Monday, September 28, 2009

3 For The Money

With the advent of free agency in the 1970's, we all learned to view the baseball horizon very differently. No longer did teams need to build through their farm systems or by way of trades. If you had money, and were willing to open your pocketbook, the possibilities were endless.

The Yankees have spent the last 35 years showing us the good and the bad of free agency. In the early years, signings of Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage turned a team that had wandered aimlessly for a decade into world champions in successive years.

Yet, through the years, for every signing of a Mike Mussina, Hideki Matsui or Jimmy Key, there were the epic disasters like Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown or Jose Contreras. Many have produced mixed returns, like Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield or Randy Johnson. Sometimes, opportunities like Johann Santana have not been acted upon.

When it comes to free agency, there are no guarantees. General managers can look brilliant one moment, and not-so-brilliant the next. That is why this year's signinga of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira by the Yankees, and the immediate results they produced, are so unique. Granted, a long term commitment of $423 million will give you a greater chance at success. And I understand that over 100 regular season victories still may not translate into World Series victory 27.

But, the Yankees had been floundering at the top of their rotation for several years. Chien Ming Wang seemed a less-than-intimidating leader of the Yankee rotation. The everyday lineup was starting to age and was in need of a true complement to A-Rod. With CC and AJ, there is now a chance to compete and win in a playoff series where having 2 top flight pitchers becomes of paramount importance. Maybe A-Rod will be also live up to his abilities during the post-season, now that not quite as much of the limelight shines upon him.

The long term benefits of these free agent signings are still unknown. A short and unproductive post-season would tarnish the image we now see. An injury or a sudden falling out could quickly reverse the Yankees' good fortunes. But, for now, it appears that this year's free agent signings were the best in recent memory.


Steve said...

I don't recall Reggie, Catfish and Goose winning 3 World Series in a row. (They lost to the Reds in '76.)

Robert said...

I stand corrected.