Thursday, December 25, 2008
The Mark Teixiera signing was a rather shocking development, wasn't it? When someone like Peter Abraham was saying things like "Forget about Mark Teixeira. It’s obvious he is going to get a long-term deal from the Angels, Orioles or Red Sox." on 12/16, you tend to greet all rumors pertaining to said first baseman coming to the Yankees with a jaundiced eye. Not to knock Pete specifically (since I think he and Joel Sherman are the best two Yankee-centric writers out there) because pretty much nobody saw this coming.
With this eleventh hour coup orchestrated by Cashman, the Yanks made the move any team would have if money didn't matter. They had an obvious Mark Teixiera-shaped hole at the #1 bag, and although Boston was more visibly involved in the negotiations, they didn't have the same need.
The Sox would have had to shift a guy who just finished third in the MVP vote (and was the inspiration for the name of this blog) from first to third base, thus displacing a former World Series MVP who is owed $12M in both of the next two years. In this economy, what team is going to want to acquire a third baseman making that kind of money in his age 35 and 36 seasons?
The Yanks were shedding a hulking amount of their payroll and moving into a virulently profitable new stadium. Still, could you really have assumed that in this market, the Yanks would have signed the top three free agents to deals totaling 423,500,000? If only for the sake of nationwide PR, I assumed they would have abstained and prevented comments like "The Yankees are spending this kind of money in this economy?"
In the grand scheme of things, sure, you want to be liked by everybody. But what real harm does it do the Yankees, and the MLB in general, to have a huge major it of big names and salaries congregated on the same team? Obviously there are the Luxury Tax and Revenue Sharing, both of which are going to take some of the money the Yanks are making, and distribute it to the smaller market franchises. In addition, the Yanks road attendance will increase, with more fans rooting for and against them will come out to the ballpark.
To the people who say this is bad for baseball: Why? Does the Yankees spending more money result in people in Kansas City liking their team less? Are fans going to avoid going to games that the Yanks play in protest against their extravagant spending? I really don't think so. Quite the opposite, probably.
There are certainly reasons to not like this deal. It's long andn expensive, and takes up a defensive position that could be manned by aging players, which the Yankees have plenty of. On the surface, it might make you feel guilty as a fan to some degree. But the real downside is that it devalues a championship. When a team is the odds-on favorite from the beginning of the season primarily because of their off-season splurges and all the analysts are predicting them to win, what fun is it? They team will have the weight of the world on their shoulders and will have to win when they are expected to, which is not an easy thing to do (unless you are Tiger Woods).
If the Yankees win a World Series in 2009, there is no way it will be as satisfying as the NYFBGiants coming out of nowhere in 2007-8 and snatching the title away from the Patriots. You can point to great management, savvy drafting and player development as critical factors in the Giants Super Bowl run, but if the Yanks do actually win a WS in the next few years, the most commonly cited contributing influence will be their financial advantage over the rest of the league. People will conveniently forget that over the last 8 years, the Yanks have been to only two World Series and lost both.
The Yanks have basically pushed all-in. They may have even gone to their suit pockets and pulled out some more cash they the other players at the table didn't know they had in play. If they don't win a World Series in the next two or three years, this off season will have been a spectacular failure. The Yanks have already spend well over a billion dollars since their last World Series. If they don't win this year there will be no shortage of "you can't just buy championships" sentiment. The pundits will ask why CC and A-Rod can't get it done under pressure and what sort of chemistry issues were at play in the clubhouse, stealthily submarining any chance for playoff success.
As Craig at Shysterball and others have said, the Yanks pay for the ability to avoid even short stretches of not being competitive. Their fan base now expects them to be better than just competitive every single year, and by extending contracts that are obviously too long to top free agents, they are able to secure the most desirable players on the open market. The only thing a salaray cap would accomplish is limiting the amount of money players make and keeping that money in the pockets of owners.
The Yankees have to pay the triple barrelled cost of salary+luxury tax+revenue sharing, but still want to provide the best possible product on the field for the fans. Take it away, Randy Levine, “We are sensitive to the economic times and our fans. We believe it is good for the franchise and good for the fans to put the best product possible on the field, and that is what we strive to do.”
So, you might hate the Yankees for their conspicuous consumption in these uncertain times, but the real crime would have been if the Steinbrenners decided to sock away all that money and not re-invest in the team like so many other baseball owners do.