It’s also worth noting that even with the additions of Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett, the Yankees’ 2009 payroll obligations — including signing bonuses — stand at roughly $201-205 million, give or take.
Yes, that will change some as they fill out the 2009 roster, and yes, the implications of this winter’s spending spree are larger than mere current-year obligations, but let’s not go crazy talking about salary caps and manifest injustice and all of that jazz. The Yankees have spent extraordinary amounts of money this decade. The result of that has been the ability to bypass the typical success cycle by never truly cratering competitively and always being in the playoff hunt. The result of that has not been the disruption of overall competitive balance or the prevention of success on the part of the other teams such that radical changes are necessary, let alone desirable.
I will grant you that the former point is somewhat disheartening, but it is certainly not devastating. If you don’t like Tampa Bay as an example of why the Yankees’ spending isn’t terrible (i.e. because it took a decade in the wilderness for the Rays to get where they are) I’ll give you the Angels. Or the White Sox. Or the Phillies. Or the Twins. Or the Marlins. Or the Cardinals. Or any other team that has found success without spending $200 million.
The same level of success? Well, no. All of those teams have ups and downs, and unlike the Yankees, they do not have seeming carte blanche to acquire or retain any player they want. But baseball’s prime directive is not to foster perfect competitive balance nor to ensure that players stay with the teams who developed them. Baseball’s prime directive is to be a financially successful and entertaining enterprise, and it has gotten better and better at this even as the Yankees have gone nuclear with their payroll. Some would even argue that there’s a causal relationship there. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it cannot be denied that the Yankees’ success and subsequent largess of the past 15 years has correlated remarkably well with the growth of baseball’s attendance and revenues.
Maybe that’s cold comfort for Blue Jays and Orioles fans, but unless and until the Yankees’ spending habits either (a) make a mockery of competitive balance; or (b) send fans away from the game in droves, those habits are not worth worrying about, and I don’t see how any of their moves this past month are likely to lead to either of those developments.