Are the Yankees unfairly flexing their wallet

Sometimes friendly banter among Evening Sun reporters lends itself to a discussion we call “Point/Counterpoint.” In this forum, staff members battle wits and ideas on a variety of subjects, and today, Evening Sun Staff Writer, Michael McGuire, and Evening Sun Sports Editor, Patrick Newell, take sides on the issue of large-market baseball teams – specifically the New York Yankees – attempting to buy their way into a postseason spot each year with the acquisition of high-priced talent.

MM: We didn’t start the fire. The match was lit by Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood in 1969 and was thrown on a dried-up pile in 1976, when free agency was officially born. Since then the financial success of the New York Yankees in every facet of being a baseball franchise has allowed them to be buy premier talent when available. It’s not like they are taking these players by eminent domain; the teams want to deal them, the players want to go, or they are free agents who can’t wait to be “King of the Hill.” The Yankees have always been the Jones,’ and they have always allowed everyone else to try and keep up.

PN: The Yankees’ payroll gets higher and higher each year, yet their collection of all-stars hasn’t yielded a World Series title in several years. Wonder why small-market teams such as Minnesota and Oakland are successful? They build their teams within their own farm system, and then augment that talent with a free agent here and there. Also, look at last year’s World Series champions – the White Sox. Another team that is comprised mainly of players they developed. Ever heard the word chemistry? Faces come and go so quickly in New York, you wonder if they have time to read the tabloids criticizing them.

MM: Last time I checked those two teams haven’t gone any further than the Yankees in the postseason. Because they are small-market teams, do they get handicaps? Is a divisional playoff exit equal to a Yankees World Series win? News to me. The last small-market team to win the world series was Florida, before that Arizona. Both were hacks when it comes to the big-market game. They gathered enough talent to make it work once and then both were dismantled. Florida is in the basement of the NL East and Arizona is in a first-place hunt for first place in a basement that is the NL West. After 2000, the Yankees have at least been consistent, and at least they broke more hearts in Boston in the last 6 seasons than the Sox. The argument isn’t whether or not what big markets and the Yankees do works; it’s the fact that they do it, and is it right?

PN: It isn’t right. The Yankees have abused the system that is in place, and you wonder why they even have a farm system anymore. The prospects end up elsewhere in most situations, and I can’t count how many times those prospects have come back to haunt the Yankees. The voluminous talent the Yankees and Red Sox acquire each year – and the Mets and Cardinals in the National League – nearly assures them a contenders’ spot. Last I checked, though, there were 30 teams in the major leagues, yet less than a third of them have realistic hopes of ever winning a title. Why is that? They can’t open the wallets and spend freely for available free agents. Teams like Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Colorado among others are just taking up space on the schedule.

MM: Replace Yankees with “Wal-Mart,” and you basically have provided an interchangeable argument I’ve heard before. It comes down to evolution – they work with what they have, they work within the system. How have the Yankees abused it? By winning championships with rosters made up of key farm-raised players (Williams, Jeter, Petitte,)? Like Bonds career and his alleged steroid success, have all 26 Yankee Championships come as a result of these so-called “abuses” of power? You mentioned the success of small markets, and the necessity of good farm systems; I couldn’t agree with you more. But if everybody plays the free agent grab-bag game, why are the Yankees evil for playing it the best, especially when they haven’t won since 2000? Good luck Detroit, if they win it with mostly farm club guys then more power to them. Maybe some of these big markets will see the light, but if they don’t, and if they hurt themselves, aren’t small markets like Minnesota and Oakland the better for it?

PN: The integral farm-raised talent that helped the Yankees win titles years ago is long in the past. You’re right, the Yankees work within a system – flawed as it is – and their larger wallets afford them players out of other clubs’ price range. In fact, the Yankees have always worked the system well. They bought Babe Ruth from cash-strapped Boston back in the day, and the Yankees were able to do so with their deeper pockets. Not unlike much of how the world works these days, the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” is more expansive than it ever has been. The Yankees are the ultimate “haves” in the world of professional sports. Of the major sports in the U.S., the least amount of parity is in Major League Baseball. The other major sports have some sort of salary cap to keep teams with deeper pockets from abusing the free agent system. I can’t see a salary cap finding its way into MLB as long as the Yankees have their own network to maintain and $200 million in payroll.

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