Sports Perspectives by Mark Elder

Friday, 16 January 2009


Filed under: Economics of Sport, New York Sports — Mark @ 11:26

Folks, this is a hard post for me.  Those podunk bastards in New England have seriously become a thorn in my side over the past few years, and while it is clear that anyone who bets against the city of New York will rightfully be crushed like the foolhardy insect drawn to the bright blue light on a Mississippi back porch, it seems that will yet again require a herculean effort on the part of our beloved Yankees to make that happen.

Now, listen, everybody who is reading this knows that I don’t like Boston or Massachusetts or whatever other states are up there in New England.  I’m told that there is syrup up there somewhere but I go to Canada for my syrup.  I know that there is beer but A. I don’t drink beer and B. who gives a shit?  I’m also told there is lobster.  I don’t eat seafood because it makes me ill, but if I did, I’d eat good old-fashioner Maryland crabs and leave the lobster for those Harvard types.  Until I see Obama coating a lobster in Old Bay at some restaurant that calls itself a “Shack,” I don’t want to hear it from the lobster people.  Get your snobby New England cuisine out of here and back to Cape Cod where it belongs. 

Boston is a podunk college town.  Rhode Island is not an island (or a peninsula, I’m told).  Half of Connecticut wants to be NY and the other half wants to be Massachusetts.  I’m not even sure what else constitutes New England, but I know that rich kids go to camp in Maine, which really should be a part of Canada, I think.  How it is that the lowly Red Sox can compete with the juggernaut Yankees is beyond me.  Except that it’s not.  It’s easily explained with a few simple facts.

1.  Although the Boston metropolitan area is less than 1/4 the size of the NY metropolitan area, they spend roughly 7/10 of what the Yankees spend in terms of player personnel and management.  This is almost exactly the maximum that they can spend, under MLB rules, without contributing millions of dollars to the payroll of poor teams.  Why welfare teams like the Royals and Brewers even bother is unclear, but how is much clearer:  they use the Yankees’ money to supplement their own income.  Regardless, the Red Sox spend, relative to their city, WAY more money than other teams, including the Yankees.  Think about this:

The Florida Marlins’ payroll, including their Manager Joe Girardi, in 2006, was under $15 million.  That same year the Red Sox payroll was over $120 million.  The Yankees rightly spent the most in the league at $194 million.  Let’s do the math as compared to the population of their respective metropolitan areas.

Yankees:  $10.20 per person

Red Sox:  $26.80 per person

Marlins:  $2.77 per person

Okay now think about that for a second, and then answer this question:  are the Yankees really spending too much money?  Should the Steinbrenners really be pocketing all that money instead of spending it on players to make their team better and make their fans happier?  I will address that issue in more depth another time.

For now, let’s get back to the contracts issue.  The Red Sox bid $175 million for Mark Teixeira, but he wanted to play in New York, so he signed with the Yankees for #180 million.  It’s possible, though I wouldn’t say likely, that he wanted to play in New York because of the extra $5 million dollars, but, over 8 years, that doesn’t seem likely.  What can you buy in NY on $22 million/year?  Not much.  It’s not some little college town, you need big boy money in New York if you want to live a rich, lavish lifestyle, and I’m not convinced it can be done with new money, never mind a simple annual salary.  Regardless, he came to the Yankees and fans rejoiced, but yesterday my stoic visage turned downward to an outright frown.  Word broke that Kevin Youkilis re-signed with Boston for $40 million.  A staggeringly low number, but even more incredible is that he’s signed for the next FOUR YEARS, with an option for a fifth at the same rate.  That’s insane.  How is Kevin Youkilis making $40 million when Mark Teixeira just signed for $180 million?  I don’t know where Bill James grew up, but he obviously has something against New York.  This guy is killing us.  We should be paying HIM $40 million dollars over 4 years.

Let’s see if the number reflect the contracts:

Youkilis in 2008 for Boston:  .312/.390/.569 with 29 HR and 115 RBI in 145 games for 1 team

Teixeira in 2008 for Atlanta/Anaheim:  .308/.410/.552 with 33 HR and 121 RBI in 157 games for 2 teams

Teixeira is one year younger than Youkilis and is a switch hitter.  Obviously Youkilis benefited from being a right-handed hitter in Fenway Park, but he is not a creation of Fenway Park.  His road OPS is lower, but still good at .900, identical to Mark Teixeira’s road OPS.  His home OPS is actually lower than Teixeira’s at 1.019 compared to 1.026 – but that’s due to Teixeira’s patience at the plate – he walks more than Youkilis does.  Regardless, looking at these numbers, they are all virtually identical.  One year younger, with the ability to switch hit and a slightly better glove.  That got Mark Teixeira an extra $140 million?  I don’t think so.  Additionally, Teixeira can’ t play 3rd base, which Youkilis can.  Granted, that’s immaterial to the Yankees, who are set on not playing guys out of position anymore, and who have Alex Rodriguez holding things down at the hot corner.  Still, Youkilis more than approximates Teixeira’s value, he is essentially a Fenway Park Mark Teixeira, making less than half as much money and on a contract that is half the duration.  I am a die-hard Yankees fan who hates Boston and pretty much everything about it, but I have to give them this one.  They didn’t deal us a blow, per se, because we never had a shot at Youkilis, who wouldn’t play in New York anyway and in whom the Yankees are uninterested, but from an objective baseball perspective, if you tell me I could get Teixeira-like production from a player who should have been the league’s MVP in 2008, with similar defensive prowess and the ability to play both corner infield spots, and you tell me I could get it for a $40 million commitment instead of a $180 million commitment, I’d be crazy to say no. 

All that said, I want to go on record now, before pitchers and catchers even report to camp, and say that Robinson Cano will have a better season than Dustin Pedroia and maybe even a better season than Kevin Youkilis.  His OPS will rival either of them and he will defensively be more valuable because he has better range and a better arm than Pedroia.  He has made more errors, traditionally, but I am going on record and saying that he will be very sure-handed this season, with an excellent shot at a gold glove AND a silver slugger award for his play in the new Stadium in 2009.

Right now, though, I’m really wishing that Mr. Youkilis had been awarded his rightful MVP for this past season.  Certainly with an MVP award in hand he wouldn’t have signed this paltry contract.  Seriously, his contract is so low compared to Teixeira’s, which was signed first, creating a precedent for Youkilis, that it makes me want to investigate.  Is Boston paying Youkilis the extra 4 million he deserves annually on the side, so as to avoid luxury tax payments to the MLB?  How did they talk sports agents into signing below market value?  It defies all logic.  Why can’t Scott Boras represent more Red Sox players and fewer Yankees players?

And for that matter, can we please start the WBC already?  I miss baseball!  The Knicks are terrible!  I find myself rooting for teams I hate, like the Lakers, and teams that are irrelevant, like the Magic, because I have nothing in New York.  We were undefeated for the first three days of the season and since then it’s been downhill.

Enough blabbing for today.  Back to work.


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