Buy Me To the Moon

With the recent signing of Mark Teixeira for $180M over 8 years, the New York Yankees have spent a total of $423.5M on three free agents this winter.

Add in the $248M still owed on Alex Rodriguez’s contract, and the Bronx Bombers have committed over a half-billion dollars ($671.5M to be exact) to three ballplayers over the next eight years.

If that’s not an attempt to buy a World Series Trophy, I don’t know what is.

Based on this winter’s signings, the Steinbrenners clearly did not have any investments with Bernard Madoff (unlike another baseball team father-son ownership based in New York City … though, we’re assured that little financial scandal won’t affect their organization in any way).

The immediate reaction by 99% of people is that this enormous outlay of cash by the Yankees is despicable, unfair, and/or “exactly what’s wrong with baseball”.

Hmm ….

On the one hand, it’s slightly upsetting that Teixeira did not choose to join his hometown Baltimore Orioles, who have some bright young arms, athletic outfielders, and a future superstar catcher on their horizon. Adding a solid All-Star bat like Teixeira might have been the last piece of the puzzle to push them into contention at some point within the next 2-3 years. Already the toughest division in baseball, the AL East would have been even more competitive if the O’s joined the ranks of the elite.

But now, it’s a three-team race among the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays — who have to prove 2008 wasn’t a Cinderella season. No matter how much the Blue Jays and Orioles improve, it’s doubtful they’ll sniff the postseason before 2012. Though, you never know.

Does that make the Yankees a big bully? Is their spending this winter as obnoxious as everyone says — particularly in this difficult economy? Are the Yankees singlehandedly “ruining baseball” ?

No, no, and no. And no to any other such nonsense.

First off, the Yankees had over $80M come off their 2008 budget thanks to the expiring contracts of Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, and Kyle Farnsworth (yes, I know Farnsworth was traded, but it was nonetheless another $5.5M off the books). With all that coming off, it’s entirely possible that the Yankees’ 2009 budget will be BELOW their 2008 spending even with the additions of Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. Heck, they may still have room to sign Manny Ramirez. Yes, their payroll is still going to be a good $70M or $80M more than the next-highest spenders, but they’re not going above and beyond what they’ve been doing since 2003. And guess what? Despite spending more than any other team for the last five years, the Yankees have yet to make a World Series appearance. Huh.

Secondly, while every other team in baseball is crying about the economy, claiming they can’t afford to pay for free agents — and in many cases, laying off non-player personnel — the Yankees are HIRING. If the Steinbrenners follow up these big free agent signings with an announcement that they’re cutting their administrative staff or stadium maintenance people, then something stinks. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. In these tough times, I openly applaud business owners like the Steinbrenners, who instead of laying off people for fear what the future might bring, are instead investing in their future and seeking to improve and grow their product.

Obviously, the Yankees can afford to pay all these ridiculous salaries — they must be doing well. Would you prefer that they sat on their money, or hid it somewhere, rather than doling it out? Consider this: with the signings of three All-Stars, how many Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett Yankee jerseys and T-shirts will be sold? How many more baseball gloves with those players’ “autographs” on them will leave the shelves? How much money will Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett themselves spend, now that they’re ultra-millionaires? My guess is all three will put at least some of their earnings back into the economy, as well as into charitable foundations. Spending money in these tough times shouldn’t be frowned upon — it should be embraced and encouraged. Somehow, it all trickles down, eventually.

Finally, it is not the Yankees “ruining the game” by spending boatloads of money. If anyone is “ruining” baseball, it’s the San Diego Padres, who are dismantling their team piece by piece because their owners are in the midst of a divorce. To me, it is vastly more despicable for a teams like the Padres and Marlins to run “fire sales” in an effort to reduce payroll — and in effect, put a minor league team on the field. I understand that small market teams can’t compete, financially, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, etc. But if they can’t figure out a way to generate the minimum $40-60M to cover a Major League payroll, then either find a new management team, sell the club, or go to the minors — in my opinion there are too many MLB teams anyway.

Which brings me to another point that isn’t related to the Yankees, but with MLB in general. We’ve heard that the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays have been “forced” to lay off administrative personnel during this offseason. It’s also been reported that MLB had to cut their staff significantly, specifically in their MLB Advanced Media / website department. Can someone please explain to me how and why there are teams and MLB itself cutting staff when they made more money in the last five years than they ever have in history?

It was widely reported last winter that paid out $30M to each club, after it generated nearly $400M in revenues. MLB Advanced Media’s growth has been fast and furious, and I find it VERY hard to believe that revenues were down in 2008 — if they were, they couldn’t be down by much.’s user base, paid subscriptions, and traffic all went up. In addition, it was also widely reported that MLB as a whole made over six billion dollars in 2007 — an all-time high — and set attendance records. Following that momentum, several teams during the 2008 season set records again for attendance and ticket sales (including our New York Mets). So for the last two or three years, baseball has been absolutely booming, bringing in money faster than they count it — yet, teams (other than the Yankees) are crying poverty and adding to the unemployment rate. Is it me, or is something rotten in Denmark?

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but the money being thrown around by the Yankees is, to me, refreshing. At least there is one team doing well enough to feel they can put their profits back into the company, with an eye toward improvement and long-term growth.

Happy holidays.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. hotfoot December 23, 2008 at 7:26 pm
    Well said, Joe. It is easy to jump on the bandwagon and bash the Yankees for spending so much money, but I am squarely in the same camp as you. It is far more despicable to watch the ownership of such teams as the Marlins and Padres more interested in lining their pockets than putting money back into the team.

    If fans are expected to pay these extravagant prices, it is only right that the owners are spending that money to put the best possible product on the field.

    Good for the Yankees, they make money hand over fist and spend a ton of money trying to give their fans the best possible team.

  2. sincekindergarten December 24, 2008 at 8:36 am
    Ya know something, Joe? Now that you put it that way, I agree with you. A different way to look at things, but it’s probably the right way. At least Hank and Hal Steinbrenner won’t be looking to Uncle Sugar to bail them out anytime soon . . .
  3. joe December 24, 2008 at 8:45 am
    Thanks guys.

    Also, isn’t it fitting that the Yanks are giving away all this money NOW, in the holiday season? I mean, isn’t Christmas about giving? 🙂

    Have a great holiday!

  4. Micalpalyn December 24, 2008 at 9:08 am
    I cant agree. I feel that baseball and the Steinhosers are taking advantage of the baseball ineptness by ‘buying’ a WS ….which given the fact they have been operating on the same philosophy for 12 yrs , is not guaranteed. Baseball needs a salary cap, and a minimum also.

    It is ironic that Tex SAVES thenm $$$ over Giambi. Tex is by far the best signing. His glove and bat will be crucial in front (?) of A-rod. Also dont forget Jeter. and his 189M contract. Also there are other spots the Yanks must fill. At 212M last yr they were not good.

    AS for the Mets: One article that floated out there had the Angels calling on Delgado…….hmm. Also MLB rumors says the Yanks must dump Swisher or X-Man……hmmm

  5. isuzudude December 24, 2008 at 9:23 am
    When dealing with the Yankees and their never ending spending spree to win World Series, everyone’s initial reaction is always to cry foul about how it’s not fair that they have so much more money to spend than everyone else. But the right thing to do is to take the money you make on your team (and most of it comes from the fans) and invest back into the team, which the Yankees are doing. It’s the other greedy owners who make tons of money but decide to spend it on themselves and live in luxury while the team flops and the fans feel unappreciated that “ruin baseball.”

    That said, I do find the amount of money the Yankees are spending on their free agent signings this winter absurb. Out of their 3 big additions, only Sabathia is worth the amount he got, and that’s still speaking in relative terms. Teixeira has only been to the postseason once, has never finished above 7th in any MVP voting, and has been an allstar just once. Don’t get me wrong, he’s one of the best sluggers in the game today, and carries himself well defensively as well. But is he really worthy of $22.5-mil per year? In the end, the Yankees could probably have given him $2-mil per year less and still gotten him signed. But it seems like they are proud to flaunt their riches to the rest of baseball and go above and beyond a player’s actual value just to rub it in. And then you look at the AJ Burnett signing – $16.5-mil over 5 years – and it’s ridiculous. He’s never been in the postseason, his career ERA is closer to 4.00 than 3.50, and he’s guarenteed to miss at least 100 starts over the course of the contract. When he’s on, he can be dominating, yes. But come on. I tip my hat to the Yankees for wanting to spend an insane amount of money on improving their team, but giving these guys such mammoth contracts will do nothing but drive up the cost of every other similar player, and drive up ticket prices to offset the increasing payrolls.

    However, now the Yankees have no excuses – as if they ever did before. By spending this much money, there is no option but to make the postseason and at least get to the World Series. And it’s not just the money. Looking at the roster, how can they not? That is an immense amount of pressure, and starting in April any moment they do not occupy a playoff spot or any losing streak of more than 2 will be viewed upon as armagedon. And once again, even though the Yankees have done nothing since 2003, they are public enemy #1 around baseball and will be treated as such each and every game they play. That’s a burden they haven’t handled well for the past 5 years, and with Joe Torre, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, and company no longer around to be the rocks of consistency, who knows if 2009 will be any different. The bottom line is just because they’re spending the most money doesn’t guarentee them to win anything. And another 3rd place finish for the Yankees would be the equivalent of losing 120 games. God forbid that happen because they might just increase the payroll to $300 million.

  6. sincekindergarten December 24, 2008 at 9:56 am
    Mic, I saw that report as well. I’m not sure if I’d go do that deal, seeing that once Willie was gone, Delgado started hitting again (purely coincidental, I’m sure). Unless, of course, Lackey or Ervin Santana came in return . . .

    ID, I tend to agree with the gist of your third paragraph. There’s too many chefs in the Yankees’ kitchen. There will be a clash of long-signed players.

  7. Micalpalyn December 27, 2008 at 11:18 am
    And while we are basting turkey, the NY-SF giants have put together possibly the best rotation in baseball.
  8. joe December 27, 2008 at 11:25 am
    Yum …. making stuffing too?

    Good thing the Giants still have Bengie Molina as their cleanup hitter.

    Though, perhaps they’re the “mystery team” for Manny.