Does $161 Million Buy You Success

Boris YovchevCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2008

So the Yankees won again. They won a battle that they rarely lose, and one that is not reached on the baseball diamond, but rather on the surface of a maple table surrounded by leather chairs. 

During a time for contract negotiations, signings, and trades, the Yankees were able to ink arguably the best available free agent on the market in CC Sabathia. The lucrative deal of $161 million for seven years between Sabathia, and the Yankees, created heated discussions between fans on-line, and was likely a topic of discussion within the back office of every team in Major League Baseball. 

Such contracts are not just a minor detail that General Managers in baseball simply make a note of.  It is also not simply a time for those teams previously interested in signing the player to take the athlete’s name off their black board.  Such contracts set a trend, a trend that is never overlooked by players and their agents. 

And the Yankees are the team that probably contributes most to these spending trends.

General Managers of other teams hate it, fans hate it, and maybe sometimes even the Yankees hate it. Truely, they have to overpay the next guy waiting at the door just because they gave the star before him a big contract—that makes salaries in baseball from a decade ago look like pocket money. 

But this is the nature of the sport, and the Yankees are not scared to bear their consequences. 

The truth is that CC Sabathia was signed only for as much as the highest bidder was willing to offer.  And because the result appeals to the Yankees, and to the player, this agreement should be seen as conducting good business.  After all we do not question decisions made by large corporations in the business world when they spend millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars in an attempt to achieve competitive advantage.  In the eyes of the Yankees this is exactly what they are getting in Sabathia. 

Many people are unhappy with the player but is there a single person on this planet willing to sacrifice $30 million just because they are not sure that they like the city they will work in for the next seven years?  Even billionaires would be hard pressed to turn down such monetary amounts, and would likely move their offices in the middle of Bronx for seven years if that is all it will take.  In fact, if a person outside of sports turned this money down they would likely be offered psychological help at a nearby clinic. 

But we do like creating heroes in sports, and we also love to hate the big teams that take the largest piece of the pie.  And when someone joins “the dark side” we label them as traitors, and assign lack of loyalty to their name.  They are now as bad as their employer!  How dare they accept such a huge paycheck.

While people concentrate on the numbers I would like to remind readers that the Yankees were big spenders last season as well, and so were the Mets. We all know how that ended.  The young and talented Rays turned into the Cinderella story of last season by reaching the playoffs a year after they recorded one of the worst records in baseball.  They were not big spenders but rather relied on talent and rebuilding from within.  And they went further than the Yankees, the Red Sox, and just about any other club except for the Phillies. 

The Florida Marlins had the least expensive roster in the majors but brought the New York Mets to their knees in the last series of the season helping the Milwaukee Brewers, another perennial low-to-average spender, clinch their first playoff berth since 1982.  Are you getting an idea about where I am going with this? 

Reality is that in recent years professional baseball is not simply about who has the most money.  It is about which team sports the group of players best prepared to endure consistent performance, and positive atmosphere during the grinding 162 game schedule of a regular season.  It is about leadership, and putting the team first.  It is about doing your homework off the field, improving your own game, and trusting your teammates, and coaches. 

It is about being able to feed from the electrifying energy of the crowd. Not baout worrying that fans will be unhappy because you spend big money and you are not where you are expected to be in the standings. 

Those are some things the Yankees probably wish they could buy.  But such things are not for sale, they are built from within, and those who do it best are typically the ones celebrating in the end. 

CC Sabathia is an outstanding athlete.  He is also an outstanding human being, and those who attempt to deny that are simply bitter.  The Yankees will undoubtedly benefit from having an ace like him on the mound.  But does that guarantee the team playoffs, and a World Series?  Ask the Yankees from last season or maybe from the last eight seasons…