It is often the simplest questions that prove the most challenging to provide a satisfactory answer to, especially when it is detail and nuance that is needed. As a scientist masquerading as an engineer masquerading as a baseball writer, my curiosity is usually focused on expanding knowledge, unraveling mysteries, penetrating secrets. How does it work?
No names on the back of jerseys, no facial hair, no available single digit uniforms once Jeter retires and the Torre divorce fades. Old timers day, Yankeeographies, Monument Park, mystique and the Yankee way. Like no other team in profession sports, the Yankees organization is committed to bludgeoning you with the richness of their history. Which has undeniable benefits, considering all of the interesting players, events, and memories that make up Yankee lore.
I don't understand the
Global Warming Climate Change debate. Neither side of it, really. George Carlin once said that "rain forests" and "wetlands" came into existence because the environmentalists discovered people were not willing to give money to save jungles and swamps. And yes, on a national scale, political posturing has muddied the waters. It always does.
The $189 million payroll story has dominated the coverage of this offseason, seemingly coloring every front office decision. It wasn't a whole lot of fun watching a good player like Nick Swisher leave while the organization went bargain shopping to patch the weaknesses of the team, but I do think that there could be a silver lining there. An organization being able to shrewdly distribute a limited number of assets is as important as a good scouting department or a lucrative TV deal. The Yankees haven't had a whole lot of practice at budgeting and I'm hoping for the long term benefits of a crash course.
When taught and explained, I often feel like a crucial bit of the concept of evolution is left out. Organisms with favorable traits surviving, reproducing, and increasing the commonality of their traits in a population is a key concept, but, in my view, it is only half of the story. It isn't that fluid or easy, because what we classify as a "favorable trait" is far from static. As much as organisms are in constant adaptation to the environment in which they live, the environment is in constant adaption to the organisms.
Shouldn't $189 million be enough? Think about how much money that is and what a first world problem the Yankees are grappling with. It's like the government telling you that the solution to the nation deficit is more taxation and not less waste. What the hell happened to all of the money that you already have?
For a more concrete example, imagine a particularly cold year -- should be easy for a New York centered audience -- affecting patterns of migration. One possible fallout from that could be fish staying closer to the equator, shifting the balance of many food chains. Now imagine bears and other predators having to hunt land animals in greater numbers with fewer available fish, reducing the deer population. Vegetation that deer could have eaten grows unchecked, blocking sunlight from other plants. A different distribution of plants changes the nutrient content of the soil, releasing different gasses into the atmosphere. The ripples of this extend literally forever, because everything is connected. And it's not just the fish and deer and plants who change, it's also the earth, the water, and the air.
Where the money went was into the past. A-Rod couldn't be allowed to leave after his monstrous 2007 season, and $51 million was found for a leverage-less Derek Jeter, and as strapped for cash as they appear, there was never any hesitation about a combined $22 million for Pettitte and Rivera. Hiroki Kuroda was pretty good last year, so he's back. Ichiro too. CC Sabathia opted out of his contract not to become a free agent but to get more Yankee dollars. It has been thoroughly covered -- especially this offseason -- that the Yankees have built themselves a roster of declining over-paid former stars. Given the nature of free agency and the history-centered world view of this organization, this is an incredibly unsurprising result.
So, back to climate change. From the name alone, there really should be no controversy. The climate is always changing, and always changing as a result of the organisms that are in it. Arguing that this is not happening is arguing against the most fundamental forces of life. Furthermore, human beings have an unprecedented amount of control over the world's ecosystem. Never before in the history of our planet has one species been this thoroughly dominant, this unilaterally capable to reshape our surroundings as we see fit. The obvious fallout of such power is a drastic shift in the equilibriums of nature.
The real issue isn't the reduced payroll, it isn't the lack of production from the minor league pipeline, it's the waste. Celebrating the past instead of planning for the future is the enemy of any business. Success and failure alike should be studied, but objectively and not romantically. And like all other teams, the success of the Yankees has been driven by scoring more runs than the other team, not hometown heroes or franchise icons.
Now, don't take me for one of those advocates. I won't tell you to eschew all of the comfort and luxury that industry has created. You can read this post only as a result of the incomparable power of human ingenuity and drive to excel and expand. But it is not without cost. It's nothing more or less than the second law of thermodynamics. Making order out of chaos is a temporary thing that breaks down over time. Your body is composed of trillions of cells that all combine to form your life and sentience, a singular accomplishment of organizing chaos. The body heat that you give off and the fact that you will one day die and decay is the price.
Conveniently, the financial might of the Yankees all but precludes an organizational nosedive. The commitment of ownership and the depth of their warchest has been masking flaws in approach for years (decades) and will continue to do so. But it seems disappointing to see such advantage used to cover up for laziness and neglect rather than used to its fullest potential.
If adaptation is the key to survival, what is the key to adaption? Often, it is forward thinking anticipation. The world is changing, whether you want it to or not. It always has and always will. The prosperous and enterprising ask themselves what assets they need to prosper in tomorrow's world and get them today.
A payroll crunch -- one discussed years in advance, moreover -- is a challenge, but certainly not an insurmountable one. Sure, a new Collective Bargaining Agreement has shifted the goal posts, but the central ideas remain the same. This organization looks backwards instead of forwards, it is not adaptive, it clings to the arrogance and entitlement that a different set of rules apply. Hank Aaron finished his career with the Brewers, Babe Ruth with the Braves, Ty Cobb with the A's, Greg Maddux with the Padres. But Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Sabathia? Those guys are Yankees, man.
If there was a reason to be concerned about the state of the Yankees, it's not the belt-tightening or the lack of offensive upgrades. It is the fact that when forced to prioritize and make a choice, the organization chose brand name over substance, form over function. Quite ironically, that's a clash with the real mindset of The Yankee Way -- assembling the team that can win the most games regardless of those involved.