What Is Wrong with the New York Yankees?

Joshua TroyerContributor IApril 9, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 04:  A baseball sits in the dugout during the game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs on April 4, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Another baseball season has begun, and guess what?  The New York Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball by a landslide.

Sure, they are one of the most historic teams in the game, they are opening a new stadium, they have their own television network and they boast the most rabid fan following, possibly in the world.

I'm not here to tell you that the Bronx Bombers are going to finish last place in the division this year because they currently occupy that slot. It's only two games. 

Sure the quarter billion dollar Sabathia was shelled in his first outing, and Chien-Ming Wang got hammered in game two of the season. But, this team has too much high priced talent to finish in last place in the division.

Speaking of the division, I see a lot of teams that copied the "Yankee" way of doing things from the late '90's. The things that made them a dynasty. In fact, there are a lot of teams in baseball that learned what the Yankees seem to have forgotten.

In the late '90's, the Yankees were at the height of baseball. They won the World Series in '96, '98, '99 and 2000. They worked with a wonderful farm system to produce home grown talent, and they mixed free agents in to fill the gaps.

Every year the Yankees seemed to be in the playoffs and have fresh, young faces making an impact. Jeter, Posada and Petite are the first that come to mind, but there were many. 

Winning became the way it was for the Yankees. We all watched their next hapless victim swept out of the playoffs in route to winning the ultimate prize. Whether it was the pursuit of excellence or ego of the organization, something changed the way the Yankees did business.

In 1996, when the Yankees won their first title, their payroll was $52 Million. Over the next few years, the make up started to shift. Instead of continuing with a dynamic addition of youth, it was get the top players available at all costs.

In 2001, when they were beaten in the World Series by Arizona their payroll had more than doubled to $112 Million. Since then, the monster has continued to grow to the point of doubling that number.

If you look around MLB at the teams that are successful, you will see teams with half the payroll number, infusion of youth and a clear direction. It would take way too much to give you team and player, but check out the teams that made the playoffs last year.  In particular the Rays, Red Sox and Phillies.

The system that these teams are now using is what the New York Yankees taught everyone in the mid to late '90's, and they seem to have forgotten their own lesson.

Until the New York Yankees get back to what put them on top, they will be chasing something they can't quite catch. If they continue to chase in this manner, it will be quite a while until they get back to the top. And, people will continue to ask...

What's wrong with the New York Yankees?