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Yankees spend wisely, and win

10/22/2009

George Vecsey on what a smart guy can do with $206 million:

    Money talks. Otherwise, why were the Yankees, with baseball’s highest payroll of some $206 million, holding such a commanding lead over the Angels, with their payroll of a mere $116 million?

    The doomsday scenario is reasserting itself with a vengeance in the American League and maybe in all of baseball. Oh, my goodness, what if the Yankees, with all of that cable money, actually make the right decisions?

    --snip--

    Asked if he felt grateful at managing a collection like this, Manager Joe Girardi said, quite touchingly, that he was also blessed with a good family and a good life. Then he added: “Oh, I think you’re fortunate that you have an ownership group in the Steinbrenner family that puts together a club like this every year. They do whatever they can. They take what they earn from the club and put it in the payroll.”

    For much of this decade, the ever-shifting Yankees front office could not quite get it right with expensive infusions of Jason Giambi, Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson. They had the money. Things just went wrong. This year the Yankees are either awesome or scary, depending on your point of view. As Burnett was suggesting, what’s fair got to do with it?

When the Yankees got Giambi, he was 31. Nevertheless, he finished fifth in the MVP balloting in his first year with the club and enjoyed three more excellent seasons. Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson both pitched well for the Yankees, but both were well past their primes when the Yankees acquired them.

This, of course, is the difference. CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira are only 29. Nick Swisher, who the Yankees picked up for a song, is only 28. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and Johnny Damon and Mariano Rivera all seem to have discovered the fountain of youth; Jeter and Posada and Rivera all are essentially doing things that players their age never (or almost never) do, at least not with any consistency.

Believe it or not, Brian Cashman's job will not be easy in the coming years, mostly because free agents like Sabathia and Teixeira will rarely be available. The Yankees rely on a number of old players, and those players will, as a group, decline next season. Who will pick up the slack? We can't know until and unless they do.

Cashman's job is easier with all of the Steinbrenners' money than without. But it's never easy.