NEW YORK – The big, bad Yankees are flexing their mighty checkbook, and the rest of baseball isn’t happy.
While the recession has many teams cautious about spending, the Yankees remain in a Gilded Age, dropping more than $400 million on high-profile free agents, including an eight-year deal Tuesday with first baseman Mark Teixeira.
The Yankees tend to let criticism bounce off their pinstripes.
“I’ve got enough things to worry about and think about,” co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner said. “I try not to concentrate on any of that.”
Across a city where cocktail party talk centers on the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme and the demise of Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch, the Yankees have grabbed attention with their dazzling deals during a time of retrenchment. How in the world can they afford this?
Well, the Yankees already own about one-third of their own regional sports cable network. They’ve started their own concession company in conjunction with the Dallas Cowboys. And now they have a new, $1.3 billion ballpark opening in April.
The top ticket at the new Yankee Stadium goes for $2,500 next season.
“We are very sensitive to the economic conditions, to people’s concerns,” Yankees president Randy Levine said. “We monitor it very closely and, if necessary, can make adjustments. But as we stand today, we believe strongly that our fans and customers appreciate that we continue to reinvest in our product.”
The team spent $243.5 million to be precise – the Yankees committed on a single day last week for a pair of starting pitchers: CC Sabathia got a $161 million, seven-year contract and oft-injured A.J. Burnett was enticed to the Bronx with an $82.5 million, five-year deal. New York followed that up by striking a $180 million deal with Teixeira.
While the archrival Boston Red Sox play in Fenway Park, with the smallest capacity in the majors at about 37,750, the Yankees are moving into a ballpark next season that holds 52,325 – about 4,500 seats fewer than their old stadium. Boston had also pursued Teixeira.
“From the moment we arrived in Boston in late 2001, we saw it as a monumental challenge,” owner John Henry said in an e-mail to the Associated Press. “We sought to reduce the financial gap and succeeded to a degree. Now with a new stadium filled with revenue opportunities, they have leaped away from us again. So we have to be even more careful in deploying our resources.”
The Yankees’ new stadium is 63 percent larger than the old, with four merchandise stores instead of one, and 13 restaurants, lounges and food courts for the public, including a martini bar and a steak house. There are 51 luxury suites priced from $600,000 to $850,000 each, up from 19 at the old ballpark.
Even without the income from the new stadium, the Yankees already have paid out the top average salary in the major leagues for the past 10 seasons, according to the Major League Baseball Players Association. This year’s $223 million final payroll, according to the commissioner’s office, was more than double the $96 million MLB average.
Yet, the Yankees do help subsidize the other teams. New York is paying $26.9 million in luxury tax – just $141,000 less than the payroll for the Florida Marlins’ entire 40-man roster. Throw in revenue-sharing payments, and the Yankees are contributing $110 million to baseball for this year.
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