In reality, New York's lineup in 2008 was surprisingly ordinary. They were the very definition of "middle of the pack" in terms of runs scored last year, ranking seventh out of 14 in the American League. And with Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu almost certain to sign elsewhere, they needed to figure out a way to replace 52 home runs and 196 RBI just to match last year's run production.
Enter Mark Teixeira. No one even knew the Yankees were serious suitors until today's news that Teixeira agreed to an eight-year, $180 million contract with the team -- instead, they were said to to be contemplating a shorter deal with Manny Ramirez.
But now that we've had a full 20 minutes to digest the news, I think it's a brilliant move. Teixeira can't replace all of Giambi and Abreu's production himself, but he's a switch-hitter whose definition of a bad season is still a .300-30-100 line.
But wait, didn't the Yankees just commit nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett? They sure did, but who cares? The Yankees don't operate in the same financial universe as every other MLB team. With their own television network, a brand-new stadium and committed owners, this team can practically print its own money.
The financial crisis will eventually catch up with everybody, but the cream of the crop will be able to weather the storm, especially with guaranteed TV contracts and sponsorship deals. This wouldn't be a prudent move for a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates (and whether they realize it or not, the Washington Nationals dodged a bullet when Teixeira rejecting their lowball offer), but the Yankees? They have the resources to make this happen.
Don't complain about "big-market teams" ruining baseball, though. Thrifty teams like the Twins and Marlins routinely enjoy a higher profit margin than the Yankees -- it's just that some owners would rather pocket revenue-sharing checks as opposed to re-investing them into the product on the field. But the Steinbrenner family? Say what you want about George, Hank and Hal, but they've always been more concerned with building a winner than turning a buck.
Given the intense Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, it's impossible to fully evaluate any move either team makes without considering what it means for the other side. By signing Teixeira, the Yankees have essentially taken the two biggest bats on the market out of Boston's equation. Unlike every other team that was gunning for Teixeira, the Red Sox can't turn to Manny Ramirez as Plan B.
So how will Boston react? To be honest, they don't really have to -- their lineup scored the second-most runs in the AL last year, so simply staying put means they're still ahead of the pack. But if they are inclined to respond, they'll have to set their sights lower, perhaps Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu. Stay tuned.
But for today, the Yankees are in the spotlight, and understandably so. Teixeira and Sabathia were the two biggest fish on the market, and the Yankees reeled them both in.