Sunday, April 08, 2007
$1B. That’s how much George Steinbrenner has spent to NOT win a championship over the last six years. By comparison, if you added up every payroll dollar the Twins franchise has spent in their history, it wouldn’t equal $1 billion. Not the Twins team, mind you – the Twins franchise - which includes the Washington Senators run starting in 1900.
So while one of the stories this offseason was that the Yankees front office didn’t spend money like a bridezilla with a trust fund, don’t make the mistake of thinking they’ve become the model of fiscal restraint. The Yankees organization’s biggest asset is still King George’s coffers, and they continue to leverage it in multiple ways, whether they’re bidding for free agents or not.
For instance, there was last year’s “trade” they made at the deadline that lifted them to the AL East division championship. Baseball teams are not allowed to trade money for players anymore, but the Yankees still managed to essentially buy Bobby Abreu as their new starting right fielder and Cory Lidle as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. In return, the Phillies received four minimal prospects and upwards of $20 million in debt relief. You can probably guess which they were most interested.
Offseason trades provide another example. The $189M that USA Today reports the Yankees will spend on payroll this year doesn’t include six million dollars that they threw at other teams to facilitate some trades and buy some prospects. To trade away the injured Randy Johnson, they sent $2 million to help cover his salary this year. To trade away the awful Jaret Wright, they sent Baltimore a thank-you card in the form of a $4 million dollar check. If the checks weren’t the sole reason they were able to make the trades, they at least helped them in getting some decent prospects in return.
Finally, it’s not like they didn’t sign any high dollar free agents. They filled the holes in their rotation by throwing over $30 million per year at Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Kei Igawa. And that might be just a down payment if Roger Clemens decides he’ll pitch for the highest bidder. It’s conceivable that by September, the Yankees starting rotation will be comprised of four free agents whom they’ve paid $50 million this year.
It’s about this time that someone inevitably makes the point that the Yankees are just doing what they’re supposed to do, and that they aren’t the problem. Fair enough. Baseball (and particularly the players’ union) has been reluctant to implement any sort of salary cap which would increase the level of competition and reward front office competence. The Yankees and King George are just symptoms of that particular dysfunction.
A very happy and lucrative symptom.
Posted by John at 9:07 PM