Some of the best scouts in baseball have worked for the Padres. One of them, Damon Oppenheimer, now has more World Series rings than he does fingers on one hand --- one for the thumb coming on Wednesday when the Yankees thumped the Phillies.
Number five was especially cool for Oppenheimer, New York's vice-president of scouting since 2004, because players he drafted such as Joba Chamberlain , Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner and David Robertson assisted the pinstriped run to World Series title No. 27.
"Seeing so many of our kids come up and contribute to this team -- that would be the most gratifying thing," Oppenheimer said today.
Maybe you hate the Yankees because their payroll is more than $200 million. Maybe you'd rather they not win another title in this century. Can't say that I blame you.
I refer to the Yankees as the Death Star -- cold and ruthless.
The rival Red Sox are The Matrix, equally ruthless and nearly as laden with resources.
I told the Smartest Man in Baseball last month that America should thank the Angels for sparing us a Yankees-Red Sox American League Championship Series and all of the East Coast ego and hype that comes with it. He laughed from his CEO's office at Yawkey Way, then protested the comparison. "The Yankees spend $40 million, $50 million more than we do on ballplayers," he said, and he's right, but that's warm beer to the rest of the baseball world.
Full disclosure: I enjoyed reporting on and watching Yankees teams that won the World Series in 1996, 1998 1999 and 2000. Rivera, Posada, Jeter, Pettitte are winners, hardly a blinding insight but not just a cliche. They're also as likeable as their public personas. And they all were signed and groomed by the Yankees, a tribute to the team's scouting and player development.
Which brings me back to Oppenheimer. Hired by Tom Romanesko and Randy Smith to scout for the Padres in 1988, he worked as an area scout and cross-checker until 1993, then joined the Yankees to scout amateur players in the Midwest.
In time, he earned the trust of not only GM Brian Cashman but The Boss.
He said he's elated for manager Joe Girardi, who ably replaced manager Joe Torre.
If you think of the Yankees as robber barons, fine. Oppenheimer disagrees.
"It really has become a true family atmosphere here," he said. "That's what really made it gratifying this year. You felt like you were such a big part of it. It's a good place to be."
One more quote: "You get used to winning. Winning's a good thing. That's why you do it, isn't it? That's why I do it."
New York's World Series title also will send a diamond ring to former Padres scout Jay Darnell, hired by the Yankees as a pro scout after the 2006 season. Oppenheimer and Darnell can compare their rings with the two won this decade by The Matrix. Boston's ranks include no fewer than six former Padres scouts or talent evaluators.