The Yankees are not for sale, until they are

Looking back at the 2007 draft
Williams ranks 24th on Law's midseason top 25 prospects list

Along with a subpar May, comparisons to 1965 and premature eulogies for Alex Rodriguez, unsourced whispers of an impending Yankee sale seem to crop up annually. This year, it all happened during the same week as a few hours after Joel Sherman compared the 2012 Yankees to the 1965 crew and A-Rod homered twice to end a long dinger drought, The Daily News reported that the Yankees may be for sale.

The article itself announcing the alleged sale was replete with Wall Street insiders and baseball sources. No one wanted to go on the record saying much of anything. “There has been chatter all around the banking and financial industries in the city for a couple of weeks now,” a baseball source said.

Noting that the Dodgers’ sale could lead to a $3 billion valuation for the Yanks, another unnamed source agreed on the timing. “It would definitely be the right time for the family to sell,” the source said. “The value of the team couldn’t be higher, but at the same time, it’s an older team in a division with younger teams getting better at the same time a lot of the Yankees’ core veterans are starting to go into decline.”

Of course, the age of the current team would have little impact on the intentions of someone looking to make a long-term investment in the Yanks. No one today cares about who was on the Yankees in 1973 when George Steinbrenner bought the team.

Reading the Daily News article closely though, we see the thesis begin to fall apart. The unsourced quotes concern timing. Everyone agrees now would be a great time to sell the Yanks, but “now” is always a great time to sell a baseball team. As baseball is growing with no signs of slowing down, any team — and especially the Yankees — is a valuable commodity. The News’ strongest argument for the sale seemingly is Hal Steinbrenner‘s reluctance to hand out large contracts and his hands-off ownership approach. I’m not so sure either of those are negatives.

The Yankees, meanwhile, went into full-scale on-the-record denial mode. “I can say to you there is absolutely, positively nothing to this,” Randy Levine said. “The Steinbrenners are not selling the team.”

“I just learned of the Daily News story,” Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “It is pure fiction. The Yankees are not for sale. I expect that the Yankees will be in my family for many years to come.”

Even as Bill Madden stuck by his story, Lonn Trost too denied the rumors. “We’re aghast at such a story,” he said on the radio this morning.

“My impression is not only do they all love being part of it, I think they are interested in handing it to their kids,” Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman said to Joel Sherman. “I think they want the family to be involved for generations to come. The Steinbrenners love owning the Yankees — and they are damn good at it. I have gotten no impression that they want to do anything but own the Yankees. They are the only ones who know the truth, but my impression is they are not even entertaining selling the Yankees.”

Furthermore, Major League Baseball, involved in the sale of all of its member clubs, put out its own statement: “Major League Baseball has received no indications from any representatives of the Yankees or anyone else that the Club is for sale.”

So on the one hand, we have speculation that the club could be put up for sale, and on the other, we have everyone on record denying that the club is for sale. That doesn’t even account for Richard Sandomir’s note on the Yankees trust. In my mind, the fact that the family would incur significant tax penalties is likely the biggest factor keeping the club off the market.

As fans of the team who have long grown accustomed to the Steinbrenner’s free-spending and largely hands-off ownership, what are we to make of this? Yankee fans live in fear that a rich New York family with sports ties such as the Dolans could buy the team and ruin it. No names, though, have been attached to this offer. So are the Yanks floating this story to gauge interest? The across-the-board denials suggest not. Is someone trying to make interest in the team known? Perhaps.

Right now, we know what’s on the record: The Yankees are not for sale, and no one is on the verge of buying them. But money talks, and if the right offer comes around, the Steinbrenner family will be tempted to cash out. It’s only, after all, a business, and the Yankees today aren’t for sale until the day they are.

Looking back at the 2007 draft
Williams ranks 24th on Law's midseason top 25 prospects list
  • Deep Thoughts

    Maybe they’re just talking about the Staten Island Yankees.

    More likely, some prick hedge-fund billionaire found some liquid courage and was overheard telling tales to his buddies during a high-five-fest.

  • gc

    I really detest this type of reporting.

    It reminds me of that scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…

    “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.”

    • Gonzo

      C’mon, that’s easy to say when you don’t know his sources.

      • Havok9120

        His sources are no one on record. That’s the point. No one in or out of baseball except for a reporter was willing to attach their name to the “rumors.” What’s more, the story itself was rather vague about whether his sources had said “it might make sense for them to sell now,” or “I’ve heard that they’re thinking of selling now,” let alone “they’re laying the groundwork to put the club up for sale.”

        Its all vaugeries and speculation shoved into a “news report.” That kind of thing is perfectly fine for editorializing or opinion pieces, but not for actual reporting.

        This is almost as bad as that guy in last night’s game thread with all the “insider info.”

        • jjyank

          “This is almost as bad as that guy in last night’s game thread with all the ‘insider info.'”

          “Almost” being the operative word, but the other way around I think. At least the guy in the game thread wasn’t getting published and read by as large an audience. He was just some anonymous guy on an internet forum, not somebody who gets paid to report.

        • Gonzo

          Plenty of people do not put their names to news reports. Happens all the time. People are afraid to lose their jobs or they are doing so with some motive that would benefit them somehow.

          Doesn’t mean EVERY report in which someone doesn’t put their name to it is bullcrap. Wasn’t Deepthroat (Watergate you perverts) anonymous?

          • jjyank

            Like Gray Fox, for all you Metal Gear Solid nerds out there.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            It was Woodward & Bernstein, not Woodward, Bernstein, & Madden.

            • Gonzo

              So no journalist should ever use an anonymous source unless they win Pulitzer’s or something?

          • Havok9120

            Of course they don’t. But he’s not even saying exactly what it is they’re claiming is going on. Its just “it could be happening. Or not. Or something.”

            And yes, Felt remained anonymous. He also provided somewhat more specific data to Woodward than “we’ve been hearing talk for weeks since the polls turned that maybe Nixon had something to do with the break-in. That would make sense, right?”

            I know that this happens all the time….and that makes it good journalistic practice or something I should take seriously? When your sources can’t even get together on what exactly they’ve been hearing, how does that make it any different from the speculation we’ve been doing on here ever since Hal took over?

            • Gonzo

              Two things:
              1) He’s not reporting that the Yankees are for sale.
              2) He has an editor who I am sure wouldn’t let him go to print with something he heard from a Ticket Runner at Dewey, Cheatum & Howe.

  • JoeyA

    While I agree that the current success/failure of the team has little to no bearing on the value, something has to be said of Jeter & Rivera entering the twilight of their career (Though i beliebe this is Mo’s 3rd or 4th twilight)

    You cannot ignore that the value and marketability of the team will take somewhat of a hit once Jeter and Mo are gone. that will, no doubt, hurt the value of the franchise. Other than those two, I dont think any aspect of the current roster has any influence on the value of the team.

    In my honest financial opinion, an area I know more about than baseball, the tax liability will be a main reason they won’t sell. Think of it like this:

    You bought Google before it blew up. You now have a 2000% gain on the stock. If you sell, you’ll owe so much money it’s more worth it to keep and pass down as a legacy.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      that’s ridiculous.

      that’s akin to saying ‘i don’t want to pay off my mortgage because i need the tax deduction’

    • toad

      But the current owners are heirs. Depending on the exact arrangements, their basis in the Yankees may be not much below the selling price.

      In other words, most of the proceeds could be tax-free.

  • Gonzo

    Maybe Steve Cohen is fresh off his Dodgers loss and is ready to roll on a club closer to home.

    He’s got tons of financial ties to spread the chum in the water.

    • steve s

      I think Cohen is still one of the Mets limited partner investors and probably is the Wilpons go to guy when they sale (which will probably happen before the Yanks ever sale). Also being vetted to buy one team doesn’t mean Bud will let you buy another team; its completely in Bud’s discretion as to who gets what teams (and if you don’t believe that is true read some of the reports back from 2003/4 when Reggie thought he had a deal to buy the A’s and Bud directed the sale to his fraternity brother Lew Wolff).

      • Gonzo

        I have know clue what this has to do with my original post.

  • Rich in NJ

    “The Yankees are not for sale, until they are”

    This is exactly the way I described it to a colleague earlier today. Very well said, Ben.

    As long as it isn’t the Dolans, deep-pocketed new owners who would insist on a high level of competence while imposing accountability might be just what this franchise needs as it begins to plan for the end of the Jeter Era.

  • Will The Thrill

    Well, nothing last forever. I’m a Yankee fan not a Steinbrenners fan. So if they do sell the team I hope it’s to someone who respects the team, fans, and city enough to do whatever possible to bring a World Series championship back to the Bronx.

    • Cuso

      That’s the concern. They won’t be. George instilled a commitment to winning and insisted on being a first-class organization. Everything is done the “Yankee way.” From facial hair to ‘win every year’s mentality and everything in between, George’s stamp is on this franchise.

      Even if Hal & Hank “aren’t George, ” they still feel a responsibility to stay true to his way of doing things.

      Even if you brought in a modern day Steinbrenner (Cuban?) that person still wouldn’t get it.

      Hank & Hal at least understand the responsibility. You doubt that? Take a look at John Henry. He brought the championship(s) to Boston. Does it look like he still cares right now (Manc. Unit.)?

      You can bring some big swinging Dick in that will care for 2 years and maybe get “a” championship. But what happens after they get their “one.”

      If the Steinbrenners sell, there is no question it would be bad. Maybe not CBS-bad….but then again….maybe.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        As a general rule, fuck John Henry.

        Yeah, there’d be fear and uncertainty for sure. You’d also probably have someone who wanted to make sure they protected their investment.

        In the end, we’re all just letting our imaginations run wild here.

        Having the Yankees passed down through multiple Steinbrenner generations is a nice thought. I still think it’s likely we see an unrelated owner in our lifetimes, and not in the distant, distant future. Nothing last forever, even cold November Rain….

        • Cuso

          Ooh. I just got one-upped from my Cranberries from last night.

          Challenge accepted, sir.

    • The Scheister of Doom

      The crystal ball never lies…it tells me in 2013/14, a group of investors lead by Jay-Z will purchase the Yanks for 3.3B.

  • A.D.

    Issue for a Yanks buyer is there aren’t a lot of obvious ways to maximize value on the team. They don’t own the land, they have a new ballpark, and they have a TV network, only thing that would be negotiated are radio rights.

    Other big deals, i.e. the Dodgers, Rangers, or Cubs, have opportunities to either turn a club around, develop the ballpark/area, and have the opportunity to sell TV rights/start a network.

  • RobertGKramer@AOL.Com

    Anyone else remember Ben’s April Fools joke a few years ago?

    • Gonzo

      The Dolan one? That was f-ing classic. I nearly crapped myself for a second.

      • jjyank

        Ha yeah I remember frantically trying to confirm that before I looked at the calendar and took a deep breath.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Nothing wrong with the Yankees putting out feelers to see what the club is worth.

    I’d be shocked if it ever left the Steinbrenner family but seeing that they’re being run more like a business these days rather than a win at all costs and spare no expense enterprise like it was under George, I wouldn’t be too upset to see someone like Mark Cuban buy them.

    • Havok9120

      He’s the only guy currently in major American sports that does things that way (at least in the public eye) and baseball wants nothing to do with him.

  • RI$P FTW

    I don’t think anyone should root for any team… blah blah blah

    • Robinson Tilapia

      You actually just hit upon why I no longer play fantasy sports.

      • jjyank

        Na, my Yankee homerism takes over even on my fantasy team. I draft Yankees when I can, and I sit pitchers that are facing them.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I used to do rotisserie baseball back in high school, where the draft consisted of ten guys sitting around a kitchen table the entire day and my friends accidentally drafting guys who retired two years earlier. Tried fantasy football a couple of years ago. Couldn’t handle sitting there watching games I wouldn’t be watching otherwise and rooting for one guy to have a good game. I also once started JaMarcus Russell at QB.

          Nothing against fantasy sports, but my brain doesn’t work that way. The only way I could do fantasy baseball is if my team was the Yankee roster.

    • Bo Knows


  • Fin

    People saying the current Yankee team doesnt have an impact on the value, I have to disagree. It may not be the exact current Yankee squad but its a continuation of 20yrs of winning. That certainly has a huge impact on the Yankee value. If the Yankees were to have 2 or 3 loosing seasons in a row, I think the value would definately drop. Especially considering that even with loosing seasons the Yankees would still have the highest payroll in the game.

    There are big issues facing the Yankees going forward. THey have 3 huge, long term contracts with CC, Tex, and Arod. They have 3 players that are do for big long term contracts in Swish, Cano, and Granderson, and no way to replace them, other than choose another big long term contract. Then their financial advatange seems to have been cut off at the knees in the draft/IFA.

    IT could be that winning year in and year out with the new rules might not be feesable and without that, the Yankees may not be as valuable. Its entirely possible that Hank and Hal have been finding out how valuable the Yankees are and weighing that against the value of the Yankees over say the next 5yrs. With a lack of minor league help on the way, long term underperforming contracts and hits to the Yankees spending ability, now may be the time for the Stiens to sell if they dont have the passion to be owners.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Its entirely possible that Hank and Hal have been finding out how valuable the Yankees are and weighing that against the value of the Yankees over say the next 5yrs. With a lack of minor league help on the way, long term underperforming contracts and hits to the Yankees spending ability, now may be the time for the Stiens to sell if they dont have the passion to be owners.

      As business owners, it is their responsibility to understand the value of their holdings and determine if they are receiving an appropriate return on their investment. I agree that they may just be looking at what the team is worth now, what they believe it will be worth going forward and keeping an eye on when the best time to sell might be. Could be now, next year, 3 years from now, fifty years from now or further out. Without knowing the complexities of the tax laws and road blocks (if you will) that George put up, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

      Ben hit the nail on the head. They’re not for sale until they are.

  • chris

    My favorite part of that Daily News article, and Lupica’s column as well, were all the references to Hal being ‘more a businessman’ and running the team with a more refined ‘business sense’ suggesting, it seemed to me, George was a wild seat of the pants guy. It’s a lot easier to take over something built than it is to build it, and it takes an incredible business sense to buy something for 8mil and pass it on at 2bil (!!) The facts lead me to belive Hal can’t hold a candle to his father as a businessman, which also leads me to question, somewhat, whether all this ‘business’ austerity, and let’s work with budgets and all the other business school stuff will be more detrimental to the franchise over time. Let’s face it, the wild freespending George model is proven – Spreadsheet Hal still has a long ways to go before he might be judged a worthy successor to his father. Hank might be sulking in a corner, because of A-rod, but the A-rod contract is a lot more ‘George.’

  • http://twitter/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

    I’m pretty sure there’s a bad movie somewhere called the “Dinger Drought”, if you know what I mean.