The Pinch Hitters series is really designed for posts like this morning’s. It’s meant to introduce perspectives and ideas that are very different from mine, and Nick’s post certainly fits the description.
It’s one thing for a reporter or columnist to write that Yankees ownership is alienating part of the fan base. It’s something entirely different for a fan to make that case in 887 words that could have used about 40 exclamation points and a handful of snarling emoticons.
Nick made some perfectly valid points, and he wrote with the sort of in-the-seats passion that this situation demands. But I think it’s part of my job to separate myself from that passion, so in the name of playing devil’s advocate, here are some counter arguments to some of Nick’s central points.
“Winning at all costs is no longer a priority for this management team.”
It’s one of the most common complaints, and the basic premise is impossible to argue. Toward the end of his time truly running the show, George Steinbrenner was significantly outspending the rest of baseball. But that wasn’t always the case during his tenure, and it’s worth acknowledging that the landscape has changed. Baseball has worked to create financial parity, and the Yankees new spending approach is a direct response to CBA rules that weren’t in place under The Boss. It’s also worth remembering that Hank Steinbrenner spearheaded the signing of Alex Rodriguez’s massive contract, and Hal Steinbrenner was largely running the show when the Yankees made their massive offseason splash before the 2009 season. Is this ownership group less committed to winning, or is it simply attempting to make a short-term business decision? Maybe a little of both. Win at all reasonable costs doesn’t fire up the troops quite as much, does it?
“While they were smart in passing on troubled star free agents like Greinke and Hamilton, they were way too conservative in other areas.”
I’m not sure it’s possible to recognize a great signing until we’re given the benefit of hindsight. Mark Teixeira seemed like a safe bet back in 2008 — about as safe as you can find, anyway — but his skills have already declined. Eric Chavez was a great signing last year and Andruw Jones was not, but I’m not sure we could have confidently predicted that outcome when Jones was coming off a terrific second half and Chavez was coming off yet another significant injury. Every move comes with risk, and the risk grows with the size of the deal. Attempting to be smarter about free agent spending — and trying to incorporate more young, in-house options – seems to make sense regardless of total payroll. The Yankees are often ripped for the Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett and Pedro Feliciano contracts, but that’s only fair if it’s accepted that they’re going to have to pass on some similar free agents in order to avoid multi-year busts and give some young guys a chance.
“The Yankees let Rafael Soriano walk for two years and $28 million, even though he did an amazing job filling in for Rivera.”
Soriano was under contract, opted out, then turned down a qualifying offer. The Yankees were suckers for letting Rodriguez back out of one contract and turn it into a larger one. They should have let Soriano do the same thing?
“All of the stinginess and outrageous prices would probably be fine with Yankee fans if the player development department had the slightest idea of how to draft and develop young talent.”
The Yankees inability to draft and develop is way overblown. They haven’t had a high first-round pick in well over a decade, yet they have an above-average farm system, and they’ve been able to pull off the trades for Curtis Granderson, Michael Pineda, Nick Swisher, Xavier Nady, Lance Berkman, Ichiro Suzuki and Javier Vazquez. Clearly not all of those trades worked out, but each required fairly significant prospect capital. The Yankees have taken an aggressive approach in the draft — a lot of high-risk, high-reward guys like Brackman, Culver, Cole and Betances — which has led to a lot of hype (because of the potential) and a lot of disappointment (because most prospects never make it). I think it’s an an easier argument to say the Yankees have misused their young talent than to say they haven’t been able to find and develop it.
“We will continue to shell out small fortunes for this team. But should we?”
It all comes back to money; whether the Yankees are willing to spend it and whether their fans are willing to spend it. Ownership is in the business of making money. Is it reasonable to ask the Steinbrenners to pour money into payroll regardless of profit? Fans are in the business of cheering for a team — wins are their currency — so is it reasonable to ask them to similarly commit themselves regardless of the team’s record and commitment?
Associated Press photos