Monday, December 28, 2015

Why Hal Steinbrenner is a gold-plated cheapskate

I'd like to take a break from the gonad-popping jubilation over the Yankees' big Christmas week signings - Vinnie Pestano, Cesar Puello and Sebastian Valle! - and ponder the subtle sea changes that have happened over the last few years, because some of you are - rightfully - questioning the reasons why this blog tags Hal Steinbrenner with the nickname, "I'm Not Cheap." You say, "'I'm Not Cheap'  spends more than any team in baseball, except the Dodgers, so 'I'm Not Cheap' is right in declaring, 'I'm Not Cheap.'"

Well, here's my reasoning:

I'm a fan of capitalism. But unfortunately, it doesn't work for the owners of baseball teams. These supposed bastians of free market economics prefer a top-down, regulated socialism - a system that requires each team to stay within a de facto payroll cap. Once upon a time, the Players Union went to war over payroll caps and what was called "owners' collusion." Then the union fell asleep, and a de facto cap was installed, using luxury taxes as crowbars. The owners established money-sharing spending limits, which made so-called "small market" teams (such as the Mets?) on the same par as "big market" teams, like Boston. Go figure.

If this were the NFL, that would be fine. The fathers of football have always run a top-down Stalinist state, even to the point of denying the brain damage inflicted upon some of their most beloved employees. So be it. But in America, there was always one pro sports franchise that allowed its fans to dream big.

No matter what your status was in life - wealthy, getting by or flat-out homeless - if you rooted for the Yankees, you could be a millionaire.

Of course, you were reviled by other fans. So be it. You could be shining the shoes of a Mariners fan, but you owned A-Rod, and he was fretting over Willie Bloomquist. When the best free agent came on the market, the Yankees would grab him. When the newest star emerged from Cuba or Japan, the Yankees would grab him. This didn't mean you won every year - some of the sorriest seasons in history emerged while George Steinbrenner was assembling "the worst teams that money could buy." Still, as a Yankee fan, you owned Winfield, you owned Giambi, you owned Reggie, you owned them all. And in the end, you'd have Catfish, the Big Unit, Tim Raines, Paul Blair, Gary Sheffield, even Bill Monbouquette, Lindy McDaniel and Robin Roberts - and yes, even Vernon Wells! You'd own them all, for better or worse... because you were a Yankee fan, and the Yankees could be great or they could be terrible, but there was one thing they could never be: They could never be cheap.

Yep. That's how it was.

So last week, while the rest of baseball was pondering Grienke and Cespedes, the Yankees turned to Sebastian Valle, a reserve catcher from East Schmuckola. (I have nothing against the guy; let's hope he contributes.) We have a billionaire owner with the astounding, unbelievable ability to poor-mouth, to walk the streets with pockets pulled out, setting an arbitrary salary cap and telling fans he cannot afford any free agents. The Yankees are his play thing. He counts his daily earnings with more zeros than we will know in our lifetimes, and frankly, if he wants to run a frugal sports franchise, he could sell the Yankees and buy every sports team from Cleveland. There, he can doodle with his spreadsheets and show the world how smart he is.

Once upon a time, the Yankees were the gold-standard for pro sports teams in America. Every Yankee fan - in our private fantasies - was rich. Now, we're on the same level as Royals fans (actually, we're below them in many ways.) Last winter, had I'm Not Cheap signed Max Scherzer, the Yankees might have won the 2015 AL East. But I'm Not Cheap said no. And today, we have Sebastian Valle.

Once upon a time, every spring, Yankee fans could fall in love.

Now, we're supposed to fall in line.

And that's why we call him "I'm Not Cheap."


Honey Barnes said...

Can we break a little new ground here. I heard Hal, "I'm Not Cheap" was seen at an Indiana Anti Aging clinic leaving with a bag of HGH to cure his alligator arm syndrome. Keep it to yourself.

Anonymous said...


John M said...

Pondering my fate as a Yankees fan in the Hal INC era (pretty good how 'I'm Not Cheap' works out to Inc., ain't it?), I have come to realize that life is a meaningless series of disappointments and losses, then you die. Can we sign Camus? I hear he has a good glove.

Happy Holidays! Go Scranton.

I'm Bill White said...

"INC" should become standard shorthand for the nickname. It's perfect.

V. Putin said...

You're much too hard on Stalin.

Josef Stalin said...

Tell me about it. I make Syracuse into a workers' paradise and institute the Reserve Clause. Then Duque dishes out all this diss. I'd send him to Siberia, but the climate is worse where he lives now.

Anonymous said...

It's still baseball, gentlemen. It's still the greatest game in sports. Adding Mr. Chapman was big, and could allow for another few moves, as well. Ironic that the Yankees could deal for Strasburg and Storen, or God forbid, Papelbon. lol. But, the rumor is out there.......