Our next Pinch Hitter is Nick Kirby, a 20-year-old sophomore at University of Delaware. He can be heard on UD’s radio station as part of a weekly sports talk show and as a color commentator for football and men’s basketball. Although he’s originally from Pennsylvania, Nick says he roots for the Yankees because his dad is from Long Island and used to take him to Yankees games as a kid.
Nick is studying health sciences, and he isn’t giving the Yankees a very good diagnosis.
A year ago I wrote about how I thought the culture of the Yankee front office was undergoing a complete makeover. Some people disagreed, but suddenly the words “budget cuts” and “luxury tax” were being tossed around by ownership on a daily basis. I wrote that the Yankees were taking a new approach, that they were done overpaying for expensive free agents and would start developing their own quality prospects at a higher rate.
I was right in predicting that the Yankees were done with serious spending, but I was wrong when I said that this new strategy would lead to success.
Trying to get under the $189 million mark by 2013 is a slap in the face to the loyal fans who deal with outrageous ticket prices and $11 beers. Forbes values the Yankees at over $1.8 billion, but they are leaving glaring holes in their roster for what? To save $50 million in luxury taxes? The Yankees have always charged a little bit more for tickets, concessions, and parking. We, as Yankee fans, could accept it. We accepted it because we knew the team was doing EVERYTHING it could to field a winner.
George Steinbrenner used to say that winning came second after breathing, but Hal, Lonn Trost, and Randy Levine seem to think that profit comes before winning. Winning at all costs is no longer a priority for this management team. This ownership group has more money than it will ever know what to do with, yet it continues to shop for free agents with a coupon-cutting style that is maddening to many fans. The Yankees won’t spend a couple million dollars on a starting catcher, but they want us to spend a thousand dollars on a lower-level ticket, $40 to park, and $11 for a beer.
Besides being more businesslike, this ownership group is completely out of touch with the fan base. During Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS against the Tigers, there were visible pockets of empty seats. Instead of reducing ticket prices and trying to solve this problem, ownership responded by raising the ticket prices for many sections for 2013, including the bleachers. The Yankees offer of us a steakhouse, sushi and reclining seats. Most of us just want a hot dog, a cold drink, and a good view of the game.
The front office could have done so much more in fielding a championship team for 2013. While they were smart in passing on troubled star free agents like Greinke and Hamilton, they were way too conservative in other areas. For starters, the Yankees still don’t have a starting catcher. They were so concerned with getting the payroll under $189 million for 2014 that they refused to re-sign Russell Martin, who slammed 21 home runs and was beloved by the Yankees pitching staff. Even with letting Martin go, the Yankees still could have avoided giving out a multi-year deal by signing AJ Pierzynski, who is left-handed, hit 27 home runs last season, and would have been a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium. Instead they showed no interest, and he signed for one year and $7.5 million with the Rangers, a team that gives the Yankees fits.
In addition to not having a starting catcher, the Yankees also lack a right-handed-hitting outfielder. I wasn’t crazy about Andruw Jones, but this is a glaring hole that needs to be filled. Delmon Young, Ryan Raburn, Ben Francisco, Cody Ross and Scott Hairston were all passed over by the Yankees. None of these players are going to Cooperstown, but they would have been sufficient in filling in the outfield or at DH against a lefty like Jon Lester or David Price.
The Yankees let Rafael Soriano walk for two years and $28 million, even though he did an amazing job filling in for Rivera. Is it fair to expect Rivera to be dominant at 43 coming off of a torn ACL? Soriano would have been a fine set up man and spelled Rivera for a few saves, as well as provided extra insurance in case something happened to Rivera. Instead, the Yankees will have to pray that Rivera somehow defies logic and has another dominant season at 43. They will do this without a backup plan.
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. A few years ago the “Killer B’s” were touted as star prospects. Andrew Brackman is gone, Manny Banuelos is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Dellin Betances has serious control and maturity issues. The Killer B’s are officially the Killer Busts. The Yankees haven’t developed an all-star position player since Robinson Cano in 2005, and they haven’t developed a reliable, durable starting pitcher since Andy Pettite broke into the big leagues in 1995.
In April, Yankee Stadium will come alive again. The Yankees will send the oldest roster in baseball onto the diamond. We will file in off the subway, spend $40 on food and drinks, and sit down in our seats. Ownership will be up in their luxury suite, adding up the profits and smiling about another year of revenue pouring in.
We will continue to shell out small fortunes for this team. But should we?
Associated Press photos