Yankees: The Greatest Story Ever Told – Reflections On Baseball

Hal and George Steinbrenner (Photo: New York Daily News)

Each year, the Yankees brass tells us they are in it to win it. The “it” is always the same – a World Championship. Talk about clickbait…

The Yankees, in the name of Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, are doing it again. It’s full steam ahead and there will be only one true result for the 2023 season as they make their way toward reforming the team – a World Championship.

It’s a familiar refrain even though the Canyon Of Heroes has been eerily quiet since the last time Yankees fans mobbed the streets of Manhattan to celebrate.

Yankees Fans: Remember When?

Thirteen years ago, in 2009, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.35. The cost of a dozen eggs was $1.66. The cost of 100 percent ground beef was $2.35 per pound, and Barack Obama was in the first year of his presidency.

Nearly all Yankees fans recall the engineering behind the 2009 season that would end with 103 wins and a playoffs romp through the Minnesota Twins and Lost Angeles Angels, culminating with a six-game World Series win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

That was then, this is now.
That was then, this is now.

With his health failing (he would pass the following summer), Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner’s “engineering” was quite simple. Take no prisoners and outspend all comers – or – as his detractors would later say buy a title.

Ignoring the trade market, Steinbrenner turned his general manager Brian Cashman loose with a fiat to gather in the best players on the free-agent market, payroll be damned.

Accordingly, the New York Yankees spent over $200 million to bring in Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett

Although it would later prove that only Sabathia had long-term benefits to the Yankees, it mattered little when a new flag announcing the team’s 27th World Series title was raised at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees: “Change Before You Have To.”

Since Boss Steinbrenner’s last hurrah, the Yankees have maintained as a premier team in MLB. They have made the playoffs in ten of the thirteen seasons since 2009.

But in ten tries, the Yankees have yet to make an appearance in a World Series, and that has not gone unnoticed by the legion of Yankees fans who pay outrageous money to keep the team at the top of the American League in attendance (3.1 million in 2022).

So, as you reflect on this past season can you say that even with DJ LeMahieu, Andrew Benintendi, and Michael King the Yankees would have beat this year’s version of the Houston Astros? I think not, even though both Hal Steinbrenner and his consigliere Brian Cashman mentioned those injuries during their yearly eulogy of the Yankees season.

Yankees: The View Under The Veil

In sum, the Yankees are always good, but they are never good enough. Indeed, they put on a good show, and it’s not as though they don’t spend money on team payroll. They do.

Yankees Brian Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner, (Photo Credit) (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Yankees Brian Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner, (Photo Credit) (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Consider this. In 2009, the Yankees team payroll was $201.5 million, leading all of major league baseball. By 2022, the payroll had risen to $240.3 million, trailing only the Mets and Dodgers.

Sounds good, but here’s the rub and the tell behind the sinister game the Yankees brass fosters.

In 2009, the difference between the Yankees and the next highest payroll (the Mets) was $50 million ($70 million calculated to today’s dollar), highlighting the extent to which George Steinbrenner went to bury his competition.

In 2022, the difference was virtually the same $45 million) – only this time the Yankees were on the other end of the stick with the Dodgers outpacing the Yankees by that amount.

In essence, the Yankees show us they love us, but they are not crazy in love with us. They love us just enough to keep the ball rolling, making a cameo appearance in the playoffs, and then it’s on to the next season.

Now, here’s the kicker. In 2009, the Yankees had a market value of $1.5 billion. By 2022, that value has quadrupled to $6 billion.

Team revenue (also the highest in baseball) over the same span also rose to a high of $683 million in 2019, with the difference between that sum and payroll largely made up of merchandise sales (number one in baseball) and profitable television contracts.

Make no mistake, the Yankees are a money-making machine, but that needs to be put in context because it has no direct bearing on their won-loss record and their thirteen-year drought between championships. You see, the Yankees win every year – or at least their shareholders do.

Great Expectations – Bah Humbug

Unlike the folks in, Seattle, Cleveland, and San Diego, Yankees fans expect their team to win. There is no celebration in the streets like those witnessed in these cities when they made the playoffs in 2022. It’s ho-hum and the price ownership is expected to pay for operating in the capital of baseball – New York City.

This brings us to an uncomfortable question regarding the upcoming season. Is the level of commitment on the part of Hal Steinbrenner any different this off-season? Does he harbor even an ounce of father’s zeal – to take no prisoners – payroll be damned?

Aaron Judge is put aside because there will be riots outside Gate 4 at the Stadium if Steinbrenner doesn’t sign him – but will the Yankees go all-out in signing Xander Bogaerts and Willson Contreras to fill the holes at shortstop and catching?

Do the Yankees, for instance, make a real play for Justin Verlander, this year’s AL Cy Young winner who has promised he will pitch until he’s 45 before he ends his Hall Of Fame career?

Brian Cashman Awakening To The Slumbering Yankees 2020 (Photo: Boston Globe)
Brian Cashman Awakening To The Slumbering Yankees 2020 (Photo: Boston Globe)

Or, how about Justin Turner at third base to replace a disintegrating Josh Donaldson, who the Yankees should peddle in a trade gladly eating most of his salary? Ditto Gleyber Torres and Aaron Hicks.

And while Brian Cashman was doing his annual publicity stunt sleeping on the streets of New York, where was he when the Los Angeles Angels acquired veteran infielder Gio Urshela from the Minnesota Twins on Friday, a move in which the Twins received only a 19-year-old starting pitcher Alejandro Hidalgo?

Ironically, it was Urshela who was traded by the Yankees to the Twins for Donaldson in 2021. Yes, this was the same Urshela who hit .285/.338/.429 with 13 homers and 27 doubles, contributing 2.4 FanGraphs wins above replacement last season.

The possibilities to improve the Yankees are endless and we’ve devoted enough time to suggest ways to accomplish that goal – because that isn’t the point.

Yankees: The Answer Is Blowin’ In The Wind

Canyon Of Heroes - NYC
Canyon Of Heroes – NYC

The point of this is to ask a question. When will a significant portion of Yankees fans vocally rebel in lifting the veil from the Hal Steinbrenner ruse that he is “in it to win it”?

Replacing ownership in any sport is not an easy task, and it’s not something that occurs overnight. Ask the fans of the hapless New York Mets who endured for more than a decade under the grip of the incompetent Wilpons.

But it can be accomplished if only the drum begins to beat loudly now.

We understand that baseball is a business above all else. But how much (profit) is enough?

Ask Hal Steinbrenner, even if he doesn’t need to if he would ever use his own money – as his Dad was known to do if it meant bringing Yankees fans a parade down the Canyon Of Heroes. Though sadly, we probably can guess his answer.

At last, Hal, put your money where your mouth is. We’re looking through you…

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.