For most teams, a third-place finish in a highly competitive division would be a positive sign: an indication that, with a little luck and a few smart moves, the team could make it to the top.
For the New York Yankees, said finish was a disaster.
In the George Steinbrenner years, such a result would be followed by swift and merciless firings, publicly delivered broadsides and a deluge of spending. Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, the Boss' sons, might not be as merciless or bombastic as their legendary father, but they know how to loosen the purse strings for the game's marquee free agents.
The Yankees picked up the top two free agents and three of the top four on Keith Law's Top 50. First baseman Mark Teixeira was given an eight-year, $180 million contract to replace the departing Jason Giambi. CC Sabathia's seven-year, $161 million deal was nearly as large, while A.J. Burnett's five-year, $82.5 million contract was practically lost in the shuffle. All in all, the Yankees spent more than $400 million in free agency this offseason.
The Yankees are older, however, and with Alex Rodriguez set to miss the first month of the season, questions still linger. If the team gets off to a cold start without Rodriguez, all the free agents in the world might not be able to vault the Yankees past the Rays and Red Sox.
What lies ahead for the Yankees and the AL East in 2009? Cast your vote now!
What We're Saying
Rob Neyer:" [Burnett's] not reliable, and the Yankees have pretty obviously overpaid. Too many dollars, too many years. If the Yankees wanted an impressive fifth starter, they probably could have spent a little less money for a slightly better pitcher. But what's a few million dollars to the Yankees?"
Dec. 15, 2008
Too many dollars, too many years for Burnett
Keith Law: "[Teixeira's] probably the best defensive player relative to his position on the Yankees now, and could be one of only two or three who are above average depending on how the rest of the roster shakes out. He adds significant power to a lineup that had just two players slug over .500 this past year, and his .410 OBP in 2008 would have led the Yankees by 18 points."
Dec. 23, 2008
Yankees have fine taste
Peter Gammons: "The Yankees are back to being a smartly run business. And their business is to turn as much of the baseball business as possible into a game of fattening frogs for snakes, as Sonny Boy Williamson once put it."
Dec. 24, 2008
Don't blame Yankees for living the American way
By the Numbers
Teixeira powered the Angels to the postseason.
OPS+: 151 (career best)
OBP: .410 (career best)
AVG: .308 (career best)
K: 93 (career low)
2008 Postseason Stats
Sabathia was a force for the Brewers.
ERA: 2.70 (career best)
ERA+: 162 (career best)
K: 251 (career best)
SHO: 5 (career best)
WHIP: 1.115 (career best)
Average pitches/game: 109 (career high)
IP: 253 (career high)
CG: 10 (career high)
Burnett is no stranger to the high-stakes AL East.
W-L: 18-10 (career best)
K: 231 (career best)
K/9: 9.4 (led league)
Average pitches/game: 106
IP: 221.1 (career high)
Games Started: 34 (career high)