The first point is easy to understand. If you look at a list of the best ballplayers in a given season, they’ll invariably be spry youngsters, and it’s natural to extrapolate that to the team level. Last year, though, the teams with the youngest lineups were Kansas City and Houston, and they were terrible. Having a lot of kids hitting for you isn’t inherently bad, of course—San Francisco and Washington did just fine with young lineups—but it isn’t an inherent good, either.
The second point is probably more important. In general, the popularity of fantasy baseball and sabermetrics has made for better-informed fans and pundits. Just as people have traditionally thought along with the manager during a game, now they think along with the general manager, worrying over payroll flexibility and efficiency. Thus fans and the yakocracy share the general mania within the industry for young, cost-controlled talent.
The value of such talent, though, is structural, largely tied up in allowing a team to pay market price for old players. Mike Trout may be the best player in the league, but what makes him such a uniquely valuable asset is that the Angels can pay him next to nothing, essentially subsidizing 31-year-old Josh Hamilton’s big contract.
Alone among all AL teams, the Yankees, even when operating under relative austerity, don’t really need anyone to subsidize anything. It’s good to be efficient, because a huge payroll is even more useful if none of it is wasted, but it isn’t necessary, at least in the Bronx.
Easy as it can be to forget as we scrutinize the contracts and obligations and weigh them against the team’s future needs, the Yankees are in the business not of getting the most wins for their dollar, but the most wins, and ancient players aren’t going to hurt the cause. There are reasons to worry about this team. Their passion for “NCIS” isn’t one of them.
Posted: February 16, 2013 at 04:47 PM | 6 comment(s)
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