For the first time in recent memory, both the Mets and Yankees are riding on the same set of rails. Aware of past mistakes, the new strategy is a winner.
Lord knows, both the Mets and Yankees have had their share of, “Oops, I didn’t mean to make that” contracts in their recent history. For the Mets, Jason Bay‘s four-year $66 million deal, the three-year, $36 million contract given to Oliver Perez, along with the 7-year contract extension worth $138 million given to David Wright in 2012.
Not to be outdone, the Yankees signed A.J. Burnett to a five-year, $82.5 million contract that yielded a 34-35 record and a 4.79 ERA over only three seasons. Or Alex Rodriguez and his contract extension in 2007, a 10-year, $275 million contract, and of course, the elephant still in the room, Jacoby Ellsbury and his eight-year $153 million deal in 2014.
There have been even bigger blunders made by teams other than the Mets and Yankees. Pity the Angels, for instance, who will pay $30 million to Albert Pujols when he is 41. Or, how about Zack Greinke, who signed a 6 year / $206,500,000 contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, including a $18,000,000 signing bonus, $206,500,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $34,416,667.
Who are the fools here? Who among us would not sign on the dotted line if offered these opportunities as a player? Let’s remember, too, that contracts of this kind were the norm and not an aberration at the time.
Baseball, you see, has always been a game of monkey-see, monkey-do. An individual like Branch Rickey comes along and introduces Jackie Robinson to the major leagues, and all of a sudden the floodgates open and hundreds of ballplayers of color are afforded the same opportunity. That change is, of course, one that has lasted. But as we go on, things get a bit more fleeting…
We have “the shift,” first credited, back in the 1940s to Lou Boudreau, who used the strategy as a player-manager facing the refuse to give in pull hitter of his time, Ted Williams. The shift stagnated there for a while, only to come roaring back recently, and to the point where MLB has to consider a rule change to accommodate its impact on the game.
And finally, the most recent of changes in baseball – The Opener – not to be confused with The Closer, the Set-Up guy, or The Bridge. Tampa Bay leads the way on this one, but last September, the Texas Rangers became the sixth team to employ the strategy. Monkey-see, monkey-do.
Because they are substantive, these aren’t fads, though, like the hula hoop, Nehru jackets when the Beatles were famous, or break dancing. Nevertheless, some major league teams draw a line in the sand and refuse to participate, or they join for a while and then say, uh uh, this ain’t for me.
Which transitions back to the Mets and Yankees and the definition of insanity from Mr. Einstein. There will never be another ten-year contract offered to a player by either team. Five to eight years maybe, but those contracts will include team and player opt-out provisions every two years.
Though very tempting, God bless the patience of both the Mets and Yankees who stand on the sidelines, refusing to engage themselves directly in the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes. The Mets and Yankees are a prime reason why both players are still out there in the wind and waiting for that 10-year $350-400 million offer that is yet to come.
Meanwhile, both teams have made significant additions via free agent signings and trades, without signing a deal for more than three years with any player. That’s movement, and that’s progress from what we have known.
Will it continue? Should it continue? The Class of 2020 free agents offers Justin Verlander, Nolan Arenado, who figures as a prime Yankees target, and Madison Bumgarner, and even that’s feeble when we get to 2021 and Mike Trout. These are some heavy-duty names, and competition will be severe for each player.
But for the Mets and Yankees, the formula I would suggest using in the future is to ask this question – will the addition of Player X be enough to win? And win means a World Series title, and nothing less. If your answer is yes, then the investment is worth it. If your answer is no, though, stay out of the game until the answer can be yes.
Which is why for the life of me I can’t understand why the Padres and White Sox are in the mix for Harper and Machado now?
The Yankees appear to be “there,” while the Mets 2019 season will largely determine how close they are to be a bonafide contender for a World Title shortly. Still, the Yankees (and to their credit) may continue not to leap, believing the improvements they’ve made with James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, and DJ LeMahieu are enough to carry them through, at least to the July trade deadline when all hell breaks loose again.
It was philosopher George Santayana, who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Mets and Yankees are driven to at least try to live by that adage. And for that, there is hope the dual rail they are riding on is the right one.