• The Steinbrenner Gene Kicking In?

    Posted by on February 21st, 2013 · Comments (13)

    From Wally Matthews today -

    In light of the mounting evidence that the New York Yankees are now suddenly, desperately seeking to hold onto Robinson Cano, I asked a baseball person with intimate knowledge of the Yankees, Scott Boras and the economics of the game in general if there was any chance the Bombers and Cano could reach agreement on a contract extension without having to get into a full-scale bidding war on the free-agent market.

    The man responded with an expletive, followed by the word “no.”

    Which doesn’t mean Cano will not be a Yankee next year, only that the Yankees aren’t going to get off as lightly as they have for the past two seasons, when they enjoyed the services of a Rogers Hornsby-caliber player at an Ian Kinsler-level paycheck.

    But rather than focus on the likelihood that Hal Steinbrenner’s attempt to avoid the feeding frenzy of free agency will fail, Yankees fans should be encouraged by the fact that he is at least willing to play the game.

    As another source told me on Wednesday, “This is the first time since George died that it appears a Steinbrenner is actually running the Yankees.”

    Translation: That $189 million? Forget about it. Large checks are about to be cut, not payroll.

    In any case, Hal’s recent words and deeds indicate if not a sea change in his thinking, at least a shift in his perception of how the Yankees should be run.

    Up until a few weeks ago, he seemed to be under the impression that the New York Yankees were a business, like IBM or the American Shipbuilding Company once owned and operated by his old man.

    Now, he seems to realize that the only bottom line that truly matters with the Yankees is the win-loss record, and preferably of games played in late October.

    Technically, he was right last spring training when he said, “Plenty of teams win without the kind of payrolls we have.”

    There is no doubt that a year ago, he was serious about trimming the payroll to $189 million, to keep his team under the new revenue-sharing threshold that kicks in for the 2014 season.

    “It was an absolute mandate,” a source told me.

    But recently, it has become obvious that the expected windfall from the payroll cut — as much as $60 million in rebates and luxury tax reductions — is likely to be a whole lot less, since three of the teams that had been expected to qualify for revenue sharing (Atlanta, Washington and Toronto) are now expected to be successful at the box office, and thus are no longer eligible for baseball’s version of corporate welfare.

    And there is another, more visceral reason for Steinbrenner’s attitude adjustment. He seems to have learned what his father instinctively knew: That everyone loves a winner, but nobody likes a finance geek.

    According to the proverbial insider with knowledge, Hal was “freaked out” by the negative reaction from Yankees fans at what they perceived to be a trend toward “cheapness” from a club that had always been known for wild extravagance.

    (I’m not privy to the internal financial workings of the Yankees, but it’s possible that advance season ticket sales for 2013 have reflected that perception.)

    In any event, someone within the Yankees organization apparently did the math and came to the conclusion that cutting tens of millions of dollars in payroll would cost the club hundreds of millions in the long run, if only through the devaluing of the brand.

    Over the past five years, baseball’s revenues have gone nowhere but up. This is certainly no time for the Yankees’ payroll to be going down.

    I cannot believe this is all about the fear of the Yankees “only” drawing, say, 3.2 million fans at home in 2013. Most teams would sign up for that number in a heartbeat. And, I would not be shocked if this “new Hal” was just for show and nothing is going to change in the way the Yankees are now being run (since Big Stein has passed).

    Comments on The Steinbrenner Gene Kicking In?

    1. MJ Recanati
      February 21st, 2013 | 8:26 am

      If the “Steinbrenner gene” is kicking in then we can safely say that the gene controls the “stupid” instinct as in, it would be stupid to sign Cano to what the market will bear for him (at least 8Y; at least $170M).

      Only a Steinbrenner could continue to dole out long term deals on the one hand and then handcuff the team’s spending on the other hand. Typical, confused, dysfunctional Steinbrenner.

    2. Ricketson
      February 21st, 2013 | 7:23 pm

      “This is certainly no time for the Yankees’ payroll to be going down.” Great news for Brian Cashman.

    3. McMillan
      February 21st, 2013 | 7:30 pm

      Ricketson wrote:

      Great news for Brian Cashman.

      Unfortunately.

    4. February 21st, 2013 | 9:26 pm

      According to the proverbial insider with knowledge, Hal was “freaked out” by the negative reaction from Yankees fans at what they perceived to be a trend toward “cheapness” from a club that had always been known for wild extravagance.

      (I’m not privy to the internal financial workings of the Yankees, but it’s possible that advance season ticket sales for 2013 have reflected that perception.)

      I think Wally hit the target. The YES rating were at a record low last year, the ugly Detroit series (with plenty of seats available), the watching paint dry quality of the Yankee offseason, and the StubHub blowoff added to an aging team has a trouble in River City feel to it.

      That said, trying to wrap Cano up makes no sense. He will be super motivated this season to do well, and might even be seen actually running a ground ball or two out.

    5. Evan3457
      February 21st, 2013 | 9:29 pm

      I agree with MJ. Signing Cano to anything more than a 4-5 year contract will prove an enormous mistake.

      On the other hand, it’s Wally Matthews, so it might be nothing more than horse manure.

    6. Greg H.
      February 22nd, 2013 | 11:23 am

      McMillan wrote:

      Ricketson wrote:
      Great news for Brian Cashman.
      Unfortunately.

      How so? Because Hal orders him to lock up another roster spot with an overpriced player in the declining years of his game? This is the kind of Steinbrenner posturing that ultimately hinders the ability of the GM to assemble a team. It’s not an open checkbook, it’s a transfer of directives from the owners to the GM. I can easily see this being a directive of “sign Cano because he’s the only remaining legacy player, but after that there’s no money for other needs.” In other words be frugal unless we say not to. I’d have no problem trading him or letting him walk, since he’ll get 7-8 years from some team, and Boras knows it.

    7. McMillan
      February 23rd, 2013 | 8:50 pm

      Greg H. wrote:

      This is the kind of Steinbrenner posturing that ultimately hinders the ability of the GM to assemble a team.

      This G.M. does not occupy the position he has but for his father’s personal relationship with George M. Steinbrenner. And this GM has had since 1998 to demonstrate his “ability to assemble a team” while “hindered” the highest payrolls in M.L.B. each year – sometimes by tens-of-millions-of-dollars.
      If this organization can’t win more than 1 world championship in 10 years and in a timeframe in which multiple other teams have won 2 world championships with half of the payroll because of “orders” such as to sign Rodriguez, Jeter, or Soriano, perhaps its time to replace or reassign people with executive management roles, and this G.M. in particular.
      Greg H. wrote:

      In other words be frugal unless we say not to.

      $46 million for Kei Igawa, or $26.1 million for Clemens for 1 season is not an “open checkbook?” Only a Brian Cashman team could hold the following distinction: A team with both: 1. the highest payroll in M.L.B. history; and 2. the lowest postseason series batting avg. M.L.B. history, in the same season.
      Greg H. wrote:

      I’d have no problem trading him or letting him walk, since he’ll get 7-8 years from some team, and Boras knows it.

      I have hoped the team would trade Cano for years. The 1998 team did not need a player with the talent of a Robinson Cano, and Cano gives far less than 100% far too often. So, once again, it comes down to this G.M.

    8. McMillan
      February 23rd, 2013 | 8:54 pm

      Evan3457 wrote:

      On the other hand, it’s Wally Matthews, so it might be nothing more than horse manure.

      I understand Wally Matthews “predicts” an offensive dropoff of 50 runs (maybe 60) that should be offset by a defensive improvement of about 30 runs, all told; and 90-92 wins.

    9. Evan3457
      February 24th, 2013 | 2:12 am

      McMillan wrote:

      Evan3457 wrote:
      On the other hand, it’s Wally Matthews, so it might be nothing more than horse manure.
      I understand Wally Matthews “predicts” an offensive dropoff of 50 runs (maybe 60) that should be offset by a defensive improvement of about 30 runs, all told; and 90-92 wins.

      Nicely trolled. Care to make an intelligent comment now?

    10. Evan3457
      February 24th, 2013 | 2:22 am

      @ McMillan:

      This G.M. does not occupy the position he has but for his father’s personal relationship with George M. Steinbrenner.

      You keep posting this as if you know this for a fact.

      It’s true, his father’s relationship with Steinbrenner got him the intern job he held for three years, but there’s no way you can prove he didn’t move up the ladder in the organization on his own merits. Bob Watson is known to have recommended him to takeover as GM when Watson resigned in 1998.

    11. Raf
      February 24th, 2013 | 4:26 pm
    12. McMillan
      October 6th, 2013 | 9:16 pm

      McMillan wrote:

      This G.M. does not occupy the position he has but for his father’s personal relationship with George M. Steinbrenner…

      Evan3457 wrote:

      Nicely trolled. Care to make an intelligent comment now?

      @ Evan3457:
      October, 2013:

      “’I’m not afraid of the reality,’ Cashman said. ‘… We recognize there are some challenges that we have to deal with – and we’re up for that challenge. But I can’t tell you at the same time, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine.” It’s going to take some time.’”

      LOL – “I can’t tell you, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine.’ It’s going to take some time.” How does 2017 sound?

    13. Evan3457
      October 7th, 2013 | 3:15 am

      McMillan wrote:

      McMillan wrote:
      This G.M. does not occupy the position he has but for his father’s personal relationship with George M. Steinbrenner…
      Evan3457 wrote:
      Nicely trolled. Care to make an intelligent comment now?
      @ Evan3457:
      October, 2013:
      “’I’m not afraid of the reality,’ Cashman said. ‘… We recognize there are some challenges that we have to deal with – and we’re up for that challenge. But I can’t tell you at the same time, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine.” It’s going to take some time.’”
      LOL – “I can’t tell you, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine.’ It’s going to take some time.” How does 2017 sound?

      Probably contending sooner than that. The pursestrings open up again next fall.

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