The Blue Jays pull off a killer deal with the Marlins. The Blue Jays sign Melky Cabrera. The Tigers sign Torii Hunter. Hiroki Kuroda wants to play in southern California. Russell Martin is highly sought after. And the Yankees…the Yankees…have not done anything yet. And when they do, it will be for bit parts for one season. Those bit parts will have an average age of 37 years old or something. Welcome to the new reality.
And it is not really a new reality. Last off season brought some excitement as the Montero – Pineda trade occurred and the team signed Kuroda on the same day. But for the rest of the off season, big tickets like Prince Fielder and others went elsewhere. The Yankees signed Raul Ibanez and that worked out pretty well. Heck, it bought them a win in a post season series. But overall, “austerity” is the word of the day. Every Yankee fan knows all about the dreaded 2014 payroll limitation. The number has become as familiar as 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Perhaps we have a new favorite children’s rhyme: “189 is the number set by Lev and Stein.”
The Yankees are still the most hated team in baseball. And it’s not like they are poor or something. They have the A-Rods and Teixeiras and the Sabathias. All those expensive pieces still put them ahead of most teams. But the new reality means that the team can only get better with youth or by adding aging pieces of caulking around the leaky windows. Meanwhile, the Tigers and Dodgers are the new big spenders. They are the new Yankees. The New York version is just the old Yankees.
Perhaps it is all some conspiracy as one blog succinctly suggested. It does have the feel of a business streamlining itself for a sale. Those that have been in the corporate world have seen this sort of thing before. If the Dodgers can command two billion dollars, what could the biggest sports brand in the world bring? The old man is dead and this brand may never be worth more than it is now.
Or perhaps things will return to normal in 2015 once the baby Steinbrenners can beat the system in 2014. But in the meantime, it feels strange to sit here on the sidelines and watch all the machinations of the off season happen with one big team strangely missing.
And how far will it go? We have already said goodbye to Nick Swisher. We will have to watch to see if Robinson Cano will hit the open market. The money saved for Curtis Granderson might be employed in another direction, but that is about as much wiggle room as this team is looking to get. Hunter was a non-sign because the Yankees could not offer him a second season. Kuroda fits the one year model and was doable. But he may choose elsewhere. Then what? Martin will want more than one year and who could blame him?
The austerity bit means that the Yankees cannot make a big score that can instantly improve the team for years like Sabathia did. But on the other hand, it prevents the duds like A.J. Burnett from happening. So it has its good and its bad points. It’s just weird, though, isn’t it? An off season without the Yankees bidding all over the field is like the Macy’s Day Parade without Santa Claus at the end.
The situations makes for a restless fan base and less appearances for the Yankees on the back page of the newspaper. Perhaps it will mean the end of those automatic post season events the team has experienced since 1996. Will the brand be the brand if it finishes in second or third place? Would that matter to those who rule the team? It matters to the fans that have been the golden goose for the baby Steinbrenners for years. How far can that golden goose be pushed? This austerity program appears ready to see how far that push can go.
Meanwhile, we Yankees baseball writers look forward to reporting the benefits of the next elderly signer. We can hardly wait.