On Tuesday, the new co-emperors of the world, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, signed switch-hitting first baseman Marx Teixeira to a deal that will pay him a reported $180 million over eight years. When the signing becomes official, Teixeira will be the third upper echelon free agent signed by the Bronx Bombers this offseason, following A.J. Burnett and the widely considered creme de la creme of the whole shebang, CC Sabathia.
Between CC, A.J., and Tex, the Yankees will have committed an astounding $424 million to three free agent players. That's $424 million on an overweight pitcher, a guy who's been on the disabled list 10 times in 10 years, and a franchise player who has never finished higher than seventh in the MVP balloting.
This is not about denying that all three have talent—each of these three guys has a ceiling higher than the pile of single dollar bills they turned their paychecks into just so they could jump on it, or burn it like The Joker in Dark Knight. But what's the point?
Each year, Yankee fans around the world hear the Fran Drescher-esque complaints from their anti-Evil Empire baseball friends about how all the Yankees do is buy talent. There's no sense in trying to explain revenue sharing, or the New York market, or even the YES Network, because your Socialist-minded self-proclaimed "baseball financial guru" is already blue in the face from listing free agent busts like Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, Chuck Knoblauch...he even had the BRASS to bring up Hideki Irabu. Unreal.
They say the Yankees ruin baseball. That they buy championships. That there is no point in arbitration or loyalty to team because when push comes to shove, players will jump ship so fast, Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino will look like Joe Pa. Forget the regular season; hell, forget the playoffs. The Yanks bought the World Series in December; get Jacob the Jeweler on the horn.
If there is any sort of moral to be brought out of this latest edition of Supermarket Sweep: Bronx Edition, it's that both the Yankees and critics alike just don't get it, moreso the critics. As a part of the Yankees brass like Brian Cashman or the Steinbrenners, all business is that first and foremost—business. The Yankees would not be making these moves if it meant winning championships but losing money.
A new stadium opening up with three brand new superstars and a slew of new jerseys, T-shirts, mugs, bobbleheads, Fatheads—you see where I'm going—is going to bring in tons of revenue. This will certainly take care of some of the $424 million, but not all of it. And yes, the Yankees payroll has still gone down this offseason with all of the contracts that came off the books last year.
But since Joe Torre made the decision to bring the infield in one fateful November night in 2001, the Yankees have gone Warren Buffet on Major League Baseball, investing in anything and everything with an upside.
Since that Game Seven loss, the identities of players like Brosius, Hayes, Curtis, and yes, Girardi, have been replaced with A-Rod, Giambi, and Abreu. Role players who proved to be cornerstones to the dynasty that the Yankees created in the late '90s no longer have a spot on a souped-up MLB 2009 team for PS3.
Damon, Jeter, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Posada, Matsui, Nady, Cano, Cabrera.
Is that seriously a Major League lineup? And for the record, I still do not believe the Yankees are fully out of the running for Manny Ramirez. The Steinbrenners have nothing but malice in their hearts for all of Boston and "The Nation." Having Johnny Damon AND Manny Ramirez on the same Yankee lineup may be too much for Darth Vader and Darth Sidious to pass up. It's a long shot, but stay tuned...
Getting back to my point—why are GMs and fans alike so mad at the Yankees? All the Yankees have done the last eight years is constantly put unnecessary pressure on themselves. For the past eight years, the Yankees have dug into their proverbial bottomless wallets and spent money like one of those girls from My Super Sweet 16 finding daddy's Black Card under the bucket seats in the SLK.
All it has done is exactly what is happening now, which is make the Yankees the unanimous favorite for the World Series before they have stepped foot on a diamond. For spring training. And what do the Yanks have to show for it since 2001?
A) A manager who was exiled from the Bronx despite being the most consistent and productive manager in Yankees history.
B) A choke job in the 2004 ALCS which will haunt Yankee fans and make Red Sawx fans drool all over their chowdah for the next eon or so.
C) A luxury tax bill. The Yankees' total tax bill now stands at $148.5 million in the six seasons since it began—90 percent of the total generated by all of baseball since its inception.
D) Exactly zero World Series Titles.
E) All of the above.
Buying all this talent means NOTHING. By answering E. to the previous question, you too realize that the tab the Yankees are running up is less bang-for-the-buck than a $15 Bud Light on New Year's Eve. They spend a lot of money—good for them.
The Yankees have taken nothing from any team, because all any of these other teams want to do, since they don't have the money to spend like the Pinstripes, is win. The Yanks have done nothing to interfere with that, given their lack of production the last eight years.
For the league itself, the Yankees represent the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Going to the Bronx is like going to the cashier with all your chips after a few hours at the tables in AC. After starting with very little (if you play like me and don't have much to play with to begin with) and working hard to produce, you have earned a big payout once your time at the table has expired—a metaphor to your contract running out. Follow me people.
As the Benjamins are being flopped two feet from your face, waiting for your clammy casino hands to grab them and run, that thought always runs through your head. What if I stayed at the table? I could have won even MORE. I could have made a name for myself at that table after staying there for a while. All the drink girls at Table 22 would never forget my name. I'd be a legend...of about 20 square feet.
For players like, say, Hanley Ramirez, who will soon enough find themselves in a position like CC and Tex, there are two options. Lord knows the Marlins will not be the highest bidder for Hanley's services when the time comes, but it won't be by choice. They simply do not have the revenue teams like the Yankees have. Florida knows it, New York knows it, and Hanley and his people know it.
Ramirez could stay in Miami and become the greatest Marlin of all time. He could easily establish himself as one of the top three to five players in baseball and never switch uniforms. Hanley Ramirez could become the Derek Jeter of Florida.
He would do so, however, earning a fraction of what Jeet makes.
Option B would be to cash in on his earnings. There is no doubting the hard work which Hanley has put in. Talent is one thing, but production and consistency at the level Ramirez has produced at is truly something special. Special to an "I deserve a Yankee level contract for my production" degree. God knows the Yankees will be there with a checkbook that has been signed off on more than Peyton Manning's endorsement record, ready to spend whatever it takes.
Given the market they have created by their own exorbitant spending, at this point it is only fair that a player who has established himself to be so good gets offered what is now par for the course for great players.
Are the Bombers wrong in wanting to pursue the best players in baseball when they have the resources to do so? Of course not, but in this very pursuit is where they have lost the concept of team. And for the other franchises in the league, it is one less squad which will pursue the David Ecksteins and David DeJesuses of the world. Just ask Wilson Betemit.
Will it come back to bite them? History suggests so, but each year you wonder how a team of such irreplicable talent could finish a season without a World Series title to their name. Only time will tell. But time is something New York fans don't have much to spare. If patience was a virtue, then Hades may as well be renamed The Big Apple in the afterlife.
For guys like Hanley, just ask yourself this question: As you read this from your cubicle or office desk, would YOU pass up Steinbrenner money? I didn't think so.
And for everyone else, just shut up and play.
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