Those Evil Yanks

You expect a good bit of frothing from the average baseball fan who hates the Yankees and thinks they’re the worst thing in baseball evah. That;’s what fans do after all. But when you’re talking about people like Mike Lupica, who gets paid a lot of money to write newspaper columns and go on ESPN and otherwise get paid for every sports fan’s dream, you sort of expect that you’ll get better than this kind of empty preening:

It would have been ridiculous for the Yankees not to go after Mark Teixeira, to not pay him and his bag man, Scott Boras, whatever they wanted. But then it was ridiculous, and phony, of Brian Cashman and the Yankees to pass on Carlos Beltran at $100 million a few years ago. At the time the Yankees wanted you to believe that they had some kind of budget. They don’t.

Maybe now they have finally spent enough money, after eight years of the greatest financial advantage in the history of professional sports, to finally buy back the World Series.

One of these days I’m going to write an article tracing the decline on the American political media to the rise of ESPN and the deteriorating quality of sports media, but for now I’ll just deal with Lupica himself. To put it mildly, this is just brainless, empty, Mets fan feeding nonsense. Yes the Yankees have the money to buy up a lot of players, but then so do the Mets, the Dodgers, the Cubs, the Angels, and the Red Sox. The reason the Yankees had so much money this year, as the online editors of the Daily News illustrate in a sidebar in Lupica’s column amusingly enough, is because they’re shedding $82.5 million in expiring contracts this year. That’s roughly the entire value of A.J. Burnett’s contract coming off of the books in one offseason, and that frees up a helluva lot of money to do something with in the free agent market. Indeed, if the Yankees don’t make anymore big signings, they’ll come in close to $20 million under what their payroll was last year, even as they’ve added Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira. Lupica can mock this “budgeting” all he wants, but the simple truth is that that’s just good management, to a degree, on the part of Brian Cashman.

At the same time, it’s worth considering who is leaving. The biggest name, at least so far, is Andy Pettite and his $16 million committment from last season. You’ve also got Jason Giambi ($21m), Carl Pavano ($11), Mike Mussina ($11m), Bobby Abreu ($16m), Pudge Rodriguez ($4m), and Kyle Farnsworth ($4m). That’s 3 starting pitchers (if you count Pavano) at a total of  $38 million, and 2 starting position players at a total of $37 million. What exactly are the Yankees supposed to do to replace those players? Nothing? Pass over Sabathia and Teixeira for Ryan Dempster and Raul Ibanez? The cold reality here is math. The Yankees are going to spend about $30 million between Sabathia and Burnett next season. Andy Pettite, Mike Mussina, and Carl Pavano accounted for roughly $38 million in salary commitments next season. If you factor in Chien Ming Wang, the top of the Yankees rotation will be worth less money ($35 million) than the 3 contract they’re shedding ($38m) if Pettite doesn’t return. Similarly Teixeira’s $22.5 million is less than $2 million more than what Jason Giambi was getting paid last season, and is then offset completely by getting rid of Morgan Ensberg’s contract.

The bottom line; the Yankees were smart enough to structure their roster such that a lot of money was being freed up in a single year to allow them to overhaul the team if need be. Mussina, Pettite, and Abreu all had contracts expiring in the same year, and the contracts of Giambi and Pavano came with buyout options in that year. It’s not their fault that not every team manages their roster situations that well, and that’s not another team in the league who wouldn’t trade Andy Pettite, Jason Giambi, and Bobby Abreu for C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira while cutting payroll.

And someone who gets paid to opine on sports ought to be held to a higher level of quality in analysis than the random drunk on a barstool hating on the Yankees.

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