Like it was the most obvious thing ever. Like players are lining up to become part of the Yankee legacy and aren't happy until they play in the Bronx. Except people made fun of it. What a silly thing to say. So arrogant, so unrealistic, so ridiculous. Maybe that was a thing back when the Yankees were winning the World Series every year, but in this day and age, it's just not true.
Felix Hernandez, one of the best pitchers in baseball, was recruited out of Venezuela as a 16 year old kid. At that time his family had gained a working relationship with the Mariners organization as they tried to sign him. The team offered a signing bonus of $710,000, but the Yankees were in the bidding too and they offered something even higher than that. Why would Hernandez leave money on the table? One of the reasons was that he wanted to be a Mariner because his idol, Freddy Garcia, was on the team. Felix wasn't interested in the legacy of the Yankees, the star attention, or the chance at a championship every year; he had his own personal idea of a legacy. He wanted to be a Mariner just like his hero. He recently signed the most lucrative contract for a pitcher in the history of the game. He could have gotten that on the open market, but he still wanted to be a Mariner, even when they have yet to make the playoffs with him on the team.
When Cliff Lee was looking to sign a long term contract in 2010, the Yankees and the Rangers were in a money battle. Brian Cashman offered a seven year $148M contract, yet Cliff Lee has never been a Yankee. Somehow in the midst of this battle the Phillies snuck in and offered a lesser contract to him of five years and $120M with a sixth option year. Granted, the contract was a higher AAV than the Yankees offered, but he still gave up almost $30M to be with the team that he liked playing for. He later claimed that he never wanted to leave the Phillies in the first place, so this was where he wanted to be all along. Not among the Yankees, making as much money as possible, but off where he knew he would be the happiest. Now, instead of being locked up until his 38 year old season, he'll find himself a free agent at either 36 or 37, an age that says he's not done yet, but definitely not the pitcher he used to be. Lee will never make up for the money he lost to be where he wanted to be.
"I wouldn't stay there very long then," he responded. "I wouldn't sign a long-term deal there. Those rules, that's old-school baseball. I was born in '85. That's not for me. That's not something I want to be a part of.
- David Price
He would gladly play for any other team that allowed him to keep a beard, rather than make top dollar and having to shave it off. A comfort signing with the Yankees is that you can be sure they're going to give you everything you want. They don't skimp people, whether it's because they have the resources to give you whatever you want or they're just very bad negotiators, you can be sure that you're going to get that extra year you want: The Yankees signed Ichiro Suzuki to a two year contract into his 40 year old season, just because he wanted it. Probably because of 3,000 hits too, but still. The Yankees will give you a no trade clause, like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have. You know the Yankees aren't having any mid-season fire sales like the Miami Marlins. The Yankees will give you your own opt out clause so that you can play really well and then leave because you feel like New York isn't really your thing. CC Sabathia benefited from such a goodwill clause and got a really nice hunk of change.
There is literally no reason not to be a Yankee if you want to make the most money and get all the coolest things. Yet David Price is okay never being a Yankee because he doesn't want to shave his beard. Maybe it's more about having the freedom to do what you want and therefore relieving pressure, but if someone told me I needed to shave regularly if I wanted $100M+ I would absolutely do it, and I am notorious for being a lazy shaver (I'm scratching my face as I type this). David Price would want to get out of New York so he could get away from the chance at being a New York Yankee. That's the reality we live in today.
Even when it's not huge contracts being offered, players used to come to New York to win. Players held down on a non-contending team for a long time wanted a chance to contend in the playoffs, old veterans knew that it was their last shot at a title. But now that's kind of changed too as Scott Hairston passed on the Yankees so he could get a second year on his contract playing for the Chicago Cubs. Nate Schierholtz decided a $2M one year deal with the Cubs was fine as long as he got to start. No one is offering to sit on the bench so that they can possibly win a championship anymore.
At least the Yankees can still attract the old veterans that no one particularly wants. The Yankees have signed the likes of Travis Hafner, a man that has suffered from enough injuries that he hasn't played more than 100 games in a season, other than one year, since 2007. He wants a championship. Matt Diaz has been declining for years and Juan Rivera has never been very good. These are the ragtag players the Yankees are still able to attract.
Maybe it was okay to claim the Yankees as the best team ever and say silly things like everyone wants to be a Yankee back when the organization was on top of the world. Now, with the newly imposed budget, the declining talent of their biggest brand names, and a lack of clear dominance, players are starting to see that there is baseball life outside of New York. And that's fine. There always was one, but Yankee fans can't continue to pretend that we're the center of the baseball solar system, that all teams revolve around New York. It gives us a bad name. It makes the organization look bad, because they're a business, not an exclusive club, not the Hall of Fame. The best players can come from anywhere and it's okay if they want to stay there. Every team should have their own Derek Jeter. It's time that we buy into a new marketing vision besides "27 Ringz" and the legacy of Lou Gehrig and the Babe. Things are different now.