The Yankees Free Agent Attraction Debate Verdict

December 21, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

There are many different prophecies of those things that will signal the end times – falling skies, boiling seas, broken seals, death riding on a pale horse, dogs and cats living together, MASS HYSTERIA!

The Yankees failing to sign any of their top free agent targets did not make the list, though, so all you fans of the Bronx Bombers can rest easy tonight. Michael Stipe will not be singing his anthem song.

It is true that the Yankees were dealt a very difficult sucker-punch in the ego region as they were turned down (or perhaps not even considered) by both Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, but as Babe Ruthless points out in his winning argument, this should not be taken at anything more than face value.

Because of unique circumstances, the New York Yankees were not the preferred destination for two baseball players. Nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t get me wrong. Loyal Homer is absolutely correct in stating that everyone (including us) expected the Yankees to land at least one big fish. The fact that they failed to do so this year raises questions about the allure the Yankees actually possess. But I just do not believe that you can allow the admittedly surprising decisions of two athletes to serve as a generalization of shifting tides in Major League Baseball.

There are two “usual” reasons that drive a free agent toward choosing one team over another – money, or the promise of a championship. Realistically speaking, are the New York Yankees lacking in either of those arenas?

As far as money is concerned, the Yankees have proven that they are still the standard bearers. They offered Cliff Lee a far more lucrative deal than the Phillies did, but as Babe Ruthless highlights, it became evident that money was not the most important factor in Cliff Lee weighing his options. Meanwhile, in terms of championship contention the Yankees still remain a favorite every year for the post-season. They are only one year removed from a World Series championship, and last year entered the ALCS as favorites to once again represent their League in the World Series.

The reasons why Crawford and Lee chose to play elsewhere this year are certainly intriguing, and I would recommend that Brian Cashman head back to the drawing board to analyze exactly where they went wrong. The business manager in me believes that there is ALWAYS room for improvement, and this could serve as a critical learning opportunity for a team that perhaps allowed arrogance to make them lazy in their pursuit of people who they REALLY wanted. But there is absolutely no reason to believe that it signifies a shift in the free agent mindset.

For any top-tier baseball free agent with a desire to earn a RIDICULOUS salary while at the same time contending ANNUALLY for a championship, the New York Yankees will continue to play the role of the alpha male.

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The Yankees Free Agent Attraction Debate

December 20, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Allow me to apologize on behalf of all of us here at The Sports Debates for breaking the first rule of clichés.

That’s right – we assumed. And you all know what happens when someone assumes…

So, what is it that we assumed? Well, we assumed that the Yankees would get AT LEAST Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee in free agency this off-season, if not both of them.

As it turns out, we were wrong.

With Carl Crawford now playing in Fenway, and Cliff Lee returning to the city of brotherly love, the Yankees are for the first time in a long time watching their truckloads of money come back to the Bronx with their deliveries refused.

This very shocking turn of free agency events begs a new and unexpected question: Are the post-George Steinbrenner Yankees still the main destination point for free agents in baseball?

Yankees’ money used to mean something in baseball, but this year the top free agents left millions of that money on the table to play elsewhere. Loyal Homer believes that this is a sign that market tides are shifting in baseball and free agents are looking for more than just chasing the Yankee dollar. Babe Ruthless, however, feels this off-season was an anomaly and that the Yankees are still the premier destination point for free agents.

Before we begin, though, I want to offer a bit of advice to both our debaters. Unlike Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, I CAN be bought for a truckload of money.

Begin…

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The Yankees Free Agent Attraction Debate… Still The Empire State

December 20, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

John Lennon is credited with once saying, “Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself.” While I normally don’t find much common ground with deceased drugged out communist hippies, this may be the rare exception. New York is indeed the center of the baseball world and the Yankees are its clear monarch.

I realize there is a lot of irony in comparing New York to the capital of a once great but fallen empire, especially in a debate about the continued reign of NYC as the epicenter of free agent appeal. But I believe the comparison is appropriate nonetheless. I do not make the assumption that the Yankees will rule the baseball world forever, as the Yanks are always just two words away from losing a great deal of competitive advantage (those words being “salary cap”). But I know for certain that their days of ruling are not over.

Making Mountains Out of Molehills

There has been a lot of talk lately about the Yanks falling off. Talk that they have lost the power to land their man, and that in the post George Steinbrenner era, New York is no longer the main destination for free agents. These claims are unsubstantiated and preposterous!

These critics are trying to make something out of nothing. What evidence is there to support these ideas? While it is true that the Yankees failed to sign Cliff Lee, is that really the end of the world? Does it truly signify the end of the Evil Empire? Absolutely not.

The Cliff Lee debacle was an aberration. It is not indicative of a normal free agent pursuit. Lee did something no one expected. He took a deal for less total cash to go to a team that no one thought was a contender at all. Lee chose the Philadelphia Phillies over both the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. Reports indicated that he chose the Phillies for varying reasons. Some reports indicated that he simply fell in love with the team and the city during his stint with the Phillies last season, and others point to his family’s preference not to live in the Big Apple. One such story even indicated that Lee’s wife could not get over an incident where she was spat upon by an unruly New York fan. If that is true then who in their right mind would believe that any amount of money would have brought Lee and his family to New York? We are talking about putting a price tag on his families pride and well being, and I simply don’t think anyone can really expect that to happen. The Cliff Lee signing was anything but business as usual, so it really cannot be lauded as the end of the empire.

A Big Deal Or A Non-Factor?

Similar to the way the Yanks failure to land Lee was overblown by critics in the media, much ado is being made about the fact that the team did not acquire free agent outfielder Carl Crawford either. This is being proposed as a cause for panic in the Yankees’ Universe, but again this is not being considered in the greater context of the off-season.

Even before Crawford signed with the division rival Red Sox, the Yankees made it clear pitching was their main concern. That made Crawford expendable to the Yanks, who made it abundantly clear that they would not be putting their efforts into a push for another outfielder. With Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Brett Gardner already capably patrolling the outfield, Brian Cashman and company determined that signing Crawford was not a necessity (contrary to what Bleacher Fan and I may have felt here at TSD earlier this year), and put all their eggs in Cliff Lee’s basket.

So how is it that failing to acquire a player that a team admittedly deemed a non-priority is a signal of a loss of power? The answer is… it isn’t!

Lee did what most professional players never do and put preference above money, and Crawford was a non-factor… a backup plan from the beginning of the off-season. Neither of these two player signings are an indication of things to come. Count me among those aren’t ready to declare that the sky is falling because two players didn’t choose to sign with Yankees.

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The Yankees Free Agent Attraction Debate… Money Doesn’t Buy Free Agents Anymore

December 20, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

‘Tis the season to be jolly!!! Unfortunately, I’m not sure how jolly it is from a baseball standpoint for New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. First, Carl Crawford decided to take his talents to Beamtown, and then last week, Cliff Lee, long rumored to be destined for the Bronx (I even wrote about the need for Lee last month) decided to return to the city of Brotherly Love to pitch for the Phillies. This is quite the change from yesteryear, when the Yankees seemingly had no trouble whatsoever getting any free agent they wanted. That was then, this is now. Cashman is supposed to play Santa this time of year, and right now, Santa isn’t delivering.

Bleacher Fan is asking the Babe and myself if New York is no longer the main destination for free agents, and I would have to say that it really isn’t the main destination.

The school of thought used to be, “Well if the Yankees want him, they’ll get him.” We all thought that was possibly the case while watching Lee pitch this post-season. We’ve let these types of thoughts enter our minds because as we often say, “they’re the Yankees.” They have the biggest wallets. They have the biggest fan base. They have the most history. They have the pinstripes. Well, this off-season, they have the most egg on their face.

Why, is a good question here. With Lee, the Yankees went to seven years in contract value for a pitcher that is currently 32 years old. Various reports had Lee bypassing close to $30M to pitch in Philadelphia rather than in New York. That really is astonishing if you think about it. Perhaps playing for the Yankees doesn’t have the same allure that is used to. I’m sure Babe Ruthless and other diehard Yankees fans truly don’t believe that, but it could be on the verge of being true. Part of the reason the Yankees are so polarizing is because the average fan feels like they try to buy the World Series. I’ve said that numerous times over the years with all of their high profile free agent signings of guys like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texiera, C.C. Sabathia, Jason Giambi, etc. If they don’t get all the high profile guys anymore (and they didn’t this off-season), and have to settle for guys like Russell Martin and an older Mark Prior, then maybe they truly are losing a little bit of steam.

And then there’s the incident that was rumored to have happened in the ALCS this past off-season at Yankee Stadium involving Lee’s wife, Kristen. She was harassed repeatedly at Yankee Stadium, with beer tossed in her direction and obscenities shouted at her throughout much of the night. Now, fans will be fans, and that’s all well and good and part of it. But to treat a player’s wife like that is unacceptable, and that kind of behavior can’t sit well with ANY player. Now, both Lee and his wife downplayed the incident last week and said it had no bearing on his decision to not sign with the Yankees. I just have a hard time believing that the issues from this past post-season never entered into the picture.

The bottom line is that the Yankees have lost their grip as THE main destination for free agent. It’s no longer a given that the Yankees’ organization will get every marquee free agent it wants. This off-season has proven that, and Babe Ruthless, I hate to tell you buddy, but it’s not going to get any better for you anytime soon!
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