With all of this talk about the Yanks’ budget, the latest from Maury Brown should pique fans’ interests. The Biz of Baseball writer is projecting 2010 salaries based on available information. He covered the Yankees yesterday and determined that the team has committed $198 million to 18 players. The Yanks will renew their pre-arb players soon enough and will see the budget climb to over $200 million. If the team wants to be able to fill holes during the season and adhere to their budget, that should be it for the team’s Hot Stove spending.
When the Yankees signed Randy Winn yesterday, the move kicked off a firestorm of comments. Even though pitchers and catchers are still three weeks away, even though the Yanks are the reigning World Series Champions, Winn’s signing sent shockwaves through the Yankee Universe. It meant the end of Johnny Damon’s tenure in pinstripes, and it proved, once and for all, that the Yankees are playing baseball on a budget this year.
For most baseball fans and writers, the idea of a team sticking with a budget is not cause for consternation. The vast majority of baseball teams — 29 of them, in fact — have operated under budgetary constraints. Some teams have more money to spend while others have to make the most of the funds available to them in order to remain competitive. That — and not the idea of OBP as the Holy Grail of baseball — was the driving thesis behind Moneyball. Still, no one blinks if a mid-market team has only $95 million to spend.
In the Bronx, though, things are different. The Yankees are on top of the world. They have a brand new stadium, a brand new World Series trophy, a top-rated regional sports network and an internationally-identifiable brand. They made the Yankee hat more famous than Jay-Z can. With this cachet of fame and success, the Yankees should not have a budget. Or so goes the baseball motif.
As we sit in 2010, though, life has changed economically since the glory days of the mid-2000s as the Yankees’ payroll kept climbing and climbing and climbing. First, George Steinbrenner has passed control of his team onto his sons. While Hal has the desire to win, he also recognizes the business needs of the Yankees. He knows that exceeding the payroll budget by a few million dollars also leads to a few million more in luxury tax payments. He knows that the team owes some debt service payments on their new stadium, and he knows that, prior to 2009, the Yankees’ operating income was a cool $3.7 million the red. With a $209 million payroll in 2008, the Yankees could not turn a profit.
In a few weeks, we’ll hear from Forbes about baseball’s 2009 finances, but considering the Yanks’ adherence to a budget this winter, the team is probably in a similar situation. Based purely on the stadium-centric finances, I believe the team is breaking even at the stadium with most revenue coming from their TV rights deals and the YES Network. So the Yankees have decided that they need a budget. It might be $200 million; it might be far greater what any other team will pay for their players; but it’s still a budget. With the economy in tatters around us, how hard is it to understand that the Yankees can’t just open up their checkbook with no regard for the fiscal impact of it?
For some people — Ken Rosenthal’s latest comes to mind — this is an inconceivable turn of events. For 40 years, the Yankees have spent, spent, spent. Why should a few million dollars stop them from reupping with Johnny Damon? Why would they go for Randy Winn instead? Mike had a fully rational explanation earlier today, but Rosenthal, a career baseball man, could not escape from the trope that the Yankees do not have a budget. Shockingly, they do.
In the end, it’s tough to say who bears the blame for Damon’s departure. Joel Sherman has written two articles (here and here) exploring the fallout from the Boras/Cashman dispute. The Yanks say they had made a few offers to Damon’s camp while Boras, not wanting to appear as though he overplayed his hand, claims he was more flexible than the Yankees say and that the Yankees didn’t really want Damon back anyway. Pick your side in that one. The truth remains that, in an era of fiscal problems, the Yankees do have a budget. They probably have room to improve at mid-season, but today, they are done spending. The money just isn’t there.
As the Hot Stove League rounds third and heads for home, the Yankees are again in everyone’s crosshairs. With the World Series trophy once again ensconced in the Bronx, the Yankees are baseball team’s to beat, and as AL teams gear up to take on the champions, the runners-up have their eyes on them too.
During his first press conference of the year, the svelte-looking Charlie Manuel, manager of the NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies, spoke about the Yankees. First, he spoke about losing to the Yanks in November:
“If you go back and look and followed us playing the Rockies and the Dodgers, we played real good. We didn’t really play as good as we can against the Yankees. It might have been because of their bullpen and their pitching. We ran into a situation in the World Series with how it went, the Yankees were a well-balanced team with their offense. At the end, Rivera did what he’s been doing all these years. We can play better and we can pitch better offensively and defensively. I felt like in the ones they beat us, they were like a step ahead of us. We were always chasing them and trying to catch up. They were always ahead of us … It was who got the breaks and they got the good breaks. We can beat them. At the end of the World Series last year when I talked to our team, I told them that I feel like we owe the Yankees one … They got us.”
Later, he spoke again about facing the Yankees and beating them the next time around. “We can play with the Yankees. We could have beaten the Yankees but we didn’t,” he said. “That give us more determination and everything. We definitely want to get back to the World Series. I know that. I know we want to go back to the World Series and win it. It’s hard to go two years in a row to win the World Series. We got there but didn’t get it done. This year, we’re going to key on that. We’re going to keep our same philosophy.”
As we sit here on the edge of February, it’s not a stretch to imagine an October rematch between the Yankees and the Phillies. With Javier Vazquez aboard to beef up the rotation and Curtis Granderson patrolling the outfield, the Yankees have more depth from the get-go and are becoming younger in the field while maintaining their prodigious offensive output. The Red Sox have put together a defensive-minded team that should score runs, and they have the pitching to compete; the Mariners are the prohibitive favorites in the West; but the Yanks remain the American League’s team to beat.
In the National League, the Phillies are the clear-cut pre-season favorites. They will enjoy a full season of work from Roy Halladay and have a solid rotation behind him. Perhaps the Cardinals could unseat them; perhaps everything could go just right for the Marlins; perhaps the Rockies have the pieces to regain their 2007 NL title. As the Yankees are in the AL, though, the Phillies should be primed for a wire-to-wire run at their third consecutive National League crown.
As the Yankees and Phillies remain baseball’s crown jewels heading into 2010, I can’t help but think about the Mets, a historical rival to both teams and a rival to neither right now. In an e-mail to me and Joe last night, Mike expressed his condolences for Mets’ fans. In the face of their worst finish since 1993 and their second highest loss total since 1993, Omar Minaya and the Mets have basically stood pat. Their biggest move came when Jason Bay signed with them for too many years and too many dollars, and their loudest recent splash involved a move that netted them an outfielder who can’t hit, can’t field and hasn’t flashed much power lately.
It’s true that some of the Mets’ 2009 failures stemmed from bad luck. The team was not equipped to handle the injuries that befell them. But at the same time, they’re heading into 2010 with Fernando Nieve as their fifth starter and Omir Santos as their starting catcher. Bengie Molina saved the team from themselves, but they couldn’t find a league average innings eater type such as Jon Garland to shore up a shaky rotation.
I don’t root against the Mets. I have nothing against the Flushing Faithful, and I believe the city benefits with two competitive baseball teams fighting it out for a playoff spot and media attention. But as the Mets reach a recent nadir, I’m glad to be a Yankee fan. I’m glad to see Brian Cashman actively working to improve the team and generally knowing what does and does not work. If the stars align properly, the Yankees and Phillies should be back in the World Series, and as long as Omar Minaya is in charge in Queens, the Mets will be at home watching.
In the middle of September, Major League Baseball released its preliminary schedule for 2010, and at the time, we had some fun dissecting the Yanks’ slate of 162. With the quirks of the scheduling came our requisite complaints: too many early games against Boston, too many illogical road trips and too many away games in April. On the other hand, the Yanks do get to play the Astros and Diamondbacks while the Red Sox face the Giants and Rockies, but I digress.
Today, baseball unveiled the preliminary start times for the 2010 season, and the Yanks’ official schedule has been updated as such. The schedule is available for download and personal calendar integration in numerous forms right here. The option to add the Yanks’ schedule to Google Calendar option is fantastic for those of whose lives are on Google, and the Outlook/iCal integration is an added perk this year.
Although the broadcast schedules have yet to be announced, we can glean some information from the start times. As we know, the Yanks and Red Sox will square off on Sunday night at 8 p.m. On average, the temperature in Boston on April 4 at 8 p.m. is in the low 40s. Ninja Cano will make his return. The next two games of the season, also in Boston, are night affairs, but the Yanks’ first two games at hand on Tuesday, April 13 and Wednesday, April 14 are both at 1:05 p.m.
In May, the Yanks will be the ESPN team of the month. With a weekend series from May 7-9 and a trip to Citi Field two weekends later, ESPN will broadcast both of the Sunday night games from those series, and FOX will probably take the May 8th game with a TBD start time.
The June TV highlights will be the Yankees/Joe Torre reunion in Chavez Ravine. Both of the weekend games for the Bombers’ trip to Los Angeles currently feature TBD start times, and I’d put money on a FOX/ESPN weekend special. Considering the media markets and the emotional story lines, those games are primed for a ratings bonanza. The week before that trip west, the Mets come to the Bronx, and both of those games will probably be on national TV as well. May and June will feature a lot of Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and Jon Miller.
After that, only the remaining series against Boston are bound to be on TV. Otherwise, the Yankees have done a good job avoiding weekend night games. No home game on a Saturday starts later than 4:05 p.m., and although many Saturday road games are at night, I appreciate the Yanks’ efforts in schedule afternoon affairs.
So that’s that. Now, we just have to wait until Opening Day. April 4, 8:05 p.m. Mark your calendars.
New Era and Major League Baseball really have this marketing thing down pretty well. Every few years, the two overhaul some aspect of the official on-field outfit, and every few years, hat-obsessed fans – like me – gobble up the merchandise. In 2009 alone, I bought three new Yankee hats: the new Yankee Stadium patch cap, the World Series 2009 cap, and a World Series Championship cap. I might draw the line at the new batting practice hat though.
A few years ago, New Era introduced the 3930 batting practice cap. The mesh caps are worn by MLB players throughout Spring Training and supposedly during practice. New Era hypes the CoolBase “vapor management” and “superior drying” technology. Well, OK. If you say so.
This week, New Era has unveiled a restyling of these caps. Sports Business Journal reported that the new caps will retail for $26.99 and go on sale on January 25. According to Gerry Matos, New Era’s SVP of marketing, orders for the new caps are out-pacing last year’s numbers and could exceed those placed in 2007 when the cap company last refreshed the line.
But is this a change for the better? For the Yankees’ caps, the changes are minimal. The home right, on the right above, features a minimal change from the old version with just a new white line running through it. The road caps sports some bands of that familiar road gray. The backs of these caps — not shown in pictures now but the back of the Reds’ cap is available here — are where the design breaks down. It becomes just a mess of colors.
Uniwatch, the blog for all things uniform in professional sports, doesn’t like the new hats. That site, run by uni purists, call these designs “awful” and “atrocious.” I’m not sure I’d go that far, but these new hats just seem unnecessary to me. In the end, it’s just another hat.
So two quick notes that nearly got lost in the crush earlier today: MLB announced this afternoon that the Yankees and Red Sox will open the 2010 season on Sunday, April 4. The game will start at 8:05 p.m. and air on ESPN2. The average temperate for Boston on April 4 at 8 p.m. is around 42 degrees. What a brilliant move by Major League Baseball.
Finally, capping off a busy day of news came the worst development possible for the Yankees. This has nothing to do with a free agent signing or some big trade. No, this one is all about A-Rod for he and Kate Hudson have reportedly broken up. At this point, the Yanks might as well just forfeit the 2010 season for she was the only reason they won. It is truly a sad day in the Bronx.
Throughout the late 1990s, the Yankees won three World Series in a row and came within two outs of a fourth with much of the same cast of characters. In fact, 14 players on the 2001 team were also on the 1998 team, and other than the DH spot, the regular 1998 starting lineup took the field during 2001.
This stability makes the Yankees unique among World Series winners. Most, according to a Jonah Keri article in The Times this weekend, turn over 28 percent of their roster — or approximately seven players — after winning. These moves make teams better, younger and more able to maintain a competitive edge, and the current iteration of the Yankees would do well to heed Keri’s warnings.
First, some numbers. Keri used the introduction of the Wild Card as a baseline, and he found that six of the 13 World Series winners, not counting the 2009 Yankees or the extreme outlier 1997-1998 Marlins, turned over less than a quarter of their rosters and combined to lose 47 games — or nearly eight per team — more than they had in their World Series years. Those teams that turned over more than 25 percent lost just three combined games more the following year. Clearly, a savvy general manager along with some roster machinations can lead to repeated success.
For the Yankees, Keri’s lessons are particularly apt:
The Yankees face another regression-related situation. They had an old roster in 2009. Two of the top three starters, five of the nine starting batters as well as the Hall of Fame closer were 33 or older.
It is possible that 35-year-old Hideki Matsui’s knee problems are behind him and that 28-homer seasons will remain the norm. It is conceivable that Johnny Damon’s tying a career high for homers at 35 (he turned 36 on Nov. 5) means we should expect a big power threat for the next half-decade. It is imaginable that Andy Pettitte, a 15-year veteran who has flirted with retirement in recent years and has nearly 3,000 regular-season innings under his belt, will keep winning games well into his late 30s and beyond.
But it is not likely. Few players are more likely to see a regression in their numbers than those getting well into their 30s who have suddenly had a big bounce-back season. The Yankees caught lightning in a bottle with Matsui, Damon and Pettitte, who are free agents, as well as incumbent 30-somethings like Jorge Posada. Even (gasp) Mariano Rivera cannot fight Father Time forever.
The Yankees, warn Keri, shouldn’t grow complacent, and by extension, neither should the fans. It would, in fact, be foolish for the Yankees and their fans to claim this team can repeat what it did last year without questioning some holes. To that end, the Yanks should look to free agency to boost the team. A few younger bats are out there, and some hurlers who could replace Andy Pettitte loom as well.
But there is a part to Keri’s thesis that he didn’t explore in his column. I e-mailed Jonah today to ask him about the so-called sentimental players who have won over fans by winning a World Series: What if the ‘sentimental guys are 1) on short term deals and 2) are better than other options on the market?
Jonah’s answer was not surprising. “You definitely want to go with incumbents if nothing better is out there,” he wrote. “Of course, something better clearly is out there, between Holliday and Bay, plus maybe some trade candidates. So yes, it could very well be a question of deciding whether, say, Damon at 2/28 is better than Holliday at 7/120. There’s no easy answer to that one – you’d probably just go for the better (and younger) player, since the Yankees can obviously afford it.”
The Yanks can afford Holliday today, but do they want to be paying him in four or five years? That’s the real rub, and the answer is “probably not.”
Oftentimes, good teams are, in part, the product of career years and a good deal of luck. With their walk-off wins and overall season numbers, the Yanks certainly exhibited a combination of the two in 2009. To avoid a fall, expect some roster turnover. If the incumbents can be had for cheap and the big fish sign elsewhere for too much money, as Keri said to me, the Yanks would be golden, and that right now is in the hands of the Front Office.