During last week’s owners’ meetings, New York Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said that while the organization is still committed to the goal of reducing payroll below $189 million for the 2014 season, that doesn’t mean the edict is a hard cap on operations.
Steinbrenner told the New York Post on Thursday that the goal remains the same—to avoid having to pay the stiffer luxury-tax penalties that are coming in 2014 for teams that exceed a $189 million payroll ceiling—but that remaining a contender will continue to be the first priority for the organization.
“All I can continue to tell everyone is our commitment to the fans is never going to change,” Steinbrenner said. “We will always field a championship-caliber team.
“Is our goal (a $189 million payroll) next year? Yes. But only if I’m convinced if the team I see, that we’ve put together, is a championship-caliber team.”
It’s been a bit of a gloomy time for Yankees fans, many of whom have been envisioning worst-case scenarios involving a collapse of the team similar to the one seen in the mid-1960s.
But team insiders told the Post’s Ken Davidoff that the Yankees’ payroll will be less than $189 million in 2014, and that would be the case whether or not New York makes the playoffs this season.
Steinbrenner seemed taken aback by the idea that fans were unhappy with how the offseason has progressed.
“I’m surprised to hear that there’s anger, if you see what we’ve done this offseason,” Steinbrenner said. “We’ve signed three or four of the top free agents that were on the market, because we’re going to continue to field a championship-caliber team.”
The signings Steinbrenner referred to were former Chicago White Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis and three of the organization’s own free agents: pitchers Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte along with outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.
Steinbrenner says the key to remaining competitive in 2013 and beyond is within the organization.
“The young players that have stepped up are going to have to continue to do so,” Steinbrenner said. “Some of the ones that haven’t yet are going to have to.”
David Phelps emerged as a valuable swingman on the pitching staff, working out of the bullpen as well as taking some turns in the rotation when other starters were injured in 2012.
Regardless of what one thinks of the salary restrictions, Yankees fans would be well served to maintain some perspective.
Despite having the highest payroll in the game in almost every season this century, that money has translated into exactly one World Series title, in 2009.
Besides, a $189 million payroll would have still been the largest in the game in 2012, and teams have been winning titles with far less money spent on personnel.
The San Francisco Giants just won a World Series with a payroll just less than $132 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That figure ranked sixth in the majors. The Yankees spent $211.8 million.
In 2010, the Giants had a payroll of $97 million, the 11th-highest in baseball. The Yankees? They were at $213.4 million.
The title-winning Bronx Bombers of 2009 had a payroll of $203.3 million.
The 2008 Philadelphia Phillies spent $100.5 million, which ranked 12th in the majors. New York’s league-leading payroll was $213.5 million for a team that missed the postseason entirely.
In 2007, the Boston Red Sox carried a payroll of $147.6 million, second only to the Yankees’ $195.6 million outlay.
The 2006 Cardinals had a payroll of $89.1 million that was the 11th-highest in the bigs. New York spent $201.3 million.
In 2005, the Chicago White Sox won the World Series with a payroll of $75.7 million (13th in MLB). The Yankees led the way with $209.7 million in player salaries.
The Red Sox of 2004 spent $128.5, second in baseball to the Yankees’ $184.9 million.
The Florida Marlins in 2003 had the 25th-highest payroll—or sixth-lowest, depending on your perspective—and captured the franchise’s second World Series title. That figure was $47.9 million. New York lost the World Series despite spending more than three times as much--$153.8 million.
The 2002 Anaheim Angels were right in the middle in terms of spending, 15th at $61.4 million. The Yankees paced the league at $126.3 million.
The Yankees made the World Series during the only season this century in which they didn’t lead the majors in player spending. In 2001, New York carried a payroll of $111.2 million, which was slightly less than the $112 million spent by the Red Sox. The Arizona Diamondbacks won the title with a payroll of $85.1 million, the eighth-highest player budget in MLB.
Spending certainly helps in building a talented club. But it isn’t the only factor, obviously.
If it were, the Yankees would be the 11-time defending champions.