Imagine buying a $200,000 car. Your neighbor paid just $43,000 for his. You’d certainly expect yours to run better, wouldn’t you? If you’re the much-maligned George Steinbrenner, this is pretty much the situation you find yourself in. The Yankees are shelling out $201,449,189 in player salaries this year. This actually represents a cut of about $8 million. Are the Yankees are getting thrifty?
Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. The San Diego Padres trimmed $20 million in payroll and pay $43.8 million. That’s the second-lowest total in the MLB. Full payrolls and comparisons with last year can be found at: http://baseball.about.com/od/newsrumors/a/09teamsalaries.htm
So what are the two teams’ records as of April 17tt? The Yankees finally got their glorious first win in their glorious new park. That brought them to a not-so-glorious 6-5. The Padres are 7-3.
Of course, there is no guaranteed connection between total payroll and wins in baseball. Tampa Bay and the Yankees themselves have proven that in recent years,
Still, it must be maddening to go out and buy Mark Teixera, C.C. Sabathia, Nick Swisher and A.J. Burnett, and find yourself floating near .500 on the season. That’s not to mention the already ridiculous potential that the Yankees ought to have, It’s early in the season, certainly. Players take time to warm up in baseball. They get their batting stroke refined. They clean up pitching mechanics.
They also get to know new situations and stadiums. In the Yankees’ case, everyone is getting used to the brand new gem of a stadium after a lengthy road trip. But the finest of luxury seats may be little consolation for Steinbrenner or the well-heeled fans who come to see the team win. The biggest early worries are Teixera and Yankee veteran Chien-Ming Wang. When the Yankees acquired Teixera in the off-season, it looked like they had locked up a guy who is a proven stat-sheet-stuffer.
In 2005, Teixera had 43 homers and a fairly ridiculous 144 RBI.
He may never reach that production again. But it seems reasonable to guess that he’s easily a steady 30-homer, 100-RBI batter .300 average guy. On a team loaded with talent that ought to be enough.
So what is Teixera producing after 8 games as a Yankee? A .189 batting average. That’s impressively bad. At that rate, he’ll have 99 hits for the season.
He’s got all of four RBI’s. That would project to 80 over a full season.
Teixera has been nursing a wrist injury. But he has also been cleared to play after a cortisone shot. Yet there may be more wrong with the guy than just some inflammation of the wrist.
We’ve seen it before. Players with good numbers and stars in their eyes come to New York ready to take a bit out of the Big Apple. Then they find that it takes a bite out of them. Some players love the attention. Think of Reggie Jackson, who reveled in the spotlight.
It may well turn out that Teixera returns to his expected form, and it may not. The media in New York are relentless, and Yankee fans and New York in general are unforgiving.
A little insecurity can go to a guy’s head early and stay there.
Speaking of which … well, if it’s an article about the Yankees, we have to talk about Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez has never looked comfortable in pinstripes. But then again he never really seems comfortable at all when he’s off the field. In interviews he seems so eager to please in an odd way, like a prom date meeting the parents.
Yet for all his personal faults, and his seeming inability to produce in the postseason, Rodriguez may well be the best regular-season hitter of the era. That includes you, Barry Bonds. But like Bonds, Rodriguez now operates under a cloud of suspicion and distrust. His maybe, kinda, sorta admission of steroid use this off-season was a bombshell.
Perhaps the best thing that could have happened was his hip injury. It has sidelined him for the beginning of the season. It removed a distraction from a team that certainly doesn’t need any more.
Still, even after his expected May 15th. return, it’s hard to know what to make of this team.
Wang is a guy who went 19-7 with a 3.70 ERA just two years ago. Last year, torn tendons limited him to only 15 appearances, although he did go an impressive 8-2 with a 4.07 ERA in that time.
This year? He’s 0-2 with a jaw-dropping 28.93 ERA.
Still, when all is said and done, this has to be a team to reckon with. Derek Jeter is always reliable. Johnny Damon and Robinson Cano are producing. The best news has been Nick Swisher’s performance.
After 11 games as a Yankee, he’s sporting a .371 average, along with 4 home runs and 11 RBI.
He might have wondered exactly where exactly he would land as a fielder, with first base and right field the obvious possibilities.
But with his early performance it’s hard to imagine the Yankees not being able to find room for him.
Fellow new arrival A.J. Burnett has been as good as the Yankees could have hoped, with a nice 2-0 record and sparkling 2.70 ERA in the early going.
C.C. Sabathia, on the other hand, may also be suffering from bright-lights syndrome. He’s 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA. Is he going to get above the .500 mark, as he has in the past? Or is he in the wrong place?
The Yankees are either dollar-for-dollar the worst team in baseball, or merely suffering from some early-season bumps, which they will smooth over during the year. Only time will tell.