MLB- Yankees Cashman Lives Up to his Name

The New York Yankees announced today that future Hall of Famer and pitch-when-he-wants-to Roger Clemens will rejoin the floundering club. Last year, Clemens started 19 games for the Astros, going 7- 6, posting an ERA of 2.30 over 113.1 innings. He struck out 102 and walked 29.

At 44 years old, Clemens, also known as Rocket Roger, still has the juice to go 6 deep and the experience to outsmart most hitters. Clemens will make about $4.5 million per month. He inked a one-year $28 million contract and is due to be added to the major roster in three to four weeks. He’ll start out pitching in the minors.

So—what’s it mean?

This deal means a few things both to baseball in general and the Yankees specifically. First, you can’t blame the Yankees for signing Clemens. The fact is that they are willing to spend any amount of money to win (even though they’ve spent over 1 billion dollars in player salaries since the turn of the century and have not one championship to show for it.

Here’s what it says about MLB—it will continue to be second to football as long as there is no hard salary cap. (Actually, MLB doesn’t even have a soft salary cap.) MLB imposes a luxury tax when teams spend above a certain amount of money. In 2007 the top amount that can be spent before the tax is invoked is $148 million. The Yankees always pay the luxury tax and the Red Sox have at times.

Here’s the problem—the luxury tax makes baseball LESS competitive and, thus, less popular. The NFL has proven that a hard salary cap helps create an even playing field and the NHL has created a fairly competitive league with their cap.

But MLB has not. And so often the same teams are in it to the end and, always, it seems the Yankees get to buy a few wins for 40 to 50 million extra dollars.

For the Yankees, the signing of Clemens does a few things. Down the road it gives them some possible extra wins. How many more? Tough to say. Here’s the skinny. Although the Yanks have been hurt by either poor starting pitching or injury to the starting rotation, they have been plagued equally by inadequate performances from their bullpen. Clemens cannot help in that area.

Even if Roger starts 20- 22 games, his performance will not result in many more wins. Let’s say he leaves about 15 games in the lead. Let’s say the bullpen comes through in 10 of those, which means he notches 10 victories. Does that mean that Clemens has given the Yanks 10 additional wins? No. He probably, at most, gives them four more wins. Why? Even a mediocre starter over 20- 22 games is bound to get about six wins. It Clemens gets 10, the Yanks are plus-four.

It could mean the difference between the playoffs and hitting the golf links early. Then again, it could mean very little. $6 million for each extra victory? Hmmmm…. Get the checkbook out Mr. CASHman, you’re going to need some help in the pen for this deal to payoff.

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