Monday, November 17, 2008

Buy, Buy, Buy!

There is no doubt in my mind that the 2008 offseason will be defined by what the Yankees do. After making the playoffs for the last 13 seasons, the Yankees finally missed the playoffs this season and seem poised to make some big changes. The Yankees have roughly $80 million dollars coming off the books thanks to the expiring contracts of Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Bobby Abreu, Carl Pavano, and Ivan Rodriguez. So it should come as no surprise that the Yankees have been linked to just about every major free agent (Sabathia, Teixeira, Burnett, Lowe, etc.) and they should be able to flex their financial muscle to acquire at least two of the biggest free agents.

Signing the big names will no doubt increase the buzz at the new Yankee Stadium. The talent that potentially could be on the field for opening day 2009 is scary. GM Brian Cashman has no restraints this many other GMs can say that? None. Life is good when you have deep pockets. Or at least it should be.

But I question whether the Yankees will actually be able to win simply by buying the best players on the market. The best teams have been built through the farm system and trades, using free agency as a complimentary piece to the Championship puzzle. Just look at the 2008 Phillies and the 2008 Rays. Each team built the foundation through the farm system while using free agency to selectively upgrade certain weaknesses. While the Yankees have a great farm system, I wonder how any of these guys will actually get playing time because the Yankees have (and will have) so many long term contracts.

In contrast, let’s look at the post 2000 Yankees. Sure they have had Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera; but the post dynasty Yankees are defined by big names and splashy free agent signings. While the Yankees made the playoffs for every season prior to 2008, they never won any championships despite Steinbrenner’s best efforts at giving the Yankees the best players and whatever resources they need. There is no doubt that the Yankees had tons of talent, but I think every Yankee fan can agree with me when I say that something was missing from these Yankees. Maybe it’s that most of their players are aging veterans, who not what they used to be, even if they are very good. Or maybe it’s the pressure of the Steinbrenner Doctrine, which declares that anything short of a World Championship is a failure. How could any team perform well with such unrealistic expectations? Or maybe the Yankees lack a certain cohesiveness that binds together players who have a collective chip on their shoulder and the personal goal of a lucrative contract.

The Yankees will undoubtedly be a hot pick to win the World Series in 2009. They will have stars at every position, each serving as a brand name for the powerful Yankee Corporation. I for one will not be picking the Yankees to win it all in 2009 if they spend absurd amounts of money on multiple players. They can solve every weakness on their team by outspending everyone else, but there is no doubt in my mind that something will still be missing. Baseball is about TEAM and I don't think the Yankees will win until they move away from the mindset that they need to build through signing the most expensive free agents.

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