Yankees cash in with World Series title

The emotion was real.

From shortstop Derek Jeter, catcher Jorge Posada, left-hander Andy Pettitte and closer Mariano Rivera — who had not won a World Series as Yankees since 2000.

From first-time champions such as third baseman Alex Rodriguez, first baseman Mark Teixeira and left-hander CC Sabathia, who for all their hundreds of millions play the game to win.

From general manager Brian Cashman to manager Joe Girardi to every other Yankees employee who endure the grim reality of working in the biggest pressure cooker in sports.

They are human beings, not robots, no matter how much money the Yankees spend. The joy and — yes, relief — on their faces told you the moment was pure.

In virtually every other major-league front office, however, the frustration has been building for months now.

“Yeah, the Yankees are good,” your typical executive might say. “They ought to be good, seeing as how they spent $200 million.”

That emotion is real, too.

The Yankees always spend the most money — nothing new there. The difference now is that they are spending wisely, along with their junior partner in dominance, the Red Sox.

I’m not an alarmist when it comes to baseball’s economic system. I do not view a salary cap as a panacea. But now that the big-money teams are proving adept at “Moneyball,” commissioner Bud Selig needs to at least be on alert.

The Yankees eventually might implode under the weight of their massive contracts — A-Rod is signed through 2017, Teixeira through ’16, Sabathia through ’15 (with an opt-out after ’11), right-hander A.J. Burnett through ’13.

Jeter’s next deal — his contract expires after next season — figures to be another whopper. And Rivera eventually will need to be replaced, diminishing the Yankees’ greatest strength.

Then again, who’s to say the Yankees won’t grow even stronger? That their victory over the Phillies won’t be the start of another run of four titles in five years?

Cashman isn’t perfect — no GM is — but he certainly made the right choices last offseason when he spent a combined $423.5 million on Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira.

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He also made a shrewd decision the previous winter, when he declined to trade players such as Hughes and center fielder Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana, knowing an even better option — Sabathia — would be available as a free agent the following year.

The Yankees’ farm system, while not elite, is spitting out significant contributors regularly, from Cabrera to second baseman Robinson Cano, Hughes to fellow right-handers Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson.

Why shouldn’t the team stay strong?

The Yankees figure to dive back into the market for starting pitching whether or not Pettitte retires; for $200 million, they had only three starters they trusted in the postseason. Another way to reinforce the rotation would be to buy relievers with the goal of making Hughes and/or Chamberlain starters again.

Left fielder Johnny Damon? Designated hitter Hideki Matsui? Pick one. Or pick neither. Chone Figgins, Matt Holliday and Jason Bay are potential free-agent replacements, and each represents a younger alternative.

The Yankees’ resources — like the Red Sox’s — provide margin for error. Cashman built such an offensive dynamo, it hardly mattered that Cano batted .193 in the postseason, Teixeira .180 and right fielder Nick Swisher .128.

The absence of Wang hurt the Yankees. So did the absence of outfielder Xavier Nady. But while the Yankees never found a replacement for Wang — Chamberlain failed to qualify — Swisher more than compensated for the loss of Nady.

My, how quickly things changed with this team.

A year ago, the usually composed Cashman showed his fiery side at a news conference announcing his three-year contract extension. The Yankees had just missed the postseason for the first time since 1993, seemingly making all the wrong moves.

Cashman, lashing back at his critics, said, “The storyline that was going to be written if I left, I didn’t agree with. I’m not going to let that story be written. One thing Reggie Jackson said, if you have the bat in your hands, you can change the story. I’m staying to change the story.”

By picking the right players, Cashman indeed changed the story. Theo Epstein, his counterpart with the Red Sox, is just as shrewd. So forgive the growing feeling of helplessness in places like Cleveland and Tampa Bay, not to mention Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

I’m not saying the system is broken. And I definitely am not dismissing the Yankees’ accomplishment; winning is difficult even for the wealthy, and this Yankees team was unusually potent and surprisingly cohesive.

All I’m saying is that parity was a lot easier to achieve when the Yankees were blowing money on players such as Carl Pavano and Kevin Brown.

The rich got richer when the Yankees got smart.