Meet the new Boss…

Hal Steinbrenner is nor officially running the Yankees. Yep, that’s Hal, not Hank, although I’m sure that’s not going to quiet the latter down any. But it turns out there might not be all that much reason to expect a lot of differences to come about:

CC Sabathia will have a deadline to accept the New York Yankees’ contract proposal.

“We’ve made him an offer. It’s not going to be there forever,” Hal Steinbrenner said Thursday after he was approved as the team’s new controlling owner during a meeting at Major League Baseball headquarters.

I really don’t get the thought process here. On the one hand, I very much doubt anyone actually believes what Steinbrenner is saying. After all, Brian Cashman told everyone that A-Rod was done in stripes if he opted out of his contract, and then A-Rod opted out of his contract and is not only still playing for the Yankees, he’s making more money than before. So it doesn’t really have a lot of credibility behind it.

But I’m not sure why exactly you want to go out there and antagonize the best pitcher on the market, especially at a time when your rotation is in shambles and you desperately need not just new starters, but a legitimate ace. It seems to me that the Steinbrenners are still acting as if it’s some sort of priviledge for a major leaguer to play for the Yankees, which is rather silly. But to make it worse, by every report Sabathia doesn’t want to pitch for the Bombers. He doesn’t want the pressure that goes with being a Yankee, he wants to pitch in his home state of California, and he wants to stay in the National League. So why exactly are you acting like an asshole to him before he signs the contract? Do you really think one of the Los Angeles teams, or San Francisco, won’t find $150 million for C.C. after the season he had last year?

And let’s be absolutely clear; the Yankees need Sabathia. He’s not some luxury item they’re talking about because they’re the Yankees, he’s a necessity. Boston and Tampa Bay have excellent starters at the top of their rotations, while all the Yankees have are question marks. Chien Ming Wang is coming off of an injury (and a disastrous 2007 ALDS), Andy Pettite (if he comes back) is old, and Joba Chamberlain’s arm is about as durable as an antique vase. None of those guys have really established that they can be dominant, #1 pitchers in the AL East, and that’s a real problem when you’re looking up at Kazmir-Shields-Garza and Beckett-Matsusaka-Lester.

And I very much doubt Sabathia regards the Yankees’ proposal as an offer he can’t refuse. Yes $140 million would be record contract for a pitcher, but only by $3 million. Not exactly stretching by the Yankees. And every team mentioned as having interest certainly understands that it’s going to take something between $140-$150 mil, at least, to land him. It’s pretty clear that CC’s best option is waiting to see if the Dodgers and Angels retain Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira, respectively, and if either one heads elsewhere how deep interest runs for him in L.A. If the Dodgers make a serious offer, the Yankees are going to have to seriously up the ante to stay relevant, and making threats isn’ta very good way to warm a guy up to you.

And before anyone says anything, no, there are not other options on the market. I know the Yankees are interested in Derek Lowe and AJ Burnett, but neither of those guys are #1 starters, neither are C.C. Sabathia, both are into their 30’s, and even together they’re no substitute for the big guy at the top of the Yankees rotation. So the Steinbrenners would do well to learn a bit of the art of buttering up, they don’t have anyone over a barrel.