Fans listening to a Steinbrenner press conference or reading a Yankees press release will notice a trend. Back in 2013, Hal Steinbrenner said to the press, “We will always field a championship-caliber team. Is our goal 189 next year? Yes. But only if I'm convinced if the team I see, that we've put together, is a championship-caliber team.”
At the end of last year, he said, “All I know is what I’ve always said: I shouldn’t have to have a $200 million payroll to win the world championship. It’s been proven over and over again, right?” This is the standard rhetoric. “We’re going to field a great team, but we’re never going to sell at the trade deadline, and we’re never going to spend a lot of money.”
They did not sell in 2013, even though they were eight games out of the division and three games out of the second Wild Card. Instead, they bought at the deadline (slightly), and they doubled down in the offseason by signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Masahiro Tanaka. They bought again in 2014, and they actually made some good deals, but again it fell short of the playoffs. Then they didn’t sell last season in preparation for a Wild Card spot that they did reach.
Each year, the Yankees, and especially ownership, have been hesitant to sell off assets and risk tossing away a season. Sometimes it works out (last year), and other times it doesn’t (2013 and 2014). The one thing fans can agree with, though, is that that can’t continue forever. It was even more apparent this year that the Yankees were going nowhere fast until things changed.
They did sell, and it has worked out even better than expected so far. The returns were more than fair, and the team’s hot stretch in August has pretty much erased the loss of immediate production in those trades. Gary Sanchez basically hitting like Babe Ruth for a month likely bests the median production of Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Beltran combined.
The funny thing about this whole Sanchez ordeal is that it spins that Steinbrenner rhetoric on its head. Hal Steinbrenner did not want to sell until they were swept by the Rays, and he didn’t officially authorize the Carlos Beltran deal until 90 minutes before the deadline. Nonetheless, they’re getting more attention than they have in a while.
Before the deadline it was widely reported that YES Network ratings were down, and news outlets had basically crowned the Mets on top in that respect. Interestingly, though, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported two days ago the following:
“So much for any concern that the Yankees' home attendance would suffer with a younger, less star-laden club. The team's three-game weekend series against the Orioles drew an average of 38,422, not far below the season average of 38,941. Fans did not like the older, initial version of the Yankees that they saw before the non-waiver deadline -- and clearly are excited by Gary Sanchez and Co.”
The TV ratings aren’t out yet for this portion of the season, so I can only speculate. However, the Yankees are both still in the race and have young, dynamic players who attract positive media attention. That is something the media haven’t seen in a while. It’s good press that just hasn’t been around since the Derek Jeter retirement tour, and this doesn’t have an expiration date.
The Steinbrenners were luckily cajoled into this situation despite their best efforts to sabotage the whole rebuild. Now they have pivoted in a flash, and my only piece of advice now is this: You may have a younger core, so spend more money.