Call it jealousy, envy or whatever word you can conjure up to describe why the Yankees are so beloved by their fans (and themselves) but despised by everyone else with a pulse. Not only has the organization spent money like a shipload of drunken sailors on leave during the worst economic situation in 80 years, but even outbid themselves during this free agency free-for-all.
Other organizations have made their feelings well known and have publicly denounced many of the Bronx Bombers’ moves, dating back longer than just this past offseason. Perhaps one of the more colorful ‘nicknames’ came out of a 2002 New York Times interview with Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, who berated the Yankees for outbidding his team for Cuban free agent pitcher Jose Contreras. Lucchino initially did not want to comment on the issue but then stated, “No, I’ll make a comment. The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America.” The name has taken on a life of its own, even being mentioned in the Wikipedia page for ‘Evil Empire’ to reference the Yankees. Not surprisingly, the fan base of the Yankees embraced the nickname and wear it as if it were a badge of honor.
This past winter, southpaw CC Sabathia was the biggest fish on the open market as far as staring pitchers went. After blowing everyone else out of the water with a six-year, $140 million offer, the Yankees added a year and $21 million to the contract, as well as an “opt-out” clause after three years. Why top it out at $161 million instead of an even $160 you may ask? That’s an easy answer, if you subscribe to the Yankee mentality. You see, they had to ensure that Sabathia would average $23 million per year, topping Johan Santana’s paltry $22.9 million average he received from the cross town Mets a year ago.
The Milwaukee Brewers, who traded a bevy of youngsters right before the trading deadline last July to acquire Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians, obviously wanted him back. The small market club offered five years and $100 million and were even contemplating adding a sixth year when the Yankees began courting the near 300-pound hurler.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was not too thrilled at the Bombers for upping their offer by 40 percent. “They could have offered him 110,” he said to reporters in November. “There was no reason to go up to 140. It sounds to me like they’re overbidding.
“(The Yankees) have been pretty adamant about bidding on everybody,” continued Melvin. “That doesn’t mean that’s what the market is. That’s just one team’s offer.”
Read between the lines with that last part of Melvin’s statement and you can understand why it always seems like ‘us versus them,’ with ‘them’ being the Yankees and ‘us’ the other 29 teams.
After the Yankees signed Sabathia, they also inked righthander A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira for a shopping spree that cost them $243 million for all three new players.
As if you really needed to be told, the Yankees also have the top four highest paid players not only in baseball, but in all of sports. Alex Rodriguez, who wasn’t satisfied earning $25.2 million a summer, opted out of that monster deal he originally received from the Texas Rangers and resigned with the Yankees for $275 million over 10 years. Up next is shortstop Derek Jeter with his $189 million/10-year deal he signed in 2001. Newbies Teixeira (8 years at $180 million) and Sabathia follow to give the impression that there is a printing press pumping out $100 bills somewhere in the bowels of that new ballpark.
Speaking of the Bombers’ new digs, a mere $26,325 will buy you a full season seat in the Field Level. For those without a calculator handy, that comes out to $325 per game, of course not counting the gas, tolls, parking lot, hot dog and beer. Add at least another $100 per nine innings for all the extras and who do you think will be sitting in Sections 115 through 125?
On second thought, even those guys are feeling the recession these days. Perhaps if things get worse before getting better, the Yankees one day will have to do things the old fashioned way, just like the rest of the country.
The Yankees becoming ‘commoners?’ Don’t bet on it.