Yankees' Big Spending Doesn't Guarantee Success

Robert SkorochockiContributor IDecember 16, 2008

It wouldn’t be December without the New York Yankees making headlines with a blockbuster offseason acquisition. Let’s look at how the Yankees have fared in recent memory when it comes to acquiring All-Star players.

Fresh off a World Series defeat at the hands of Luis Gonzalez and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, the Yankees quickly looked for an answer in former Oakland A’s slugger Jason Giambi. 

The Yankees signed Giambi to a whopping seven-year deal worth $120 million.  Giambi’s off-the-field problems with steroids and his infamous “apology” over-shadowed his disappointment in New York.

After four consecutive 100 RBI seasons in Oakland, Giambi started off hot in the Big Apple, jacking 41 home runs in each of his first two seasons. However, after the 2003 season, Giambi’s career would never recover and he would fail to win a World Series.

After losing another World Series courtesy of the Florida Marlins in 2003, there was much speculation that the Yankees' archrival Boston Red Sox were making a strong push for Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez signed the biggest contract in baseball history in 2000 when he agreed to a contract worth $252 million over 10 seasons.

After smacking 156 home runs and 395 RBI in three years with the Rangers, A-Rod was dealt to the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later (who became Joaquin Arias). With third baseman Aaron Boone out for the year with a knee injury, A-Rod would patrol the hot corner next to Yankees captain and legend Derek Jeter.

Rodriguez has had nothing but success in the regular season with the Yankees, averaging 41 home runs and 124 RBI in five seasons. He also won the AL MVP award with the Yankees in 2005 and 2007.

However, A-Rod’s disappearance in the postseason as well as his personal life had Yankee fans wanting him to leave after the 2007 season. After the year was over, Rodriguez had the option to opt-out of his contract, making him a free agent.

The same night the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, Rodriguez agent Scott Boras said his client would not renew his contract with the Yankees. However, three weeks later, after passing on his agent's advice, A-Rod renewed his contract with the Yankees for $275 million over 10 years.

Other free-agent/trade busts we have seen roll through New York over the past decade also include the Big Unit Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, Gary Sheffield, Javier Vazquez, and the turmoil that was Roger Clemens in 2007. Clemens signed a pro-rated one-year contract of $28 million with the Yankees in May, posting a record of 6-6.

You can also make an argument that Johnny Damon was not the same player he was in New York as he was in Boston.

Damon was an icon in Boston, leading the so-called “idiots” to their first World Series title since 1918. After saying he would never sign with the Yankees, he did just that, and his career has taken a stride backwards.

Damon’s batting average, runs scored, and hit total have all fallen since coming to New York. He has also been plagued with injuries, making the lead-off spot in New York a toss-up.

Sometimes it’s pitching, sometimes it’s hitting, but it is ALWAYS big money. Every winter, the Yankees seem to land a big fish that will get them that championship that they haven't had since 2000.

But let’s take a look at those World Series teams of the late 21st century.

What big fish did they have?

Scott Brosius?

Tino Martinez?

Jim Leyritz?

Chad Curtis?

Okay, you get my point!

When will Brian Cashman and the Yankees front office realize that sometimes the big-name player isn’t the best solution?

The Yankees still are almost a lock for the postseason every year. However, their goal every Spring Training is simple: World Series or bust.

After not making the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, the Yankees have once again opened up their piggy bank to free-agent pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Sabathia and Burnett are two very solid pitchers, but two unproven postseason pitchers.

In the 2007 playoffs with the Cleveland Indians, Sabathia was atrocious. He posted an ERA of 10.45, in a series where the Indians coughed up a 3-1 lead to the Red Sox. Sabathia was the losing pitcher in Game Seven. 

Sabathia was making mouths drop all over the league after he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in the middle of the 2008 season. Sabathia posted an 11-2 mark in the regular season, including seven complete games, but was pummeled by the Philadelphia Phillies in his only playoff start.

In four postseason series, Sabathia is 1-3 with an ERA of 7.92, good enough for the richest pitching contract in baseball history. Sabathia will make $161 million over seven years.

A week later, the Yankees signed another highly-coveted free-agent pitcher in A.J. Burnett to a five-year deal worth $82.5 million. Burnett was an 18-game winner last year, throwing over 220 innings, the most he has thrown in his career. Burnett is also an injury-prone type of a player, similar to Carl Pavano.

That is two pitchers for just under a quarter of a billion dollars, and still the Yankees hoisting a World Series trophy is far from a guarantee.

It is highly rumored that the Yankees aren’t finished spending either. Cashman is trying to land a bat in Mark Teixeira or Manny Ramirez. I would love to see those contract offers. They have to be the same or even higher than Sabathia’s.

They are in the toughest division in Major League Baseball, especially with the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays this season. With the Red Sox and always resilient Toronto Blue Jays in the mix, the Yankees aren’t even a guarantee to win the American League East.

When will Cashman and the Yankees front office learn that money doesn’t win you championships.

Their own franchise was an example of that in ’96, ’98, ’99, and ’00.

Sure, they were at the top of the payroll in three of those four seasons, but the number of dollars spent is not in the same league as it currently is.

I look for the Yankees to come out strong in 2009 and they could very well win the AL East.

However, in the end, I feel they lack the chemistry.

Big name offseason acquisitions have had individual success in New York, but we all know that’s not what the fans are looking for.


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