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).