(this man just lost himself a customer)

I’m through with baseball,” writes Babes Who Love Baseball‘s Lizzy, the Yankees’ $180 million acquisition of Mark Teixeira causing her to pledge,  “I will never pay to watch a game, purchase team merchandise, or read the sports section of any paper that I’m not paid to read.” She has a tough time reconciling the Bombers committing $423 million to free agents this offseason, just months after requesting nearly a half billion in public money towards the completion of the new Yankee Stadium, and while Newsday’s Wallace Matthews echoes these sentiments (“sometimes it seems as if the Yankees inhabit some alternate reality, a bizarro universe in which the AL East race is not a competition among ballclubs but among bankbooks, one in which the recession doesn’t exist, unemployment has been eradicated and depression is a word for shrinks, not sharks.”) the columnist insists that back on Planet Earth, “Boston is no longer the enemy and money is no longer the answer — if, in fact, it ever really was.”

While the dinosaurs of the division were sleeping, the Tampa Bay Rays shot past both of them. The Rays return in 2009 a year older, a year more experienced, a year better. But not a penny more expensive. Unlike the Yankees, they win baseball games the old-fashioned way — on the field, not on the balance sheet.

And the Rays are not alone. Since the last time the Yankees actually won a world championship, 11 of the 16 teams to make it to the Series have come from decidedly middle-market cities, places such as St. Louis and Colorado and Detroit and, oh yeah, Tampa Bay, which until proven otherwise continues to be the best team in the AL East.

Once again, the Yankees remind us that they don’t really want to compete, they want to be coronated. Just hand them the rings now, because on paper, they can’t lose. George Steinbrenner may be out of the loop, but his philosophy of winning is alive and well.

But no one could have imagined the kind of shameless shopping spree the Yankees have been on this month — $161 million for CC Sabathia, $82.5 million for A.J. Burnett and a reported $180 million for Teixeira — at a time when more than 10 million Americans are out of work and another 4 million might join them in 2009.

But no matter. Those 4 million out of work will be offset by another 4 million, the ones who still can afford to pay their way into the new Yankee Stadium. And the luxury boxes, averaging a half-million dollars a pop, are at 100 percent capacity, scarfed up by those corporations who still can afford such luxuries, even if they have to use your tax money and mine to pay for them.

While many of the rest of us are struggling, the Yankees are making so much money that they can afford to give away two exhibition games. Making so much money that their luxury-tax bill for 2008, $26.9 million, is petty cash, slightly less than the Marlins pay for their entire roster and less than the Yankees pay for A-Rod.

Even for the prototypical Yankees fan — and you know who you are and what I’m talking about — this manner of excess is distasteful at best, wastefully insane at worst.

And besides, there’s no evidence that it actually, you know, works.

I guess it depends on how Matthews defines success.  One post season absence in 14 years isn’t too shabby, nor was 4 million paid customers at Yankee Stadium in 2008. I’m hardly in a position to speak on behalf of Yankee fans but I have a sneaking suspicion another 3rd place finish would be considered far more distasteful than the fiscal largess Matthews deplores.