I had promised a few readers an article on the PECOTA projections this morning, but will push that until next week because SG over at RLYW has suggested that their math is a bit off, and Colin Wyers has responded that they are looking into it. I will wait until there is more news on that before I discuss it.
Anyhow, Mike Lupica wrote a column this morning so ridiculously devoid of logic that it needed to be addressed. I am going to go at it FJM-style, addressing the most egregious suggestions made by the once-great writer whose opinions have, for the most part, jumped the shark.
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.
Just because a team is “rolling in dough” does not mean that they should not have a budget. The fact that the Yankees were run as if they were a trust for fans for the last 30 years does not mean that they should be forced to operate that way in perpetuity. They have chosen to act like the business that they are, and maximize profits. Doing so requires setting a budget, so as to have some cost certainty when planning for the upcoming season. The Yankees are not cutting costs because they are running out of cash. Rather, they are doing so to try and become as efficient as possible.
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.
Again, Lupica’s column shows a lack of understanding regarding a fairly basic concept. Lupica is trying to plant the idea that it is ridiculous for the Yankees to reject Johnny Damon after all of the money that they have spent on players. However, Johnny Damon is not “the one guy the Yankees cannot afford.” At this point, they have reached the line in the sand that they drew and therefore cannot afford anyone. This has nothing to do with them rejecting Damon in particular.
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.
This is where the column loses me for good. Lupica baldly states that the Yankees budget is an arbitrarily drawn line when he has no evidence to that point. I do not think they need Johnny Damon, but it is hard to deny that he would help the 2010 Yankees. It is highly doubtful that they would not push the budget past 200 million for him if it was simply an arbitrarily drawn line. It is significantly more likely that they analyzed their likely revenues and projected costs and then came to a fairly precise figure that they were comfortable paying on salaries. To call the line arbitrary is a serious claim, and one that would require actual reporting and evidence to make.
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?
Yes, I believe that Damon, who was a very good player for the Yankees, had to go because of money. I also believe that if Scott Boras had read the market a bit better and come down on his asking price prior to the Yankees signing Nick Johnson, Damon would likely still be a Yankee. Finally, I believe that Lupica is creating a storyline here that does not exist, by suggesting that they let Damon go due to problems with Boras and then comparing him to A-Rod.
Ignoring the fact that it was the Steinbrenners, not Cashman, who worked things out with Alex, the Yankees did not pass on Damon because Boras made them mad. As Lupica himself makes clear by citing the A-Rod situation, that is not the way the Yankees operate. They, like most properly run organizations, decide whether the player makes sense for them on the field and then make decisions based on that. The parallel to A-Rod is intellectually dishonest because it suggests a reasoning behind the decision that Boras himself has not claimed, let alone the Yankees. The Yankees’ sole issue with Scott is that he priced Damon out of their market and is now trying to suggest that they never entered the market.
You know what the bottom line is on this sudden bottom line the Yankees have? If they wanted Damon to play two more years here, he’d be playing two more years here. They just don’t want to say that. And for some loopy reason, they want to act as if they’re the victims here.
Lupica is suggesting that if the Yankees wanted Damon back, he would be back, and that they are simply covering up a lack of interest due to heretofore unrevealed reasons. However, the idea that “if they wanted him, they would have him” could be said about any free agent player and any team. If the Royals really wanted John Lackey, they could have offered him 25M a year and snared him. Again, Lupica misses a very simple point: the Yankees wanted Damon back, but only at their price. And quite frankly, they were right all along about Damon’s value, as evidenced by his difficulty even securing a one year deal. As Brian said on Hot Stove last night (h/t to YankCrank):
“We had a strong desire to have Johnny back, but not at all costs. We put a value on Johnny, shared that opinion on what that value was and Scott Boras and Johnny had a different value and a different opinion.”
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?
Here is where Lupica’s gloves come off and he makes a startling accusation, suggesting that Cashman is deliberately staying away from a player who can help the club to help his own reputation. This claim is ridiculous for two reasons. Firstly, Cashman has never had a problem spending profligate amounts before. He may have gotten a bit ornery with the media about the whole concept of buying a title, but at no point has he made the choice to stay away from a player he legitimately believed was a need to save money. The Mark Teixeira situation illustrates that point perfectly.
Secondly, Cashman does not set the budget, Hal and the other financial managers of the organization do. Blaming Cashman for the organizational policy is irresponsible and dishonest. While Cashman could go to Hal and ask for the budget to be extended, that sort of move is typically reserved for the game-changers of the world, such as Mark Teixiera. We have heard reports that Cashman was rejected by ownership when he had a deal in place for Mike Cameron at the trade deadline. Hal has tightened up the purse strings a little bit, and there is not much Cash can do about that.
Finally, Lupica suggests that the Yankees will disregard the 200M budget next offseason should they be unsuccessful in 2010. While this may be true, it simply ignores the fact that the budget is not a static number that applies uniformly to every season, nor should it be. They set the budget based on a number that they think gives them a chance to win and still be fiscally responsible. If, next offseason, they feel that it would be smarter for the club to have a 230M payroll and add Cliff Lee or Joe Mauer, and that they could sustain that payroll due to added revenues, it does not represent inconsistency. It shows an understanding of the marketplace and their place within it.
I also wanted to note that the fact that writers such as Lupica having decided to rip the Yankees for having a budget after years of ripping them for not having a budget is so incredibly ridiculous as to leave me speechless. I will let Mike Lupica circa 2000 do the talking (h/t to Craig):
The Yankees continue to live big and baseball dies a little bit at a time, even as this as treated like some kind of boom period. If you even suggest that there is something wrong with the assembly line we see working at Yankee Stadium, you’re just anti-Yankee. More and more the Yankees are treated, especially by the local media, like the company in a company town.
The same man, this very morning, wrote a column that criticized the Yankees for creating a budget and sticking to it. Only in NY, my friends, only in NY.
What did you think of Lupica’s column?