Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The New York Yankees: The Best Team That Money Can Buy

The Yankees' 27th World Series title is a testament to what money can buy.

The Yankees bid farewell to high-priced (but aging or diminished) players like Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi, and Bobby Abreu last offseason, and then replaced them with younger, fresher free agents.

The team signed CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett in a $423.5 million offseason spending spree. It's the kind of money few other teams had the capacity to spend. The three players were immediately amongst the top five highest paid players on the Yankees' very expensive roster.

With their $201.5 million payroll, the Yankees were in a class by themselves.

On Opening Day, the difference between the Yankees (No. 1 in payroll) and the Mets (No. 2 in payroll) was nearly $66M. That was greater than the entire payrolls of the Twins, Rays, A’s, Nationals, Pirates, Padres, and Marlins.

And the Yankees' payroll was bigger than the bottom four teams combined.

Since their loss in the desert to the Diamondbacks in 2001, the Yankees have spent more than $1.6 billion on player salaries in an effort to regain the World Series crown.

Indeed, the Yankees spent their way to their 27th title, the most in North American sports. The next closest Major League teams are the Cardinals, with 10 WS victories; the A's, with nine; the Red Sox, with seven, and the Dodgers, with six championships.

While nine seasons without a championship would seem like a short spell for most teams, for the Yankees—who view the title as a birthright—it was almost an eternity. The gap was the third-longest stretch without a championship for the Yankees since their first one, following gaps of 17 years (1979-95) and 14 years (1963-76).

The Yankees' aging roster defied the odds.

The previous seven World Champions had used a combined total of only seven starting everyday players who were 33 or older, including just four players who were playing past their 35th birthday.

The Yankees, with their cast of high-priced veterans, bucked that trend by starting Alex Rodriguez , 34, Derek Jeter , 35, Hideki Matsui, 35, Johnny Damon , 36, and Jorge Posada, 38.

No team had even won the pennant with a 35-or-older shortstop since the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers with Pee Wee Reese. Only two of the 240 teams to make the postseason since then used such an old shortstop: the 1996 Orioles (Cal Ripken) and 1981 Phillies (Larry Bowa).

The Bombers will face some interesting decisions with that lineup this winter, and in coming years.

Matsui and Damon are both free agents. Given Damon's durability, base running prowess, and ability to still play left field, he seems more likely to return than Matsui, the World Series MVP.

Andy Pettitte, who won all three clinching playoff games for the Yankees, is a free agent once again. Where does he fit into the team's plans? Does he just want to ride off into the sunset and enjoy the glory of his accomplishments?

Captain Derek Jeter becomes a free agent after next season. It's impossible to imagine him playing elsewhere. And with the team's all-time hits leader having another strong season and approaching 3,000 career hits, the club will surely want to extend him. But for how long, and where will he play? Jeter will be 36 at the end of his current contract, and his range at short will be an issue in the near future.

Team management will worry about these things later. For now they will bask in the afterglow of their accomplishments. They are truly the best team that $201.5 million can buy.

Right now, the Yankees are in a class all by themselves. And, financially, they are in a league of their own.

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