The Perfect Balance

Looking into the past to see the future - October 2007

With Major League Baseball’s largest cash flow and salary, the New York Yankees have never had a problem in building a contending team during the off-season. However, this year unlike many previous years, the Yankees, after not winning a World Series title for six straight years, are approaching the 2007 season with a new mentality.

“This is the first time in a long time that the Yankee consideration is, ‘We have players in the Minor Leagues that we have to make room for down the road and we’re not going to move those pieces,'” said recently by Yankees manager Joe Torre.

Not since 1996 have the Yankees relied so heavily on their young developing minor league players. 1996 was also the year the Yankees won their first World Series title in 18 seasons, with then stand out rookies Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. The Yankees then went on to become one of the most amazing baseball dynasty’s in history; winning four championships in the next five seasons.

After the Yankees finally lost a World Series in 2001, the team had become so accustomed to winning that team owner George Steinbrenner began paying hundreds of millions to sign the leagues best players in hopes of continuing with another dynasty.

Steinbrenner acted on his “win now” concept by bolstering the line up and bullpen with big name players who demanded outrageous contracts. And while the team has ended the regular season in first place in the American League East each year, the team still hasn’t won a championship since 2000.

From 2001 to 2005, instead of allowing Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman take care of the clubs operations, Steinbrenner took matters in his own hands, much like he had in the 1980s; the only decade in which the Yankees didn’t win a World Series since 1923. The outcome of Steinbrenner’s control has equated to a team searching for its identity while trying to live up to their enormous salary.

In 2005, after witnessing no success in the post season under Steinbrenner’s control, Steinbrenner agreed to let Cashman run baseball operations as he saw fit.

Cashman, as New York Times and Yankees reporter Tyler Kepner says, “Has more of an eye on the Yankees’ long-term health and flexibility, both in terms of roster moves and payroll.”

So, in 2006, with Cashman finally in control, the baseball world witnessed the amazing play of the Yankees youth, with second basemen, Robinson Cano and starting pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang. Having two young vital pieces of the teams success was something Yankees fans hadn’t seen since the emergence of Derek Jeter and Andy Pettittte in 1996; the year the Yankees last dynasty began.

Now, it may be too quick and as Kepner puts it, “too easy”, to compare the winning formula of the Yankees dynasty to the current Yankees, but it’s certainly tempting to compare the two teams.

“I think one common element is that Steinbrenner is in the background. In the early 1990s, when George was suspended, the Yankees were able to cultivate and keep their young talent,” Kepner says. “Now that George has given Cashman more influence and has allowed his son-in-law Steve Swindal to assert more control, the Yankees seem committed to growing their own players to some extent, like Cano and Wang and Phil Hughes.”

With Steinbrenner’s excessive cash flow, the Yankees will always be aggressive with their search for premium talent, much like the story with current outfielders Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu. However, with Cashman holding onto and developing Yankees prospects in the minors, the team now has the ability to mix both experience and skill with youth and energy, leaving the Yankees with that perfect balance for championship years to come. Let the games begin.


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