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News of the Day – 12/30/08

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  • Add Astros’ owner Drayton McLane to those who see what the Yankees are doing, and then voices an interest in a salary cap:

“We would love to have a salary cap, but the (players’) union has been very resistant to that,” McLane said last week. …

“The Yankees are the Yankees and are always going to be in a
position that is unique to the game from the standpoint of the revenues and what they’re capable of doing,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. …

“Our revenues jumped going into a new park (in 2000), but nowhere in the league of the Yankees,” McLane said. “They will certainly generate more revenue in their new stadium. We still have tough, tough economic times, and I hope they allot for that.” …

… the club is bracing to be hit hard as corporate sponsors rethink how to spend their advertising dollars in a troubled economy. The Astros lost one of their major sponsors earlier this year when Landmark Chevrolet went bankrupt.

“These are challenging times for banks and car dealerships,” McLane said. “None of us have knowledge of what the economy is going to do, and that’s a concern for everyone.”

  • SI.com’s Frank Deford rails against the Yankees spending, and will henceforth refer to them as the “Antoinettes”:

Now, let us give the devil its due. The Bronx Bombers play by the rules. They pay their luxury tax on time, without whining. One of their executives even says that the team’s fans view the Antoinettes as a “sacred trust,” and that part of the attendant liturgy is that the club will pour profits back into inventory —- even if it means bidding against itself.

But still, there is a point, whether the economy is boom or bust, when one team’s extravagance is so gross that it tarnishes the sense of competition. New York’s dominance a half-century ago severely diminished the whole American League. It was the Yankees and the seven dwarfs. The financial spectacle that the Antoinettes have put on display this off-season really does come close to trampling on the spirit of the game. In sport, the prime idea should be to root for our team —- not against the other fellows. The Antoinettes, by their excess, imperil that emotional equation and risk doing damage to the very thing they seek to dominate.

  • Also at SI.com, Ben Reiter has a brief analysis that seems to stress that even with the three major additions, the Yanks may not be as good as some people think.
  • ReelSportsFan.com offers this video clip of an interview with Andy Pettitte, conducted prior to the signings.

  • The Boston Globe’s Tony Massarotti suggests the Sox only have themselves to blame for not nabbing Teixeira:

…. let’s make something clear here: The Red Sox had a chance. Any suggestion that the Sox could not (and can not) compete for free agents with New York is utter nonsense because the Sox have signed high-profile free agents in the past.

For a moment, let’s look at the cases of Daisuke Matsuzaka and J.D. Drew, the former of whom, admittedly, was not a true free agent. Still, when the Sox bid for Matsuzaka’s rights, they blew away the field with a bid of $51.11 million that was 30-40 percent higher than any other offer. Why is this relevant? Because the Sox did the same for Drew, flattening him with a $70 million offer that left him with little choice but to sign.

With Teixeira, the Sox were not nearly as aggressive. The bottom line is that other teams (excluding the Yankees) were in the same neighborhood, which allowed Teixeira to drag out the process. Had the Sox come out of the gate with, say, an eight-year offer for $184 million, maybe they could have gotten the deal done. Maybe it would have taken $192 million. But if the Sox came out strong — very strong — and gave Teixeira a short window to accept, their chances might have been better.

If Teixeira then had balked, the Sox would have had their answer: Teixeira never wanted to come here.

Instead, the Sox left the door open for the Yankees to swoop in, which created an array of issues. Most notably, by the time Teixeira made his decision, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett both had signed with New York, making the Yankees a more attractive destination; earlier on, that was not the case. By allowing the process to drag, the Sox enhanced New York’s position.

When you want a free agent, you knock him over. You give more than anyone else to eliminate all doubt. If he doesn’t accept, he doesn’t want to play for you.

[My take: It could also be that the Sox never really had a chance, given the noise we heard after the signing that Teixeira felt the Sox had misled other teams about his intentions during the 1998 amateur draft.]

  • The Red Sox have fought back against the Yankees free-wheeling spending by signing FAs Brad Penny and Josh Bard each to one-year deals.

[My take: Having signed Bard and Penny, will any game involving this particular battery be advertised as a discount offering of  "Shakespeare in the (Fenway) Park? (aka .... 'The Bard for a Penny')"    Will games in Papelbon takes over for Brad be known as "Pennysavers"?  Will 'Simpsons' TV series and PIXAR movie director Brad Bird get confused by the Red Sox now having acquired Brad and a Bard, but no longer having a Byrd?  Will Penny be upset at the Yankees for messing up what could have been the best-named battery ever (Penny-Cash)?  Will I ever get back to giving Banter readers the news?]

[My take: There are no current Yanks on the list to worry about, and no players of those likely not to be picked up would seemingly appeal to the Bombers.]

  • The Hot Stove Blog over at MLB.com reports that the Dodgers have some interest in ex-Yankee Bobby Abreu.
  • For those of you thinking of seeing the 2009 Yanks at Spring Training, Pete Abe has his annual travel guide.
  • MLB.com has announced that its new network will be available to New York City-based customers on the following channels: DirecTV (213), RCN (391), Time Warner (174).
  • He never was a Yankee, but we must offer a happy 73rd birthday to Brooklyn’s own Sandy Koufax.  Similarly, a happy 77th birthday to Brooklynite Frank Torre.
  • On this date in 1995, FA pitcher Kenny Rogers is signed by the Yankees to a four-year contract.
  • On this date in 2002, 40-year old Roger Clemens agrees to a $10.1 million, one-year deal with the New York Yankees.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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27 comments

1 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 10:00 am

The complaints about the Yankees are so tiresome. At least when it's another owner you figure he's just angling to get a salary cap to weaken the players union and thus, ultimately, lower his own payroll.

2 Bum Rush   ~  Dec 30, 2008 10:33 am

Could Deford, who I usually like, be more of a petualant child? Seriously, when did he turn into Bill Simmons' spawn?

When the Yankees spent next to nothing last Winter, was he applauding? If the Sox (or Nationals) succeeded in signing Teixeira, would he be bemoaning the state of baseball?

The Yankees have had the highest payroll for at least a decade now. How has that worked out? For them? For baseball?

Grow up. Get rational.

3 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 30, 2008 10:45 am

[1] Cheapskate McLane doesn't even care to spend money on the draft - go read Keith Law or Kevin Goldstein's comments about the Astros' drafts in '06 and '07. He's also another of Seligula's oldest and dearest friends, so I'm not surprised to hear such things from him.

"Boo hoo, we have a team in the 6th biggest metro area in the nation, how can we possibly have the revenues of the Yankees?"

Dear Drayton,

Maybe if you bothered to spend money on the draft, hadn't traded half your most useful prospects for Miguel Tejada ('09 salary: $13M); weren't paying Carlos Lee (.344 career OBP and if you look at his defense stats in LF, you'll cringe) $18.5M/year for the next four years - his age 33-36 seasons, no less; and didn't throw millions at somewhat useless role players (Kaz Matsui, LaTroy Hawkins, etc.); you could actually, you know, have a winning team on the field with your ~$90M payroll.

[2] I will continue to refer to Deford as "Hack" as long as he continues to spew such garbage.

4 seattleyank   ~  Dec 30, 2008 10:48 am

Deford passed from relevant to blowhard several years ago. The guy is so pompous.

5 Cru Jones   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:02 am

[2] Uhh, the Yanks signed A-Rod, Mo and Po for around $375 million last winter......

6 JL25and3   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:08 am

I think it's entirely legitimate to say that the Yankees' huge financial advantage has, in fact, distorted the process. That's not to criticize the Yankees, who are doing exactly what they should, but it doesn't speak well of the process.

However, a salary cap isn't the answer. All that does is force the Steinbrenners to put the money in their own pockets rather than giving it to the players. A change in the revenue-sharing plan makes much more sense.

7 Cru Jones   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:13 am

[6] In the end, though, won't a more distributionist revenue-sharing plan have the same effect as a salary cap? At some point, high-income teams will hit a "salary cap" caused by their need to share revenue, no?

A salary cap would be OK if there were also a salary floor. For every Yankee dollar the Yanks can't spend, there'd be a Marlin or Ray dollar that would HAVE to be spent....I'd think the cap and floor could be set at levels that would make the union happy (same gross salary spent by the owners) and the non-high revenue clubs/fans happy (greater perception of fairness).

8 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:20 am

[6] I think its just a matter of front offices getting smarter about what they pay the mid-level stars. Case in point (not to pick on McLane anymore): Carlos Lee. He's a far worse player than Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, and Bobby Abreu - not nearly as good with the bat as those guys, and just as bad (if not worse) defensively. But whereas he
got a 6 year, $100M deal two offseasons ago, none of those 3 is going to approach that kind of money, despite being better players, and in Dunn's case, younger too. Oh, and despite being the 3 best available hitters on the market who aren't nut cases (Manny).

More teams will lock up their outstanding young players at reasonable prices with pre-arbitration contracts (Reyes and Wright with the Mets, Longoria with the Rays, Hanley with the Marlins, etc.), and on the rare occasion when a true superstar hits the open market (CC), he'll get paid big time.

But as teams get smarter, those mid-level stars aren't going to see huge, big money contracts, because teams aren't going to value them as highly. That there are fewer foolish GMs in the game than ever before helps a lot too. (My count is Ed Wade, Jim
Bowden, maybe Brian Sabean, and because I really don't understand what he's doing at the MLB level, Drayton Moore. YMMV.)

9 JL25and3   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:23 am

[7] The difference is where the bloated Yankee revenues go. A salary cap just forces the Steinbrenners to keep it. Revenue sharing spreads it around to the have-nots.

There still needs to be a salary floor, some assurance that the revenue-sharing $$ won't go into Kevin McClatchy's failing newspapers, or Carl Pohlad's pocket.

It seems to me that the players, overall, would also benefit. There might not be as much money for the tippy-top free agents, but more teams would be able to spend more money on more players.

10 JL25and3   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:26 am

[8] That's all true. It also doesn't change the fact that the Yankee money distorts the process and gives them an unfair advantage. They're free to throw money at whomever, without having to make any of those tough decisions. If they make a bad decision on a contract - or just one that turns out wrong - they can paper it over with more money.

It also distorts the salary structure, making it more difficult for those other teams to make the good decisions you're talking about.

11 ChrisS   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:27 am

[6 & 7] Unfortunately, without the books being thrown open and the subsidiaries accounted for in the financials, it's all just wishful thinking. The owners want a salary cap and nothing else. The players want a salary floor and greater revenue sharing. The haves would like to get rid of revenue sharing and the have-nots want greater revenue sharing. But in the grand scheme of things, all owners will make sick amounts of money off of their franchises when they sell and there's no need to upend the apple cart. Regardless of casual threats of boycotts, the fans keep coming and the TV money keeps pouring in.

It's damn good to be a baseball owner and it's certainly not bad to be be an all-star performer or a #3 or better starting pitcher.

Pro-sports economics suck.

12 JL25and3   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:32 am

[11] Agreed. Nothing's going to change. In fact, for all their complaining, I hope that the other owners realize that a best-money-can-buy Yankee team - one that everyone else really hates - is great for their business.

As long as the system stinks as much as it does, I'm glad (as a Yankee fan) to be a beneficiary of it. It still stinks.

13 ChrisS   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:37 am

The Steinbrenner business model worked for the Yankees, but they're kind of a unique franchise in that they have a spectacular history to sell as well as a current winner. The Cards could do the same, but they're just not in the same size market and they do what they can.

If he kept say the $30 million a year saved from payroll during the 80s and 90s, and instead fielded a team of Hensley Muelens and .500 teams, would the franchise have a money-tree in the YES Network and be worth a billion and half or so? I'm not sure.

It'd also be interesting to throw another franchise in the Tri-State area. The market could certainly support them, but they would lack the historic cachet (similar to the Mets). What would the NY market look like if the Giants and Dodgers still played in NYC and never left? Would the Yankees have such a financial advantage?

14 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:43 am

[13] There should be at least another team in the massive greater NYC market.

[7], [9] There already is a de facto salary floor, since the players have negotiated a fixed minimum salary. But the general point is well taken: a salary floor that is closer to the salary maximum (if one were imposed) would be necessary.

[10] The Yankees have advantages, but are they "unfair"? That is a philosophical/ideological question. However, depending on the way one measures it, MLB is more competitive now than it has ever been (except for maybe the mid 80s). The system does not seem to be broken, despite the hand wringing, so why fix it?

15 The Hawk   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:45 am

I just don't know why there's so much squawking NOW. As far as I know the Yankees' payroll is about the same as last year.

16 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:07 pm

[7] [9] [11] [14] My understanding is that Don Fehr & Co will never agree to a salary floor, because its a slippery slope away from a salary cap.

[13] [14] I'd have no problems with a third MLB team in the NY metro area, but practically, I don't think it works. Where do the fans come from? What drives the interest? Are there really 2-3 million non-Yankee and Met baseball fans in NYC who'd happily attach themselves to a brand new team? Without big interest - and thus the ability to negotiate a large cable/radio deal, and generate lots of merchandise and ticket sales - I don't see how a 3rd NY team cuts down on the Yanks and Mets huge revenue advantages.

To me, the only way a third NY team could work at cutting down Yankee/Met revenue is if the Dodgers or Giants moved back east. But that's not happening.

17 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:15 pm

[15] Hawk, you're correct. But as I'm sure you're aware, there would have been squawking regardless. From the media as they've signed three of the top free agents for the years and dollars that they have, and from us if they lost out. And everyone is entitled to their opinion. I thought Deford's piece was fine, but where his piece and many others of a similar tenor lose their grip is when they veer into competitive imbalance. It's senseless for GMs and owners to cry foul there, also, because if they could afford those players, they'd be doing the same thing.

Here's what we know: The best players individually don't necessarily comprise the best team. That's how the Yankees have been beaten. FACT: Five of the eight playoff teams in '08 were in the top 10 in payroll. FACT: The team with the 13th-highest payroll played the team with the second-lowest payroll in the WS. It was the second straight year a team in the top 15 in payroll played a team in the bottom 10. FACT: 17 of 30 MLB teams finished at .500 or better, and outside of Tampa Bay, three teams in the bottom third (Arizona, Minnesota, and Florida), all had realistic playoff chances through September. ... [11] [12] The NFL model, of the national television contracts, the salary cap and revenue sharing, gives more teams a chance on a year-to-year basis. But they don't treat their players as well in terms of guaranteed money, pensions, etc., because of the NFLPA's weak position. The NFL won't allow any player or league to be bigger than it. MLB, from what I've experienced, researched and observed, is not as hard-line.

Apologies for the long post. For more words, my column will be posted today.

18 JL25and3   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:18 pm

[15] The fact that it hasn't gone up from last year - might even go down a tiny bit - isn't really relevant to the main argument.

[14] Yes, it is unfair. It's not prohibitive - it still doesn't wrap things up in April, and there's a dumb-luck factor that overrides just about anything else in October. It still allows the Yankees to operate on different terms from any other team.

The competitiveness is also a little bit of a sham. A lot of different teams have found themselves as winners over the last 10 years or so. One reason is that virtually none of them are able to sustain that winning team for very long. The Yankees and Red Sox are exceptions; so were the Braves, when Turner was playing Steinbrenner.

There are a couple of other teams that should be able to build that same kind of advantage: the Red Sox, Mets, Cards, Cubs, Dodgers. That doesn't come close to a level playing field.

19 JL25and3   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:20 pm

[14], [17] Oh, and another reason that baseball is more competitive than it's ever been: three divisions and a wild card have enabled crappier teams to get to the postseason, where that dumb-luck factor comes back into it.

20 The Hawk   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:40 pm

[18] The main argument is what it always has been. Unless something changes, it'll always be that way. I'm not talking about the argument itself, but about the quantity and intensity level of a lot of commentary. All I'm saying is, some people are reacting to the signings of late 2008 as if the Yankees shot their dog. There's no logical reason the argument should have so much passion this year as opposed to last. It's just perception. Sign your own guys (Posada and Mo) for too much money or have guys still on the team you signed for ridiculous money years ago (Giambi), and there are just the usual complaints. This year's moves may look bad in a superficial sense, but looking a little closer (the lack of overall payroll increase is a start), it becomes clear that a lot of the response has been overreaction.

I'd also add that Sabathia and Teixeira are replacements for their 2008 ace and 2008 first baseman/slugger. Teixeira and Burnett had comparable offers from other teams and didn't take them. Does anyone really think Teixeira was holding out for the extra 1.5 million a year he got from the Yanks over the Sox? I really think only Sabathia qualifies as a signing only the Yankees could have pulled off, and it was an important one, at least to them.

21 Benjamin Kabak   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:57 pm

The MLB Network is not a part of MLB.com. They're completely separate entities in the hierarchy of baseball.

22 monkeypants   ~  Dec 30, 2008 12:58 pm

[19] Exactly, so the "problem" has been largely fixed already by a redistributive model, one that redistributes teams and playoff spots rather than wealth. The only team that gets screwed in this model is the Rays--I refuse to accept for a moment that the Orioles, Sox and Jays (in one of the largest, wealthiest markets in North America, with a national TV audience of over 30 million people) cannot compete with the Yankees because of market/financial constraints.

[16] You may be right, but I suspect that a team in, say NJ, would have its own following. Also, there may be initial passive "anti-support" for a third team: in other words, if another NY team were placed in the AL, would mets fans support it against the Yankees? Would Boston or Baltimore fans attend games because tix are relatively easy to get, to see their own team or root against other teams? A reasonable TV deal is a more difficult obstacle, but not insurmountable.

I just figure that in a metro market of 20+ million, and an even larger extra-metro market, it should not be impossible to find a couple of million fans.

23 SteveAmerica   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:18 pm

Dear Frank Deford,

As usual, yawn.

Love

Steve

24 SteveAmerica   ~  Dec 30, 2008 1:20 pm

i think the payroll is actually a few clicks lower.

25 ChrisS   ~  Dec 30, 2008 2:56 pm

I think complaining about the Yankees' payroll and revenue is always there, simmering. This year the financial advantage is particularly apparent and actually helps them more than recently. Paying $325 million for a 38 yo relief pitcher, 37 yo catcher, and a MVP they already had under contract is one thing, like shelling out $180-210 million for likes of Pavano, Wright, Johnson, Brown, Giambi, etc. the last few years. The Yankees spent a lot, but in the end they weren't so dangerous. Most baseball writers and GMs (despite popular opinion) are pretty bright and they know that the Yankees taking the top three free agents bang bang bang, while building a younger, better team in the process is dangerous.

Of course, for example, in 3 years when Sabathia is recovering from his labrum surgery, AJ Burnett is struggling, and Teixeira is good but not great, ARod and Jeter are scuffling, no one will be complaining about the Yankees high payroll. And despite the acquisitions, the Yankees are no lock to win the Serious (Sure, to win 85-95 games, I'd definitely take that bet), but there're holes that could have this team scuffling (e.g., Posada, Cano, CF, and possibilities for decline in Matsui, Jeter, Damon).

26 Joel   ~  Dec 30, 2008 6:53 pm

"Wah! Wah! I want a salary cap."

"Wah! Wah! I want cost certainty."

"Wah! Wah! I want built-in profit--even if I field a shitty product."

27 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 30, 2008 10:09 pm

[18] Fairness is relative. What I think is unfair is the notion that the Yankees should be held to spending limits because other teams do not have the same fan interest. MLB is a regional sport, and the areas that care about baseball the most are in the Northeast. As a result, those teams are able to attract more revenue. For that reason, I have no problem with teams in larger baseball markets being able to invest more. Why? Because more people care about the teams and are willing to spend money when they can root for a winner.

The notion of a salary cap is also nonsense because unlike the NFL, MLB revenues are driven by local efforts. With a national TV contract comprising the lionshare of its revenue, there is no need for local markets to have the incentive to create new revenue. In baseball, however, massive revenue sharing would essentially place the risk burden on local teams, while the league reaps the reward. Why would any team invest millions into local revenue effort when they'd have to split the reward 30 ways?

The NFL has designed its sport to be appealing TV programming. It's high ratings are the result of scarcity and casual interest, the latter stemming from gambling concerns. With a revenue base that is posied to leap past the NFL, baseball would be wise to throw the NFL blueprint into the fire.

Finally, a salary cap creates an inefficient allocation of league resources, which is why NFL owners are no considering abandoning it. It makes no sense to have a salary floor because it mandates spending...even when such an action would be unwise. As a result, players in the NFL and NBA make a larger percentage of league revenue than in MLB. Deep down, I don't believe any MLB owner wants an NFL style system because it would require most to raise salaries and then hope the Yankees and Red Sox are willing to continue to grow revenue to add to the bottom line.

The bottom line is that outside of the Rays, every team has a very fair chance to make the playoffs (the Yankees can't win the other divisions). If the Royals, for example, are unwilling to spend money to make money, well, that's their problem. Furthermore, if the KC market still wouldn't support a winner, then they don't deserve a franchise. Having the Yankees curtail their operations for such teams is the definition of unfair.

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