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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yankee Hubris

The Yankees have invested over $400 million in C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira.

Outside the Mets, the Yankees are the only team to open up their pocketbooks in a big way (signing Francisco Rodriguez; the Phillies signed Raul Ibanez and the Dodgers Rafael Furcal, but not at overly huge numbers compared to what K-Rod and the Yankee trio commanded). Either they know something that the rest of us don't, or else they've committed some big-time folly.

Yes, the Yankees generate more revenue than other teams (from the YES Network, among others). But we're in a recession, New York is probably in a bigger recession than the rest of the country because of the throes of Wall Street, and, well, Hank Steinbrenner so far has proven only that he emulates his father's bluster, not his business savvy. And as we've learned so many times, business savvy can skip generations and frequently does.

On the positive side, Sabathia is an oustanding pitcher (especially before the post-season) and can help carry a team long distances. Burnett is a great talent who did well in Florida and still has a lot of tread left on the tires and is well-qualified to be a #2 starter. Finally, all reports on Teixeira is what a machine he is -- defensively as well as offensively. If you take the "advocacy" point of view, the Yankees struck gold and Red Sox' and Rays' fans should shudder because the Yankees have reloaded and are overdue.

On the negative side, Sabathia, the thoroughbred, has come up lame in the post-season, and his girth creates concerns about longevity. He carries a lot of weight, figuratively and literally. He's a risk over the course of his entire contract. Burnett, another thoroughbred, had few teams all that interested during last year's playoff run. The stories focused on his makeup and personality, not great things to hear if you're going to pay the guy north of $16 million per season. As for Teixeira, it's hard to find much negative except to question whether he's in the uberstar class of players like Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez. There's not question that he's a prime-time player, but can he withstand the expectations of being the main guy? If you take the "criticism" point of view, the Yankees have definitely improved their team, but they've made some big bets, particularly on pitchers, that could come back to haunt them.

So did the Yankees act wisely? I'd rather have the troika they signed than not to have them. I do wonder whether they overpaid, particularly for Burnett, and whether they gave Sabathia too long a deal. I also wonder how real the suitors were for Teixeira at the price point he finally settled on. Signing players at big numbers is what makes the Yankees the Yankees. Whether these signings prove wise and whether the Yankees can sustain the revenues they enjoyed before the U.S. financial system collapsed in September remains to be seen.


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