For years the New York Yankees were the class of MLB and were the model for how to build a classy organization with the strongest winning culture across all sports. They had an owner in George Steinbrenner whose passion for excellence and winning titles was the key to every move they made. It did not matter that Alex Rodriguez was a shortstop and they had Derek Jeter, A-Rod would move to third base. Money? That did not matter. They’re the Yankees — a global brand that is synonymous with winning and baseball. Unfortunately, Steinbrenner has since passed away and his sons have taken over. Obviously, that passion and hunger for excellence is not the same as it was when the boss was there as well as the fact that the league has changed drastically.
In today’s league, teams win through drafting well, signing those players through their prime years, and work on drafting and developing those players’ replacements. It’s all about making smart investments, spending money wisely, and making sure that the investment a team makes brings the most value. This moneyball concept is something that has fallen on deaf ears with the Yankees. While every other team is drafting players and protecting those players, the Yankees are trading those players away for players that help them win now. Needless to say, this perpetual “win now” attitude of the Yankees is something that has gotten so overpowering that they have no choice but to sign players who are long in the tooth because of a barren farm system and a lack of adequate replacements in the organization.
This is exactly why Yankees fans really should not be angry that the Yankees go out and sign a Carlos Beltran or a 30 year old Jacoby Ellsbury. Well, that and the fact that since 1996 the team has won five World Series titles, seven American League pennants, and have made the playoffs 16 times. Obviously, it’s not as though this attitude has not brought home hardware as the Yankees have been one of baseball’s more — if not most — successful team in the past 20 years. At this point, however, the Yankees have become more of a caricature of that attitude than the league standard. They have no choice whatsoever but to bring in older players because they simply do not have the prospects to replace the veterans they replace with more veterans.
Currently, the top prospects in the Yankees’ minor league system are all in the very low end of the minors and are far from even thinking of being major league ready. Plus, there is the fear that prospects would not be able to play under the pressure of playing in pinstripes as we have seen many a big name player wilt under the pressure of pinstripes then go elsewhere and have success. Also, the players the Yankees did have that were ready for the bright lights are blocked by another player signed long term.
Yankees fans, when you complain about the Yankees getting older and signing older players remember the context of the signings. The Yankees, sadly, do not have a choice but to sign these players. Usually when a team lets a veteran walk they have a younger player ready to take the reins, and that sadly has never been the case in the Bronx. So, just bask in the success these veterans may bring, Yankees fans, because the Yankees are doing literally the only thing they can: get and be old until the players are there in the minors to take over. The Yankees know who they are, and that’s really all a fan can ask of their team. Yankees fans may not like it, but they at least have to respect it.