Breaking down the Yankees

By | October 11, 2006

They say you can’t buy a championship. Just look at the Yankees, who are out of the playoffs (again) with a $200 million payroll (again). But here’s the thing: you probably CAN buy a championship, but you have to do more than just spend money.

Look, the Royals could pay their current roster $200 million next year, and they would still suck. I’m not saying the Yankees’ talent level isn’t higher than the Royals’, but let’s call a spade a spade. George Steinbrenner may be paying his team $200 million for 2006, but the 2006 Yankees are (were) not a $200-million team.

Here’s a breakdown of the Yankees’ payroll (courtesy

* Alex Rodriguez $21,680,727
* Derek Jeter $20,600,000
** Jason Giambi $20,428,571
* Mike Mussina $19,000,000
** Randy Johnson $15,661,427
* Johnny Damon $13,000,000
* Hideki Matsui $13,000,000
* Jorge Posada $12,000,000
* Gary Sheffield $10,756,171
Mariano Rivera $10,500,000
** Carl Pavano $8,000,000
** Jaret Wright $7,666,667
Kyle Farnsworth $5,416,666
** Shawn Chacon $3,600,000
* Ron Villone $2,250,000
* Octavio Dotel $2,000,000
* Tanyon Sturtze $1,500,000
Bernie Williams $1,500,000
* Aaron Small $1,200,000
Mike Myers $1,150,000
Miguel Cairo $1,000,000
Kelly Stinnett $650,000
Robinson Cano $381,000
Nick Green $356,700
Bubba Crosby $354,250
Chien-Ming Wang $353,175
Scott Proctor $352,675
Andy Phillips $333,150
Wil Nieves $328,600

One star means the player is possibly overpaid; two stars means he is definitely overpaid. Let’s talk about a few of them, and let’s start where everyone else starts: with Alex Rodriguez.

I know A-Rod gets a lot of the blame for the Yankees’ lousy play, but here’s the bottom line: he drove in more runs than anyone else on the Yankees, and he was second in homers (two behind Giambi). He batted .290 with a .392 on-base percentage and a .523 slugging percentage. Despite all the talk about his failures in the clutch, he batted .302 with runners in scoring position, .313 with RISP and two outs, and .474 with the bases loaded. Despite all the talk about how he was lousy most of the season, he had only one truly bad month: June. In every other month of the season, if you quickly multiply his numbers by six to emulate a six-month season, you will get between 30 and 48 homers and between 96 and 168 RBI. Yes, he had a lousy season defensively, tying his career high with 24 errors. And no, no one is going to argue that he had a great offensive season by his lofty standards. But anyone who thinks he had a terrible year is simply a fool.

Is A-Rod overpaid? Sure. No one player is worth what he gets paid. And he was more overpaid than normal because his season didn’t live up to the expectations set by his remarkable greatness over the past eleven years. But he is not the biggest payroll problem for the Yankees, because there is a reasonable expectation that he is going to be great again next year — the last time he went back-to-back seasons with fewer than 40 home runs was 1996-97.

So who are the bigger payroll problems? I’m only going to look at the guys who a reasonably intelligent person could have known would be drains on the checkbook.

Randy Johnson

Here is what I wrote on December 31, 2004, at the beginning of the Big Unit’s Yankee career:

Am I the only one who still remembers that Randy Johnson is 41 years old and has a history of back problems? I totally understand wanting him for 2005, but to give him a 2-year extension with crazy money? My favorite thing about this Johnson deal is playing the odds on how much money the Yankees will pay Johnson to sit on the bench, injured.

Johnson is now 43, and he is about to have surgery on a herniated disc in (SURPRISE!) his back. The Yankees paid him almost $16 million this year to put up a 5.00 ERA; they will pay him the same next year, and he will either a) not play at all, or b) not be much (or any) better than he was this year.

Jaret Wright

Before 2004, Jaret Wright had had exactly one season in which he had a winning record and more than ten wins — and in that season (1998), he had an ERA of 4.72. Then in 2004, he ended up with the Braves, and he somehow put together a pretty good season, going 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA. So the Yankees signed him to a big-money contract, despite the fact that all evidence pointed to 2004 being the fluke, rather than the previous seven years. In two seasons, the Yankees have paid him over $13 million, and he has pitched 204 innings. Now, I’d pay $13 million for 204 innings of a great pitcher, but this is 204 innings of 4.99 ERA!

Carl Pavano

In seven years, Pavano had more seasons with an ERA over 5.00 (three) than under 4.00 (two). He had started over 30 games in a season only twice. He had a career record of 57-58, with a 4.21 ERA. But he had a great season in 2004, so the Yankees threw money at him. Lots and lots of money. They paid $9 million for a 4-6, 4.77 season in 2005, and then paid him $8 million to be injured through all of 2006. That’s $17 million for 100 mediocre innings over 17 starts. And the signs were there.

Jorge Posada

This may seem like blasphemy to Yankee fans, but there’s no denying that Posada is overpaid. Yes, he has been solid throughout his career. But look at his 2006 stats, and then look at Mike Piazza’s 2006 stats. Pretty similar, eh? Where’s the big difference? Down at the bottom, in the salary section, where we learn that Posada made $12 million this year, while Piazza made $1.25 million. In reality, they probably each deserved somewhere between three and five million.

So there’s over $40 million that could have been spent more wisely, without ever touching the salaries of A-Rod, Jeter, Giambi, and Mussina. The Yankees have an advantage in bidding wars, but the problem with bidding wars is that they drive up the price for players who probably don’t deserve that much money. Would the Yankees be a lot better off if they had been outbid for the “services” of Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano? You bet your sweet bippy.

So A-Rod shoulders a lot of the blame, and Joe Torre almost got fired for not winning the World Series. But neither A-Rod nor Torre had anything to do with the pitchers the Yankees had on staff. It is very hard to win it all without good pitching, and the Yankees did not have good pitching. Their five main starters combined for a 4.35 ERA, thanks mostly to a surprisingly good season by Chien-Ming Wang (which he may or may not be able to duplicate) and an above average season by Mike Mussina (which he probably won’t duplicate, since he’s turning 38 this offseason). The other three starters (who combined to make about $25 million) combined for a 5.14 ERA.

Final analysis: the Yankees can spend $200 million every year, but until they start spending it on the right players at the right time, they will not match their previous success. That means no more signing (or trading for) players who are past their prime, and it means focusing on drafting and developing players internally. If George Steinbrenner can’t figure that out, he will continue to be disappointed.

6 thoughts on “Breaking down the Yankees

  1. Richie

    Aren’t the Rangers paying some of A-Rod’s salary? Do you know how much, and if the number you quoted reflects that?

  2. Jeff J. Snider Post author

    I believe A-Rod was paid a total of $25.6 million or so this year, with the Rangers picking up $4 million of the tab. If I remember correctly, the Rangers are paying a total of something like $70 million of the $175 million owed to A-Rod when he was traded to the Yankees.

  3. caylie

    so jeff do u talk about anything other than baseball. i mean i love baseball just as much as the next person but , wow! i konw u have a life other than baseball. you should let others know more about YOU. other than the fact you like baseball. u have a great personality, u should let people see that every once in a while. including me. god bless.

  4. Jeff J. Snider Post author

    I do occasionally talk about things other than baseball. When I do, it is generally web development. I don’t believe in talking too much about myself or my family or other personal things, because a) I find it a bit pretentious to think that people care so much about my personal life that I need to ramble about it on my website; and b) I don’t think it is fair to my family or to myself to make personal things public. There are three things I love enough, know enough about, and have enough passion for to write about: baseball, web development, and my personal/family life. Two of those I write about on my website; the other one, with rare exceptions, I only write about privately.

    As for letting people see my personality, I think that personality comes through in writing, no matter what is being written about. If someone comes to this site who doesn’t know me personally, I don’t care a lot if they get to know me. I hope they enjoy the stuff I write about, and that is as far as my emotional investment goes.

  5. caylie

    alright then how come that is as far as your emotional developement goes? i mean u and that other person could become good friends bui u would never get the chance to find out because u just stopped communicating. i mean wouldn’t u want to give that other person a chance? I mean they wouldn’t start talking to u if they didn’t want to give u a chance.

  6. Jeff J. Snider Post author

    I am not quite sure what you are talking about. Are you referring to making friends through my website? I do a lot of things with the Internet: I shop, I follow my interests, I even make my living. One thing I don’t do on the Internet is make friends. It’s not that I don’t think there is anyone worth liking on the Internet; it’s just that I have plenty of people I know in real life with whom I already lack sufficient time to cultivate the kind of relationships I would like to. Why would I use the Internet to add more people to the list of “People I should try to be a better friend to”?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *