Hal Steinbrenner made headlines yesterday for saying that the Yankees will get their payroll below $189 million by 2014 despite spending at least $200 million every season since 2007.
Today reporters asked general manager Brian Cashman for his thoughts about that plan and his answer was a good one: “We’re still the Yankees. We’re still going to outspend everybody else. That’s not going to change.
And he’s right, because even if player salaries continue to rise $189 million in 2014 may still be the highest payroll in baseball. Last year the Yankees spent $203 million, the Phillies were second at $173 million, and the Red Sox were third at $161 million.
On the other hand, while the Yankees will probably still lead MLB in spending their advantage will shrink. This season’s payroll is projected to be around $210 million and the Yankees already have $75 million committed to just four players (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia) in 2014. They won’t stop being the top-spenders, but the days of the Yankees out-spending everyone else by $30-$50 million may be short-lived.
Assuming, of course, that Steinbrenner is as committed to getting under the upcoming luxury tax threshold as he claims.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”