The Steinbrenner family has been running the New York Yankees since 1973 when George purchased the team from CBS. From George, onto Hal, their “philosophy” on winning has remained the same: buy the best players money can get and you will win World Series championships.
There’s just one problem with that approach, it doesn’t exactly lead to winning titles. For those who recall, George Steinbrenner got off to a good start as owner with the Yankees winning back-to-back titles in 1977 and 1978 after building a team around high-profile free agents that included Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Goose Gossage.
The team then tailed off before becoming one of the worst teams in baseball in the late 1980s, and into the early 1990s. Then in 1990, George Steinbrenner was banned from running the day-to-day operations of the team. He remained banned until 1993, and it was during that time when Gene Michael took over as the man in charge.
Instead of following George’s spend, spend, and spend some more tactics, Michael devoted more time to developing talent. The Yankees ended up with players like Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada. Michael was the mastermind behind the Yankees trading for Paul O’Neill in November of 1992. All these players ended up playing significant roles during the Yankees dynasty of the mid to late 1990s.
When George was reinstated in 1993, he quickly wanted to trade the young talent in favor of the already established players. George was insistent on the Yankees trading Bernie Williams along with Mariano Rivera. He flat-out didn’t like Williams as a player and his reasoning for wanting to trade Rivera was because he didn’t believe Derek Jeter could be an everyday shortstop in the majors. He wanted Felix Fermin instead.
Just imagine for a second how trading Rivera and not believing in Jeter would have worked out. You can basically throw the Yankees success of the late 1990s out the window.
Michael though, didn’t crack under Steinbrenner, and the Yankees went on to win not just one, but 4 world series titles in a 5-year span.
Since the off-season following the Yankees loss to the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series, the Steinbrenner’s have reverted back to their old ways. The only year the spending actually paid off was in 2009 when the Yankees won the title.
It started with the signing of Jason Giambi who replaced the gritty Tino Martinez, and has continued all the way to this year.
In all that time, the only player from the farm system that made a legitimate impact over a sustained period of time was Robinson Cano who’s now gone. Ivan Nova and Brett Gardner are other players that come to mind and there are players like Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain that failed to live up to expectations. Besides those players, the Yankees have made a living trading away young talent for more established players, and paying whatever it takes to bring in high-profile free agents.
The Red Sox on the other hand, have taken a different approach. Team president Larry Lucchino said it best at the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida.
“We’re very different animals. I’m proud of that difference,” Lucchino said. “I always cringe when people lump us together. Other baseball teams sometimes do that. They are still — this year at least — relying heavily on their inimitable, old-fashioned Yankees style of high-priced, long-term free agents. And I can’t say that I wish them well, but I think that we’ve taken a different approach. … If you compare what we did last year in the offseason to what they did this year, there’s quite a contrast there.”
Lucchino could not be more right. The Sox realized first hand how Steinbrenner’s motto doesn’t produce championships. Boston signed players such as Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to huge deals. The result was the Red Sox missed the playoffs, and fortunately for them, the Dodgers gave Boston a mulligan by taking on their “bad” contracts.
Since then, the Sox have focused on developing a core group of players, and surrounding them with a solid supporting cast. Guys like Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are set up to be the heart and sole of the team for years to come.
General manager Ben Cherrington has brought in gritty players at reasonable prices like Mike Napoli, Johnny Gomes, and Shane Victorino. Boston’s new approach to developing home-grown talent resulted in the Sox winning a World Series. The Red Sox are now set up to have a long-sustained run of success, and may even be good enough to be a dynasty.
The Yankees continue to throw massive pay checks at players and have no farm system to speak of. It’s the reason why the Yankees have to continually spend in order to remain competitive. This offseason, the Yankees spent nearly a half-billon dollars.
The Sox only made two relatively minor moves resigning Mike Napoli to a 2-year $32 million dollar deal, and A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year $8.25 million dollar deal this offseason.
In terms of replenishing talent, all the Sox have to do is look down to the minors where reinforcements are waiting. That’s led to the Red Sox winning it all, and the Yankees missing the post-season all together.
For the Yankees, it doesn’t look like anything will be changing anytime soon as long as the Steinbrenner’s remain in charge because the reality is, their “philosophy” on how to win is flawed.