Yesterday, Mike Axisa published a rant of his own at RAB. As a Yankee fan, I fully understand his dejection with the team, but A) I don't think the team is in the worst shape and B) I'd like to try to make sense of the current budget situation causing all this. That said, I have this crazy little theory that I've been sitting on, refusing to post it because it's... crazy. One thing stirs a Yankee fan more than winning. Losing.
The fans down in Queens call us spoiled entitled front-runners, and I used to laugh that off. If I've learned anything from the first few months of this season, they were all right. That doesn't mean you or I are only rooting for the team when they win, but take a look at Twitter, at the comments around Yankee blogs, even in the seats. This team is 8 games over .500, but fans see that this team is bad. They were confused this off season, they were angry at the injuries, and now they're leaving.
Fans have been increasingly absent, and ownership has refused to look in the mirror. They blamed Stub Hub last year, and now that they've set up their own competitive aftermarket ticket exchange, they're blaming the economy and baseball attendance as a whole.
But we're not talking about a Marlins or Astros team, it's Mariano Rivera's last season, possibly Andy Pettitte's last, and who knows about Robinson Cano. Fans should be piling into Yankee Stadium in the hopes of seeing a great Yankee for the last time, but instead they're growing increasingly apathetic, and perhaps that's what the Steinbrenners want.
The Yankees are arguably the most valuable organization in sports, and they've gotten there with a simple but effective strategy.
Step 1: Buy big name players.
Step 2: Win with these players.
Step 3: Collect all your profit.
Winning breeds fans and fans bring you more money. When problems would happen, when guys like Jason Giambi or Jorge Posada got too old, the front office simply brought in new big name players on an even bigger contract. Spending money was no problem for the insanely rich organization.
After last night's 6 hour loss, I hardly want to watch another Yankee game myself. I'm left thinking about how this roster has gotten so bad so quickly. Horrible injury bugs? Sure. Prospects didn't exactly reach their ceiling? Definitely. But these aren't new problems. The Yankees have survived injury bugs before, and prospects burning out is almost a Yankee tradition, the real problem is the budget.
The CBA now dramatically punishes the Yankees for buying big name players, it punishes them from replenishing their farm system in the draft, and it discourages them from continuing to develop their network of international scouting. In the long run, the new limits are harsher, but they're not extreme. Cwnership could have ignored the luxury tax cap, but instead they ordered a budget, and over the last two years, the lineup has regressed to the point that we're praying for a 39 year old Derek Jeter and a 38 year old Alex Rodriguez to return as soon as possible.
I know some fans will blame Cashman, but I actually have to praise him. The team operated the same way for 13 years, and all of a sudden he was forced to change his strategy. Within two years, Cashman was forced to find a way to build a winning team around the mammoth contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia. Yes, it's possible to build a championship team while under the luxury tax cap, but when you're already dealing with 6 and 10 year contracts, is 2 years really enough time to drastically alter your business strategy?
Not only is it bad baseball, but it's bad business. Changing such a successful business plan is almost ludicrous, and it has me thinking that the Steinbrenner are doing this on purpose. Perhaps the Steinbrenners want to lose. They don't want fans in the seats. They don't care if it affects their profits for a couple of years.
The Yankees are the cornerstone of the MLB. Every time I see revenue percents, the Yankees usually make up somewhere between 25-30% of the total between all 30 teams. But with all this revenue, the team has slowly lost bigger profits through MLB's revenue sharing and taxing. Ownership has been vocally unhappy with the luxury tax, and outspoken about some serious problems with revenue sharing.
As Marlins ownership continues to field a losing team, and still make a profit thanks to revenue sharing and tax rebates, I'm left thinking of the producers. The CBA has brought baseball to the point where some teams can make more money with a flop than with a hit.
Obviously the Yankees will make more money winning, but their current team could be a way of holding out against the CBA. If the Yankees lose, fans stop caring, attendance falls, their revenue falls, viewership falls, and MLB as a whole loses a ton of money. The Yankees are the heart of baseball revenue, and if they're not selling Yankee hats, Marlins ownership won't be seeing all that revenue sharing profit.
Honestly, with all the apparent stupidity I've seen from Yankee ownership over the last two years, it's the only strategy that seems coherent. A short term power move to do away with the small market advantages. That, or this really is just an awful business plan.