 371st on the Forbes 400. (The Steinbrenners rank 75th.) When Ricketts was 8 years old, his dad founded Ameritrade. In 2009, the family bought the Cubs for $900 million. If Ricketts started tomorrow giving $10 bills to everybody he meets on the street, he would go 30 years and still be wealthier than any of us. He will never in his life know what it's like to be hungry, unless he's slumming for the experience.
Some of you will rightfully point out that it's not so easy to buy the World Series. One of the great beauties of baseball is its remarkable, karmic ability to turn hubris upside-down. Remember how Rupert Murdoch was going to transform the Dodgers? Remember how John Henry last year in Boston burned money like a Kardashian in a dildo store? It doesn't always work. But Ricketts this year wants to win - all out. Meanwhile Hal Steinbrenner wants to prove his savvy as a bottom line businessman.
The Steinbrenner family has always shown an intense strain of hubris. George threw money at the team, often without success. Now, Hal somehow expects his astral twin, Brian Cashman to MacGiver the Yankees into a championship. That way, Hal can show the world how smart he is. It's a different kind of hubris - one mixed with chinziness.
For four tumultuous decades, Yankee fans could always rely on one certainty: The team's owner wanted to win more than anybody else in baseball. When George failed, he tanked miserably, and we screamed about his mistakes. But nobody questioned his obsession to win. Now, we have his son, who is content to sit back, count his coins, and wait his turn.
Never in my life has the difference between the Cubs and the Yankees been so upside down. They intend to win next year, and they'll do whatever it takes. No way can you say the same about the Yankees. The Yankees! It's almost enough to have you mulling a new pastime, one that's run by more benign billionaires.