Is Hal Steinbrenner having second thoughts?

Wow, I never saw this coming – and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you – but Hal Steinbrenner may be rethinking this whole $189M budget plan according to Wally Matthews of ESPN New York.

As another source told me on Wednesday, “This is the first time since George died that it appears a Steinbrenner is actually running the Yankees.”

Translation: That $189 million? Forget about it. Large checks are about to be cut, not payroll.

I wonder what changed Hal’s mind. Did the Ghost of George visit him in a dream and threaten to haunt him for the rest of his days if he went ahead with his austerity plan? Or maybe it was the reaction of fans and the stalled ticket sales that have something to do with it?

According to the proverbial insider with knowledge, Hal was “freaked out” by the negative reaction from Yankees fans at what they perceived to be a trend toward “cheapness” from a club that had always been known for wild extravagance.

(I’m not privy to the internal financial workings of the Yankees, but it’s possible that advance season ticket sales for 2013 have reflected that perception.)

Considering the amount of emails I get from yankees.com with new ticket deals, I’m going to assume that sales for 2013 are down. Also, there are a lot of ads on the YES Network for ticket packages. I think some fans are beginning to believe the negative hype they’re hearing from sports pundits who insist the Yankees are going to be terrible this season and their thinking may be, “Why should we bother attending games when the Yankees don’t want to give us the best possible product for our money?”

Personally, I wish Hal had this epiphany before the team lost guys like Nick Swisher and Russell Martin but hopefully with this change of heart, the Yankees will make some waves next Winter and not sit idly by as more free agents leave for inferior teams.

Stacey is co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money, co-host of the It's About The Money, Stupid podcast and is a monthly contributor to ESPN's SweetSpot Blog. She is a former contributor at Aerys Sports and High Heat Stats. She has contributed to group projects at Baseball: Past And Present and the Hall of Stats. Her work has appeared in USA Today's Sports Weekly and most recently, she wrote four pieces for Derek Jeter: Celebrating the Yankees' Captain Clutch, a magazine printed by i5 Publishing.

22 thoughts on “Is Hal Steinbrenner having second thoughts?

  1. This could easily manifest itself this spring with an extension for Cano, but (as discussed in a prior post) I do hope they don't go overboard on years.

  2. Kevin S

    Chalk up a win for the fans. Martin stands as a casualty–(Swisher wasn't-and shouldn't–have gotten their money) but the Canos of the team are safe.

  3. Mrvitta

    As a lifelong Yankee fan I don't worry what the players make ! Just win . Get us the best players possible. As other Yankee fans know no matter what other teams fans say about the yanks the real truth is they despise the Yankees and ALWAYS hope they lose. So lets hope we can keep making the playoffs every year and who cares what the team spends .

  4. makjak2

    I'm totally on board with the Yankees being smart about their money and how they give out contracts, for instance letting Cano walk if they won't budge on 7 years and some dummy out there wants to give him 10. Not on board with penny pinching and saving around the fringes when guys like Swish and Martin could've been had at very affordable deals. Hal ain't running a small market club. I certainly don't believe the Yanks are gonna be terrible this year, and they should be in contention for the playoffs. But if ownership is gonna pad their pockets, why shouldn't fans do the same and watch the games at home? Don't wanna dole out long contracts like hotcakes? Fine by me. Just don't sell me garbage about running the business smarter when you just wanna load up the coffers. Act like you have more resources than any other team in the league, not like you're stationed in Queens.

    Then again, all that is easy for me to say, it ain't my money. /end rant

  5. uyf1950

    Stacy you will forgive me I just don't think Swisher was worth 4 years $56MM OR with a 5th year option 5 years $70MM. The Yankees have some very, very promising prospects that are more then capable of filling his spot in RF at a fraction of the cost. And I won't even bring up the fact he'was on vacation all 3 years he was with the Yankees when postseason time came. And for these 2 immediate years 2013 and 2014 I believe the Yankees will do very well with Ichiro in RF at a fraction of the cost.
    Yankee fans constantly talk about giving the young guys a chance well how in the heck are they going to get a chance IF the Yankees keep giving out contracts to players that block their way to the team. I for one am glad to see the Yankees do something different and not go with the same players year in and year out. I want to see them give Romine a chance and in a year or 2 give Sanchez a chance. I want to see them give Williams or one one of the other OF prospects a chance in a couple of years. And re-signing guys like Granderson and Swisher to 4 or 5 years deals would make that impossible.
    What will keep Yankee fans going to games and keep the Yankees at the top of the food chain in baseball isn't re-signing the same, same players over and over it's injecting quality young players into the line up AND winning and sometimes the "old way" isn't always the best way. That's just my opinion.

    • Stacey Gotsulias

      I will forgive you for that but I will not forgive you for spelling my name wrong. ;) Just kidding.

      • uyf1950

        My apologies "Stacey". That's what happens when you have fat fingers and small keys, just kidding about the small keys.

        • Stacey Gotsulias

          No worries. :)

  6. Professor Longnose

    I can believe that Hal was freaked out by the negative reaction. When he was quoted as saying he didn’t understand how people could think the Yankees were being cheap in the offseason, it seemed like one of those guys who believes his own nonsense and suddenly has to deal with people who don’t. Sticking to a budget is an understandable position, whether it’s right or wrong, but not seeing that letting Swisher and Martin go hurt the team, at least in the short run, is just nuts.

    • chris

      Disagree. If the point is to get to the playoffs, why paid 14 million to a guy who can't hit in the post season and is a defensive liability? With Ichiro out there they can rest assured that what should be caught/fielded will be. He won't hit for power but he will get on base and he will play small ball (something sorely lacking last year). Is he a downgrade? Yes. Will it matter? Maybe this year but hanging onto players just to compete does nothing toward building a team to win for years to come and Swisher was not the answer. Ichiro is not either but the next two years are "hold on with hope and rebuild" years. If the stars align, great. If not, 2015 and beyond will be much better with a younger and more talented team that will be built to compete for years as opposed to patchwork of players to help us limp into the playoffs and get knocked out.

      • Professor Longnose

        I don’t see what you’re disagreeing with. You agree that Swisher is a short-term downgrade. He probably wasn’t worth a 5-year contract, but my only point was that for Hal not to expect people to think that he was being cheap and making the 2013 team worse is pretty short sighted.

        As far as Swisher goes, you make some good points, although I don’t agree that Ichiro is likely to get on base at a decent rate this year. He could, but he’s been declining for 2 years. I think the Yankees were lucky to get the half season out of him they did. I could be wrong on that, but I don’t think the odds are good.

        If the Yankees weren’t cheap, they may have been able to sign Swisher during the season for 4 years. I’d have liked that. If he got replaced by a kid after two and the Yankees took a salary hit getting rid of him, well, that wouldn’t matter if they were spending they way they used to. And hitting in the postseason has a random factor to it. Swisher’s a very good hitter. Sooner or later he should be able to do that in the playoffs.

        • chris

          Sherm you are missing the point though. It is not my wallet or yours. It is Hal's and spending 12-14 million on an outfielder who is not a good outfielder on a 4 year deal does not make good fiscal sense given the talent on the farm and available options next year and beyond. The cap re-set is very real and if fans get upset and "quit going to games/watching" Hal does not care because the same bandwagon crybabies will be back 2 years later when they are dominating again. The same thing about Swish is the same for Grandy. If Grandy wants to stay he is going to have to take a 2-3 year deal. If he wants 4-5 years he is gone. I do think the Yanks would have kept Swish on a 2 year deal but signing him for that long at that price makes no financial sense.

          The Martin thing is the same. Romine is a risk. If this doesn't work they will look stupid in the short term. Sanchez is at least 2 years away if not more. That being said, Martin couldn't hit water if fell out of a boat. Any drop in WAR/Sabermetric flavor of the month is not going to be nearly as large as the drop in production next year of having (between Swish and Martin) 22+million not to pay when they have to pay Robbie, likley Hughes and probably one or two other guys for 6-7million per as stop-gaps. Spending on Martin would have been dumb for that price. He is NOT worth that kind of money.

  7. jay_robertson

    Love the line – "the Canos of the team are safe."

    Beyond Cano, does the team HAVE any Canos? I don't see a position player on the roster who is irreplaceable. Ichiro? Tex? Oh yeah – Cervelli.

    Cano is the one guy I hope ISN'T safe. Ten years to Robbie, and we can all write off the Yankees for the next decade.

    • Allen

      " Ten years to Robbie, and we can all write off the Yankees for the next decade."

      What are you even talking about? I'm sorry, but that is just a completely ridiculous statement.

  8. getdownmoses

    After letting the $189 goal shape the last two offseasons I would be furious if they abandoned it now so they could hand out another albatross contract. Does Wally really think every fan is wishing the Yankees would go back to spending with abandon? I know how much money the team will save if they can get under the $189 cap and if they don't it'll be a big mistake. They'll have a $100 million infield with an average age of what… 35? I'd rather see Cano walk if it means the Yankees can go into 2015 & 2016 with a low payroll and money to spend. Ideally they could work something out and still get under $189 but that seems increasingly less likely.

    • chris

      Not really on the math. They lose a lot after this year (Andy-12M, Kuroda-10M, Mo-15M, Grandy-10M together =47 million WITHOUT any bonuses). It is highly unlikely any of them will be back in 2014. Assuming that, Cano makes 14 million right now. Add 10 more for him per year and you still have 37 million off the books in 2014 that can be spread around for a #3 starter, a catcher if needed and an outfielder (Grandy on a 2 year @ 10/yr?)
      As long as Pineda and Nova don't suck and Robertson/Joba play well, they have 30 million to play with right there (assuming Hughes gets about a 7M raise at most).

  9. uyf1950

    If only the headline were true. But based on personal observations I've come to realize that for the most part when Matthews reports something on the Yankees more often then not it isn't very accurate.

    • chris

      Matthews is awful. It is almost as if he just dreams up articles. ESPN has 2 terrible writers covering the Yankees.

      • uyf1950

        I agree with you 110%

      • I'll say this: I tried. More than you know.

  10. Bill

    Have to go along with uyf1950 on this one. Anything Wally Matthews writes is not exactly something we're going to take to the bank. If Hal indeed has changed his tune, wonderful. However, I'll believe it when they hold the next high priced free agent press conference. That being said, I hope it's true.

    • jay_robertson

      As long as Boras and Cano aren't sitting at that table, at that press conference.

      Do you want a 40 year old 2nd baseman who has lethargic days at age 30? I don't.

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