Our recent article on the Yankees’ frugality generated lots of heated criticism and ridicule (and some surprising praise) here and around the blogosphere. While there was plenty of hysterical reaction to go around, there was also some legitimate criticism that calls for a response. Most of the criticisms fall into just a handful of areas, so we’ll take a sample of comments from each category and compare (much appreciation for all the comments, by the way):

A $350 Million Budget?! That’s Ridiculous!

Russell210 says:
January 11, 2012 at 8:36 am
If the Yankees matched 78%, their payroll would be so ridiculous that “The Off Season” would be renamed to “Yankee Grocery Shopping”. They at least want to maintain the image that they are winning because they are within means of other teams’ payroll. That being said, the first comment is dead on… slash ticket prices… greedy bastards.

SmartPerson says:
January 11, 2012 at 8:38 am
if the yankees could have bought pujols and lee and ejax and jose reyes to an already star full team then what would be the sense of watching baseball then. Are we really going to complain about a team thats spent so much and given a team thats reached the post season for as long as most fans that come to this site can remember?

These are valid criticisms, but the point of the article was not to demand the Yankees spend $350 million on players. Rather, we wanted to note that it is ridiculous for the Yankees to claim that they can’t afford to expand their budget in order to improve the team. Our flight of fancy in listing Pujols, Reyes, etc served a purpose — to show Yankee fans what their team would look like if the Yankees just matched their rivals in putting the fans’ money back into the team.

To be clear, we are not advocating the Yankees increase their salary budget by 150%. There are good reasons for them not to do so, among them the fact that MLB would surely react with draconian measures to punish them. Unlike the mainstream media, we gave you a glimpse of the reality into the Yankees’ true commitment to the fans, and what it would look like for the Steinbrenners to live up to their reputation. As we said in the article, it’s up to each individual Yankee fan to decide what the proper level of commitment should be.

A final point on this topic: let’s not overstate the ability of the Yankees to guarantee a World Series by spending money. They spend more than everybody else right now, and they are not even the favorites to win the World Series. Even if they vastly expanded their budget and signed every free agent under the sun, they’d still only climb to maybe 3-to-1 favorites. This hardly delegitimizes the league. The Miami Heat are 2.5-to-1 favorites to win the NBA championship (how did that work out last year?)

The Yankees Used To Throw Money Around At Free Agents And It Didn’t Work

Col. John Matrix says:
January 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm
…But spending money just for the sake of spending money may get the fans excited in December, but it doesn’t do spit for the team from April to October. Or were you not alive during the Yankees’s brilliant 1980′s run?

First, we always welcome comments from characters in one of the greatest stories ever told. Second, we are not calling for the Yankees to spend recklessly and foolishly. NoMaas was created out of protest to how the Yankees operated without any rhyme or reason. We wholeheartedly approve of Brian Cashman’s efforts to only buy players at a price that is commensurate with their WAR projections.

However, Yankee fans ought to feel slighted when a free agent who projects to improve the Bombers signs elsewhere for a reasonable price. Kudos to Cashman for addressing the rotation issues within the budget constraints given to him. But, Pineda cost us an elite prospect to whom many fans had become attached. CJ Wilson has a better, longer track record than Pineda, and the Yankees could have added him while keeping Jesus Montero. Wilson signed for a below-market price, but the Yankees didn’t even bother making an offer because they are determined to avoid the luxury tax.

We’re happy that the Yanks were able to land Hiroki Kuroda for $10 million, but they say they would have balked if Kuroda had maintained his $12 million asking price. For a measly $2 million extra, ownership would have punted a crucial marginal win in the standings. And now that Montero’s departure leaves one clear hole in the lineup, the Yankees say they can’t afford to supply the team with a legitimate DH. Carlos Pena would have been a perfect fit, but fans watched him sign with division-rival Rays for a one-year, $7.25 million contract. Pena has been worth an average of $14.25 million over the last five years according to fWAR. These are the types of sensible contracts that ownership is passing up.

Instead of Raising The Salary Budget, The Yankees Should Cut Ticket Prices

NAMBLA says:
January 11, 2012 at 8:00 am
This is all great analysis, but I am glad the Yanks don’t have a $360 million team. With that kind of payroll, you could never exceed expectations (which makes for a fun year); you could only meet them. World Series wins would be more of a relief than a thrill.

In my view, these numbers really suggest the Yankees need to slash ticket and concession prices. Either that or the City/State needs to levy a tax on the Yanks to claw back some of that stadium subsidy.

Not a bad thought, but the secondary market will prevent fans from seeing any benefit if the team slashed ticket prices. Hal and Hank could generously decide to offer all 2012 tickets for a buck, but it would do no good for the average fan. Arbitrageurs would buy up the dollar tickets and resell them at their market value. Working-class fans are stuck being priced out of the Steinbrenners’ new digs.

Some commenters suggested that the city recoup the tax windfall Yankees reaped in building the new stadium. We certainly support the sentiment, but well… good luck with all that. The Yankees have proved themselves to be a powerful and well-connected lobby. If anyone starts an Occupy The Stadium movement, let us know.

Tangentially, a couple of sharp commenters argued that the Yankees are not being greedy by setting ticket prices so high — they are simply setting prices at market value. However, despite being situated in the most populous city in America by a wide margin, new Yankee Stadium has operated at below 90% capacity for each of its three seasons. Last year, Philly, San Fran, Boston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Chicago (NL) managed to fill a larger percentage of their seats than the Yankees, with the first four basically operating at full capacity every game. The Yankees are setting ticket prices high enough to maximize their revenue, and at the same time are pricing out a significant number of fans.

Lee Signed For Less Money In Philly, So There’s Nothing The Yankees Could Have Done.

Duh says:
January 11, 2012 at 8:29 am
… Cliff Lee didn’t WANT to play in NY. Get over it…

Yes, Lee had a preference to play in Philadelphia. Yet, the evidence is just not there to support the assumption that Lee had no intention whatsoever of playing in the Boogie Down. If Lee’s option is picked up or it’s automatically triggered, he will make $135 million over 6 years ($22.5 million per). The Yankees offered $154 million over 7 years ($22 million per). If Lee pitches one year after his Philly deal, he will probably end up making something like 5% less than he would have under the Yankees deal. This is not exactly evidence that Cliff Lee was going to spurn the Yankees no matter what. If the Yankees had offered $24 million per year, it may well have coaxed Lee. And, coming off of a three year period where he averaged 7 WAR, Lee could be worth that gamble. Our point is that the Yankees really didn’t flex their full financial muscle on Lee. They didn’t exactly pull a Vito Corleone/Johnny Fontane.

No Other Free Agents Besides Lee Are A Sure Thing

Routine Ground Ball says:
January 11, 2012 at 10:59 am
Well that’s our fault for giving them the money then I guess…

…The thing is, this article insinuates that the Yankees are not doing whatever it takes to win, and I think through their inactivity they are. The majority of the free agents that have been on the market were either not good fits, or represented a lot of risk.

There is no sure thing in baseball. Players get injured. Players under-perform their projections. Hell, sometimes players get arrested (on a related note, Elijah Dukes is available if the Yankees want to add a cheap DH). This argument is a total red herring. You bet on guys who project to improve your team. Numerous free agents over the past few years had median projections that represented an upgrade for the Yankees. Some of them signed for market value or below. If in a particular instance, the Yankees decide to pass because the think they can get better value elsewhere — then fine. If the Yankees decide to pass on these players and then feed the Post and Daily News stories about how they just can’t find the money to bring them aboard — that’s not fine.

Taxpayers Didn’t Really Get Hosed. And Anyway It’s Good For The Neighborhood

Routine Ground Ball says:
January 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm
… Seriously though, the Yankees being in the neighborhood benefits the community more than it hurts it. Could the team do more for their neighbors? Of course. But would any of you be familiar with the area around 161 and River if the Yanks didn’t call it home? Nope, you wouldn’t.

This is another canard that fans repeat because they hear it so often. The idea that publicly-subsidized stadiums are a great economic boon to a city has been put to rest by studies over and over again.

The deal for Yankee Stadium, conducted through political back channels, was notable in how boldly it fleeced taxpayers. In order to finance the stadium with low-interest, tax-free bonds, the stadium needed to be for public use, not for private enterprise. Thus, the City claimed ownership of the stadium and simply rented it to the Yankees…for $0 rent.

In order to secure public subsidies for the Yankees, the City manipulated the assessment value of the stadium and claimed that 1,000 new permanent jobs would be created. According to a report by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, the actual number of permanent new jobs was 15. The deal left taxpayers on the hook for up to $850 million and was such a blatant use of public funds for private gain that the IRS outlawed any further such deals. A summation of the Yankees’ abuse of taxpayers can be found here: http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/24561.html.

We appreciate all the comments and buzz about our original article on the Yankees’ spending. This is probably the first time we’ve done a response article…at least as far as we can remember. NoMaas’ Vizzini will be hosting a live chat on Monday at 7pm EST to talk about these issues and defend himself further against you internet gorillas.


“This magnificent feast here represents the last of the petty cash.”

*Props to Phil G. for the graphic idea