Rafael Soriano And The Yankees Prove We Now Live In The Matrix

January 14, 2011 – 4:00 am by Ryan Phillips

We’ve finally reached it. We’ve come to the place where the reality and fantasy mix and you don’t know where the dream world ends and the real world begins. That’s right folks, we officially live in The Matrix.

In case you haven’t heard, the New York Yankees just handed out what may be the most ridiculous contract in Major League Baseball history. Rafael Soriano, who notched 45 saves for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, agreed to a three-year, $35 million deal to be…(wait for it)…a set-up man. Not a closer, a set-up man.

And it’s not like Soriano is getting paid closer money because he’s going to take over that role some time soon, because Mariano Rivera is signed through 2012. That means, at best, the Yankees will get one season out of Soriano as the closer before he’s a free agent again.

The deal also means that in 2011 the Yankees will have nine players making $10 million or more. NINE!!!

And as Yahoo! Sports’ David Brown pointed out, that number doesn’t include Andy Pettitte (who may or may not come back and is due to make at least $11 million) or Nick Swisher ($9.1 million), or Curtis Granderson ($8.25 million).

So the Yankees will again likely have a payroll over the $200 million mark even without Pettitte. Meanwhile, in the past two years my beloved San Diego Padres had to trade away All-Stars Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez because the team couldn’t afford their salaries. Have I mentioned how much I hate the Yankees right now?

There is something seriously wrong with sports when money is the only thing that dictates what happens. It creates an uneven playing field for all. Want to know why Cam Newton wasn’t suspended by the SEC after his father clearly violated one of the conference’s own bylaws? Money. The conference didn’t want to miss out on the gigantic paycheck Auburn would bring back from a BCS bowl.

Want to know why Ohio State’s players weren’t suspended for the Sugar Bowl? Money. The NCAA didn’t want to piss off the sponsors who had invested huge amounts of dough into the game.

Why can the Red Sox and Yankees get away with ridiculous spending? Because they get (by far) the most air-time on networks and have the biggest television deals. It’s all money.

We live in a world where during the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression the Boston Red Sox gave $82.5 million over five years to a guy who ended up 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they followed that up by handing out $142 million over seven years to Carl Crawford a few weeks ago. The Crawford deal means that the Red Sox outfield next season will be making at least $41.75 million. For three players. That’s more than the entire 25-man roster of the Padres this past season ($37.8 million). Oh and by the way, in 2010 the Padres finished with 90 wins, the Red Sox had 89.

In that same financial climate, the Yankees handed out $423.5 million in contracts to three players in 2009 when they signed C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett.

And now this atrocity.

The thing about the Soriano deal is that the Yankees were essentially bidding against themselves. There was virtually no competition for him. It was a horrible market for closers and they could have easily low-balled him. But that’s just not how the Yankees roll.

The guys in pinstripes needed another ridiculous contract like Diora Baird needs breast implants. It’s ridiculous. But it just goes along with the way things have become in sports. Those with the money make the rules. The rest of us just have to learn to live with it.

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  1. 17 Responses to “Rafael Soriano And The Yankees Prove We Now Live In The Matrix”

  2. Stop hating on teams that re-invest their profits. What about the Phillies? a few years ago they were dreadful. Hmm?

    Do you think the Pirates are broke? Look at their ballpark, attendance (and trade history)

    May I suggest that small market teams use some of their luxury tax money on the team instead of pocketing it? Some teams (marlins) get more in free money than they spend on their roster. Think about that.

    By Big on Jan 14, 2011

  3. Big is right.

    I mean, I bet the luxury tax money the Padres get is enough to close the gap between their current level (~$40mil) and the Yankees (~$200mill).

    Clearly these other teams should just spend, spend, spend, and overspend to sign players like Soriano.

    I can already see the playing field leveling out! Nothing says ‘even’ like everybody overpaying for players/

    By Santa Claustrophobia on Jan 14, 2011

  4. I do feel for you, especially given the loss of Adrian Gonzalez. If it weren’t for the way your ballpark was suppressing his magnificent career, I would have wanted him to go the Joe Mauer route (and as a Red Sox fan, I had NO desire to see Mauer leave Minny…that’s where he belonged).

    I can’t even blame you if you want to bash the Sox spending, to a point…especially that Lackey contract. But can you PLEASE stop equating the Red Sox to the Yankees? Just because the Red Sox are close to the second highest spender most years doesn’t match them with the Yankees, as the Sox are far closer to the Dodgers, Phillies, Tigers, Cubs, and Angels of the world than the Yankees (and unlike all those teams, the Sox have to spend some extra every year if they want to challenge the Yankees on an annual basis). Have you noticed that the Phillies also made a huge, surprising signing this offseason? That their payroll is currently set to basically match that of the Red Sox this season? Like I said, if you want to bemoan how baseball allows a half dozen teams to have a major financial advantage, and many others have advantages over the poorest team, I think you have all the right, but I am sick and tired of people saying “the Yankees = the Red Sox” when it isn’t true.

    As for why these half dozen teams have this unfortunate advantage, please don’t make it sound like it’s luck or some act of God. Some teams (like the Rays, which made me sick to see) can’t come close to filling their ballparks even when they win their division, and that’s the fault of their fans. Likewise, sure, as a Red Sox fan I will reap the benefits of my team’s spending by getting to watch winning baseball, but it’s because I’m a part of a fan base that is willing to pay out the *** to fund these efforts. I’ll be lucky if I even have the OPTION to buy one set of overpriced tickets this year, given the trials of the Red Sox online tickets system (even getting in doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have tickets available to buy).

    If it were up to me, baseball would be more like football, my team’s tickets would be cheaper, its spending would be less, and teams would be more even. But that’s not the system we have, and the last thing I want to do is hand the freakin’ Yankees the division every year for the sake of just keeping my own team’s spending down.

    By Peter on Jan 14, 2011

  5. Wow Peter a well thought out diatribe out of a red sox fan, I am a twins fan and whole heartedly agree with your thoughts on baseball as a whole and on the sox as well

    By mike on Jan 14, 2011

  6. Peter,
    Totally appreciate your perspective. My point wasn’t to lump the Red Sox in with the Yankees as being the same. My point was that the ridiculous spending and the arms race among the top few money-earning teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, etc) is making baseball less fun to watch. I honestly couldn’t care less about the Sox and Yankees. After the Sox won their first series in 84 years, it became irrelevant to me. Watching two teams full of All-Stars just isn’t as compelling to me as a team full of young players somehow figuring out how to succeed. I realize not everybody feels that way, but again, it’s just my opinion.

    And while fans can claim that the luxury tax and revenue sharing should level the playing field some, it really doesn’t in the end. The big money maker for teams are television contracts and in cities like San Diego, teams are just never going to come close to getting what the bigger teams get. People in San Diego (and many other cities) don’t watch television the same way it is watched in other places. They also don’t attend games because there are cheaper ways to entertain yourself. Instead, they go to the beach, etc.

    The reason the NFL has surpassed baseball in popularity is because of the parity you mentioned. I mean hell, the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl last year. The New Orleans FREAKING Saints! The NFL has put in place ways to balance the playing field. Baseball has just allowed it to get tilted ridiculously to one side. I don’t know if there is even a way back from how far it has gone.

    By Phillips on Jan 14, 2011

  7. 22 of 30 teams in baseball have made the playoffs in the last five years, that’s 73 %, over the same time span, 24 of 32 teams in the NFL have made the playoffs, or 75%. The NFL sends 12 teams to the playoffs, the MLB sends 8. Seems like the NFL and the MLB are pretty close to equal as far as parity is concerned. Now, it’s true that the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, and Angels have gone to the playoffs more often than other teams over that span, but compare that to the Patriots, Steelers, Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, and the various other NFL teams who are always playing in January. Every sport has its good teams and its bad teams, and speaking as a Lions fan, you Padres fans have nothing to complain about.

    By Dave on Jan 15, 2011

  8. I would like someone to tell me why MLB – and by that I mean Bud and company, expect baseball to have any popularity in small market teams. I have read bloggers, as well as so called experts, trigger response of “its all about money!”. This reminds me of Steve Martin’s the Jerk when he says “oh, so its a profit deal aaaah?” The fact is that MLB is losing market share horribly. They were the most popular sport 35 years ago, but they have neglected the small markets (ie THE FUTURE OF THE BUSINESS) for a quick buck in the established markets. Meanwhile the US population shifted and GENERATIONS of fans have been lost. MLB isn’t even on major TV – the World Series is on TBS! Yet when asked why they continue to run their business this way people say “its for the money”. The actions of MLB would make one think they want a 10 team league – and that’s fine – baseball can go the way of polo and boxing. I just don’t know why a parent in a small market would pay $100 or so to take the family to a game to cheer on players who if they’re any good, will soon be leaving. No parent would say well lets have our little league team play an older team – why would they want to watch their home team who is a thinly veiled branch of the farm system get crushed by an ALL STAR team? Camden Yards was supposed to be special when it was built – but its outright depressing to see how empty it is. Managers interviewed for the Balt job indicated they knew how hard the job would be. But no one can say – Hey we’re getting paid to lose – we’re the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters. The media wonders why attendance is low in these cities – really?? Cant understand why. People say people in that town need to support the team as if it were a charity. What happens when the conversation goes: You should support the team! Well I don’t. WEll then You are not a true fan. No I am not. Well then your city does not have a lot of true fans. No they don’t. So just realize that sure its for the money – but its at the sacrifice of the future of the game. Its not smart business when the popularity continues to diminish. Baseball is a great sport but MLB has become ridiculous.

    By Pete on Jan 15, 2011

  9. Wow, sour grapes. I am a life long redsox fan and we always hear the westcoast crying with their so called small market teams. Truth is their is no such thing as small market on eastcoast until you go past atlanta into FL. we Baseball fans on this coast pay big money for our seats and demand the best. The owners hear and respond. Redsox, Yankees, Mets, Phillie fans pack the house and are loyal. teams are very well supported with great fans and markets because of it. all these teams would not spend 100’s of millions without it. A True Fan

    By Sour Grapes on Jan 15, 2011

  10. Philips,
    Come on! Isn’t the game supposed to be about the game itself? Do you truly find it less enjoyable to watch THE GAME just because one team has better players than the other? Seriously? When even the best team typically wins somewhere around 90-95 games, meaning they LOSE 67-72 games. You make it sound like the Sox and Yanks go around beating the hell out of the “lesser” teams, that there is no competition…and that’s not true. Look at Baltimore vs. Boston this year – I seem to recall a SWEEP by Baltimore in the first half of the season? Yes, as you point out, certain teams tend to be at the top year after year (though this has only been true of Boston for one freaking decade vs. the better part of the last 90 years for NY), but on a game to game basis, it’s still the same game, and it’s still a joy to watch, at least in my opinion. And the rebuttal by Dave regarding the “parity” of the NFL vs. MLB is right on – it’s a line of crap that the NFL just LOVES to trot out year after year to prove that they’re doing it “right”, but in truth baseball, the only one of the four major sports to have no salary cap, has just as many “new” teams making the playoffs (with less available spots!) as any of the other sports do year after year.

    By Bob J. on Jan 15, 2011

  11. Base ball is a business. It ceased being a sport in the late 70’s. Why would I spend money watching someones business venture. High School Baseball, football and other sports are fun and cheap.

    By Edward on Jan 15, 2011

  12. The Yankees and Red Sox (I’ll lump them together – they’re essentially the same) owners spend big money to please the fans! I did not know this. All this time I thought it was because they want to maintain their market share and reap the insane profits.

    The Yankees bilked taxpayers out of millions for a new stadium they did not need – but they did it for the fans. They also charge ridiculous amounts for tickets, and have an actual moat separating the cheap(er) seats from the rich people because they care about the fans.

    Get real. Major league baseball, the owners, and the players do not care one bit about you, but take it for granted that you’ll fork over your hard-earned money to see them play a game.

    Parity? Give me a break. Some teams will buy their way into the playoffs every year. Other have a brief window of two or three seasons (Tampa Bay or Cleveland) until they’re back in full-rebuild mode. This year’s World Series was championed by Bud Selig and others as an indicator of the health of small-market teams. Never mind that it was between a team from the 4th largest market (Dallas-Arlington-Ft. Worth) and the 13th largest (SF Bay Area).

    The worst part? I will continue to follow my hopeless small-market team because of “loyalty”, and the hope that one day they’ll get lucky and stick it to the Yankees or Red Sox (I can never tell the difference).

    By RJ on Jan 16, 2011

  13. Alright, I’m gonna speak as a Brewer’s fan purely because I’ve been one my entire life, know the most about them, and it happens to be one of the smallest markets in the majors. Undeniably there are some teams who pocket there revenue sharing money rather then spending it on improving their team (ahem Florida Marlins). However you cannot convince me that the Brewers do not spend a good chunk of that money on players, and yet we will still never come in the neighborhood of the Yankees or any of the other baseball bluebloods due to market size. No it isn’t primarily due to lack of fan support (the Brewers drew 3 million two seasons in a row and were right around it last year, and will probably draw over that again this summer), it is due to the small market they play in which not only affects how much they can get out of TV contracts, but also advertising fees and merchandise sales.

    Could Attanasio and his ownership group spend more, the answer is probably, but then again so could those baseball bluebloods (as they prove year after year). The simple fact though is it is also a business and he is out to make money too (just like the Yankees, who as another poster put it, don’t spend to please their fans, they spend to protect their market share and ergo their profit margin).

    Finally, and I personally think this is the biggest point that is often glossed over, is that these small market teams could afford to give out a couple of these big contracts IF they were guaranteed the player would stay healthy and maintain their production. Yes, big market teams hope for that too, but if the player doesn’t they can simply eat the contract and move on, worst case they’re stuck with the player for a season and wait until the next free agency period to replace them. Small market teams, on the other hand, sign a player to one bad contract and they’re hamstrung for half a decade, not only because they can’t afford to sign other players, but also because they can’t afford to retain any young talent coming up through their farm systems while that contract is on the books.

    The simple fact is the big boys in baseball never have to rebuild they just have to reload, and I don’t feel like fans of those teams understand what it feels like to constantly hear the trade rumors about your franchise’s best player year in and year out, or to begin a season knowing your team is out of contention, but convincing yourself before every game that your team has a shot.

    By JJ on Jan 16, 2011

  14. MLB ‘s lack of salary cap creates a silly system. There are “minor league” teams in MLB who develop talent so they can someday go play in the big time.

    If Grienke, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, leave why do you spend money to go to games – or waste your time watching? Hey we got this great new first baseman. It will be fun to watch him develop and then see which team he goes to!! I would just go to a minor league game – its cheaper and you get to sit really close.

    To argue parity based on a percentage of teams making the playoffs is invalid (IMO). There isn’t parity in payroll. The big market teams are always guaranteed to be playing meaningful games in August and Sept and thus putting people in seats.

    All I’m asking is why does MLB think people will go to these games? Because its an american tradition? The tradition is changing.

    By Pete on Jan 16, 2011

  15. Couldn’t agree more with JJ’s comments. It’s not that small market teams can’t afford a big contract or two. It’s the fact that if that player turns into a bust at ANY point of that contract, the team is bound to suffer big time.

    Also, the comment about the “big boys” not rebuilding just reloading is so true. The non-capped MLB is a joke at times because of this.

    By Benn on Jan 17, 2011

  16. Pete, regarding your post about there always being big market teams playing meaningful games in October. I’d like to point you to the Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, and Colts, among others. The NFL has a salary cap, but it seems like every time I look at the games being played in January these four teams are there. The same can be said for the Celtics, Lakers, Magic, and Spurs, and the Red Wings, Pirates, Capitols, and Maple Leafs. Every sport has their “dominant franchises,” and every sport has their Lions, Pirates, Trailblazers, and so on who sit at the bottom and don’t seem to go anywhere.

    By Dave on Jan 18, 2011

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