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Have the Yankees Become Complacent as an Organization?

Have the Yankees Become Complacent as an Organization?

Have the Yankees Become Complacent as an Organization?

The quotes to Bob Klapisch at Fox Sports from a senior Yankees official  caused very little stir. Perhaps because it’s a holiday week and the usual pundits are on vacation. Perhaps because Klapisch wrote it on Fox Sports instead of the Post or Daily News. Perhaps the opening week of the NBA and the Giants and Jets fighting for their playoff lives puts baseball in the rare position of the New York sports backburner. Whatever the case, it was interesting to hear fiscal responsibility from a franchise known for their insatiable appetite for spending.

The Yankees have produced a winning record 30 times in the last 35 years. Four of those losing seasons happened while George Steinbrenner was suspended by the league. They have made the playoffs 20 times, won 11 pennants, and 7 World Series’. That success has taken a strong brand and turned it into a powerhouse.

“The days of waking up on Christmas morning and finding an expensive new toy under the tree are over,” said one senior official to Klapisch. “We’re trying to be smarter about how we spend. And it wasn’t just us, look at the Phillies. You’re looking at probably the best team in baseball since 2010, and they couldn’t even win their own league.”

That sounds like a team that is rationalizing their decision to hold the payroll line. Granted, I have supported the Yankees attempt to reduce payroll and give their young players an opportunity to contribute on a larger scale. With that said, reasonable investments like Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Beltran could give this team a leg up on their American League counterparts. It’s one thing to pass on long-term deals to C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish; it’s another to ignore reasonable 1 or 2 year investments.

The competition hasn’t stood pat. Los Angeles is much improved, Texas continues to splurge, and the Red Sox have a new sheriff in town. Don’t forget those pesky Rays and the up and coming Toronto Blue Jays. In other words, making the playoffs might not be as easy as it’s been the last decade. This could be the worst time for the Yankees to get complacent as the American League is shaping up to be better than it has been in years.

It shouldn’t be a surprise the Yankees have taken this stance. Many pundits predicted the team would be more focused on the bottom line after the passing of George Steinbrenner. As Klapisch said in the column, “The Steinbrenners are about making money and winning championships. In that order.” History indicates they, at worst, will make the Wild Card and that’s fine since the playoffs have become more of a crapshoot. The addition of a second Wild Card, as early as this upcoming season, makes it highly unlikely the Yankees will be sitting home in October for years to come. Add in the fact their inter-borough competition, the Mets, have destroyed their brand under the Wilpons, and the Steinbrenners have at least a decade of equity built up in this town. It’s a cushion that could make the most voracious competitor complacent.

Complacency is a dangerous thing. I am all for the Yankees being prudent with their money, but the comments above tell a different tale. It about a team that wants to be good versus great. It’s a team that is willing to be satisfied with drawing 3+ million fans and selling merchandise. It’s a team that wants to win, but only at a specific bottom line. Sacrificing success to pacify investors has become the new American way so all the Steinbrenners are doing is getting on board with the American corporate mentality. The problem with that is when you focus on the outcome versus the process the results often don’t go your way. The Yankees are a powerhouse because of their tradition of winning, and in many ways it’s because of that insatiable greed to win.

A Yankees team that is prudent with its spending coupled with player development is bad news for the rest of the league. A complacent Yankees team that is satisfied with being good and delivering a maximum return on investment is music to the ears of the 29 other teams.

By Mike Silva
Thursday, 29 Dec 2011

 

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