By Steve Silverman
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Remember the apology that Hal Steinbrenner delivered at the end of last season? He let Yankee fans know how sorry he was that the team failed to earn a spot in the postseason – for the second year in a row – and he would do everything he could to make sure that wouldn’t happen again and the Yankees would “win it all.”
That, my friends, was the classic definition of an empty apology. He used the right words and his tone seemed sincere enough, but just as he let Robinson Cano get away last offseason to the Seattle Mariners, he did the same this offseason with closer David Robertson, who found a new home with the Chicago White Sox.
The latter move nearly defies all logic. The White Sox, you see, are Chicago’s other team. Fans stay away from the South Side of Chicago in droves. If the White Sox get 18,000-19,000 fans in their park for a midweek game against an opponent other than the Cubs, Yankees or Red Sox, they are happy. If the White Sox get 30,000 fans or more for a weekend game, there’s a lot of back slaps and ’attaboys handed out in the corporate office.
The White Sox don’t bring in the same kind of revenue from ticket sales as the average major league team, and they certainly don’t compare with the Yankees. But the Yankees didn’t see fit to bring an excellent — but not Mariano-like — closer back like Robertson.
Don’t think for a second that this is on Brian Cashman. He may take most of the abuse and he may offer himself up to take the public flogging, but this is all on Prince Hal.
Free agency is a much different animal now than the way it was in the early part of the 21st century and certainly in the years before then. Teams like the White Sox and the Miami Marlins are getting so much from shared revenue that they can make their own splashes on the free agent market.
A decade or more ago, Giancarlo Stanton would never have been in play for the Marlins. They couldn’t have afforded the celebration dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab, let alone the Carbonaras it would have cost to keep him on the roster.
The White Sox might have made an effort to sign Robertson, but they would have been eliminated by the end of the first round as three other teams would have made better offers before the Yankees locked him up.
Opposing teams are now in play, and that’s good news for Hal. It’s good because he doesn’t have to pay superstars the way his father once did. He has a built-in excuse for not spending cash. He can talk all he wants about how the game has changed and other teams are now viable in free agency, but, that’s just his agenda.
The Red Sox came in last place last year, so they went out and signed Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval on the same day. They also made a $135 million bid for Jon Lester, but that effort was trumped by the Chicago Cubs’ $155 million offer.
The Cubs are signing the best pitcher in free agency and the Yankees are sitting on the sidelines? How does this make sense? Where were the Yankees and why didn’t they care about signing a proven performer like Lester? At the very least, they could have ruined the Red Sox’s winter by getting involved and signing their once-prized possession.
When you are promoting Andrew Miller and making a run at Chase Headley, you might as well tell your fans you’re going to try really hard to finish in third place next season.
We’re not even going to bring up Max Scherzer, because there’s really no chance the Yankees want to spend $200 million on a pitcher.
The Yankees are supposed to be New York’s standard bearer. It would seem especially important now because the Giants and Jets have been so abominable and the Knicks … well … are atrocious.
But we continue to see that the Yankees are content to be ordinary, and it may be a long time before that standard changes.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @ProFootballBoy
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