Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Opening the Wallet

What slumping economy? As the American financial system grinds to a halt and crumbles, the New York Yankees are doing their best to imitate a small country. In the spirit of giving (and 'tis the season), the Yanks have committed to giving out $423.5 million in salary to Mark Texeira (8 years, $180 million), CC Sabathia (7 years, $161 million), and AJ Burnett (5 years, $82.5 million). Like a drunk Paris Hilton at the Mall of America, the Yankees have bought up every high-ticket item on the market this year, and now have the four highest per-season salaries in the game (ARod, Jeter, Sabathia, and Texeira). Indeed, perhaps this is some kind of largesse, a ballplayer bailout, designed to get the economy moving again.

The Yankees have spent the last 15 years outspending their competitors to remain competitive. They have no world championships to show for it since 2000. While their spending has helped them remain competitive, they have been unable to get another elusive championship...much to the chagrine of the Steinbrenners. The difference between the last few attempts to buy a championship and this one, however, is that this year the Yanks are clearly targeting the best players in free agency, those players conform almost exactly to the Yankees' needs on the field, and they are signing them at the right point in their career. Rather than spending another bucket of cash on a broken down Carl Pavano or a past-his-prime Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson, the Yankees have targeted young players with strong track records, and have been willing to overpay for them.

Now, The Common Man has no love of the Yankees. He finds their strategy to fix previous mistakes by throwing money at the problem both inefficient and graceless. They keep building a bigger and more expensive mousetrap to capture the World Series, even though the simpler mousetraps still work fine. Sure, the Yankees may catch the "mouse" eventually, but their method is flawed.

That said, The Common Man is kind of excited that the Yankees have raised the stakes like this. After getting outplayed by the Red Sox since 2004, the Yankees have thrown down and have signaled to the Sox, the AL East, and the rest of the league that they are the team to beat in 2009 and beyond. Their moves have made the rivalry with the Sox more intense (which is great for attracting more casual fans to the game) and up the overall level of Yankee-hating to a new high (which is good for any team playing the Yankees, as more fans will come to the ballpark, and listen and watch more games to watch their hometown 9 beat the vaunted Bronx Bombers). And that kind of buzz and excitement can only be good for the game, particularly since the Yankees aren't likely to win every year no matter how much they spend. And perhaps given how much money they have siphoned and scammed from the public coffers in order to get their ballpart built, they owe it to their fans to make a splash and go for it all.

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