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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