The 2014 Yankees have been one of the weakest teams in franchise history. Through 125 games, the Bronx Bombers have been outscored by 40 runs, the organization’s 11th lowest run differential over that span. Not only have the Yankees achieved mediocrity in terms of their record, but their aggregate performance suggests they have been very lucky to do so. In the past, such a poor showing on the field would have been a call to action (and spending), especially coming on the heels of a similar performance in the season before. These days, however, it’s hard not wonder if the Yankees have exactly the kind of team that suits their new business model.
Yankees Run Differential After 125 Games, 1901-2014
Note: Excludes strike shortened seasons of 1981 and 1994.
Despite the Yankees’ lackluster play, the team has been box office gold. Attendance is up 5% and ratings have rebounded nicely. Granted, both increases are coming off substantial declines in 2013 and Derek Jeter’s farewell tour has been a buffer, but if similar levels can be sustained, it could represent a happy medium for a team dedicated to maintaining mediocrity. Is that really the Yankees’ new mission statement? Although the organization continues to profess a standard of excellence, recent decisions made in the board room and the resultant play on the field say otherwise.
After yesterday’s victory over the Astros, in which the Yankees scored four runs or fewer for the 10th straight game, Joe Girardi commented on the league-wide parity that has allowed the Yankees to masquerade as a contender. The Bronx Bombers’ manager attributed the even level of play to revenue sharing and TV contracts, but left out the biggest reason for baseball’s new era of mediocrity: the acquiescence of big market teams like the Yankees. After all, if not for the team’s belt tightening, Robinson Cano and his wRC+ of 142 would be in the middle of the Yankees order, not the team three games ahead in the wild card standings.
The Yankees have been in cost cutting mode the last few seasons, with a recent acceleration over the last two. Although fans and media alike reflexively point to the “half billion” dollars spent during the past offseason, the numbers don’t lie. The Bronx Bombers’ revenue has continued to rise, while the team’s payroll as a percentage of that income has taken a nose dive. There’s plenty of room to debate how much the Yankees should be spending on players, but the fact that they are spending relatively less can’t be contested. Continue Reading »