What Mike Lupica is saying today -
The headline is that the Yankees have a budget. We are supposed to believe that this budget is the reason that Johnny Damon goes now. Sure it is.
Now you can take the Yankees at their word, buy this notion that they can’t spend $200 million on baseball players anymore. But if you do, you sort of have to wonder if the team really is rolling in dough, the way we’re constantly told. Printing money like they’re the Goldman Sachs Yankees.
But for now the story, and the Yankees are sticking to it, is that they’ve got a by-God budget. That they couldn’t afford what they say Damon wanted. Or what they thought he wanted. Or what they were afraid Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, might try to weasel out of them, because nobody can out-weasel Boras.
Really? Johnny Damon turns out to be the one guy the Yankees can’t afford? It would be like finding the one bar girl Tiger Woods didn’t want to take home with him.
This Yankee budget, by the way, revolves around the completely arbitrary figure of $200 million. To them, it is some kind of magic number, even though nobody else in baseball spends anything close to that, has ever spent anything close, will ever spend anything close to that.
If you are keeping score at home, the $220 million they spent last season (according to ESPN’s accounting at the end of the season) is $78 million more than the Mets, who had the second-biggest payroll in the sport, and $80 million more than the Red Sox. It is $82 million more than the Phillies, their opponent in the World Series. But now Yankee fans are told their team went for Nick Johnson over Damon because Johnson is cheaper labor.
But does anybody believe that Johnny Damon, who helped beat the Yankees in 2004 when he was with the Red Sox and played such a spectacular World Series for the Yankees five years later against the Phillies, has to go because of money? Or because Boras made Brian Cashman mad?
Let me see if I have this straight: Boras’ No. 1 top-dog client, Alex Rodriguez, got to opt out of his Yankees contract during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, show up the Yankees as much as anybody ever has, but that wasn’t a career-ender in New York?
Are you kidding? Not only did Rodriguez get paid to come back, he got over-paid, even with the Yankees bidding only against themselves. We were told at the time that it played out that way only because Rodriguez went back to the Yankees himself, hat in hand, Boras nowhere to be found. Right. Then A-Rod negotiated the $300 million contract himself.
If all that didn’t make a Boras client an ex-Yankee, nothing ever will.
Of course Cashman doesn’t want to be regarded as the guy who can only buy the World Series. Of course he wants to have the kind of rep as a personnel savant the way Theo Epstein and Billy Beane do. Of course he did make a whole series of terrific small moves to improve the ’09 Yankees.
Except: Except none of those moves matters if Cashman didn’t get to spend nearly a half-billion dollars on CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira last winter! And if the Yankees don’t win this season, you can only imagine what happens to this new budget next winter if somebody like Joe Mauer is in play. What kind of money will they throw at him?
Mike Lupica is a columnist for the Daily News. His feature (which is quoted above) was not subject to the approval of WasWatching.com. But, if asked, this author would have given it two thumbs, way up, for being dead, solid, perfect.