The Yankees have been making news of the bad variety lately with their comments about the team's new ticketing policies. That continued on Thursday when Hal Steinbrenner made it clear that he intends to cut payroll in the years to come, which is all kinds of endearing for the most profitable team in baseball.
Steinbrenner attempted to get under the luxury tax threshold in 2013 which would reset the penalty the team is forced to pay as a repeat offender. The plan was ultimately tossed aside to sign Masahiro Tanaka, and Steinbrenner admits that he did so because he felt like the team was not good enough to win without him.
Expiring high-dollar contracts like Mark Teixeira's, Alex Rodriguez's, and CC Sabathia's should go a long way toward helping the team shed payroll. It is true that the team could still spend on free agents after those contracts are off the books and still not have a payroll as high as it presently is, but it's also true that contracts are just increasing with time.
Should the team decide that Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper or any other free agent who hits the market in the seasons to come is worth signing, it's not going to come cheaply. Perhaps Steinbrenner would be willing to make exceptions in those circumstances, as he was with Tanaka, but it does feel like the main goal is to save money.
It's easy to sit here and call for the Yankees to throw caution to the wind when it comes to payroll. It's not really endearing in any way to hear millionaires talk about ways to pinch pennies. It's understandable that paying money in penalties for having a payroll that exceeds baseball's limitations would be frustrating when that money could be put directly in the team. It also probably isn't great to know that every contract you sign is inflated by 50% because of said penalties.
Don't feel bad for the Steinbrenners, though. They are sitting on a cash cow that is the Yankees and have no intention of selling the team. It's frustrating to hear all of the ways they want to make the experience of baseball less appealing for anyone who isn't wearing a suit in the safe confines of the moat while hearing the team's owner discuss all the ways he can save himself some dough.
George Steinbrenner's business model was not a great one, even though many people would argue otherwise. I'm not sure Hal's is correct either. He is correct that teams are winning without a payroll that exceeds $200 million, but why not use your financial advantage for good? Do you really get more joy out of winning if you say you can do it on a dime?
It's clear by the attendance at Yankee Stadium that not everyone is buying what the Steinbrenners are selling since other teams have been able to catch up to their spending. Openly admitting that you intend to put even less money into the team so you can further line your already well-lined pockets isn't going to do a lot of good to change that, Hal.