Nobody spends money like the New York Yankees. The top four 2009 player salaries, in order, are as follows (signing bonus payments prior to/during the season included in totals) :
- Alex Rodriguez ($33 million)
- Mark Teixeira ($25 million)
- CC Sabathia ($23 million)
- Derek Jeter ($20 million)
A luxury tax is never going to work with the Yankees. They have a new palace that will rake in significantly more money than their old place, and it's not like they were at a competitive disadvantage without all the new luxury suites. Even without all the new revenue, they found a way to corner the market on premium free agents, to the point that the best have to turn down millions to go anywhere else. The only reason the Yankees do not have all the best talent is thanks to intelligent drafting and signing of young ballplayers by other teams.
I would say that all these huge free agent contracts will come back to bite the Yankees, but they won't. Their last major wave of extravagant free agent spending netted guys like Jason Giambi (who had to be considered a disappointment with the huge deal he signed), and even more notably, Carl Pavano. A normal team would be crippled by signings like these, but the Yankees have way too much money to play around with, especially in their new ballpark. Their money is a resource nobody else can match, and they certainly spend it like they know that.
The empire has returned. Maybe it's not a coincidence that the Yankees seemed to lose strength as George Steinbrenner began to slow down, and that they now seem poised for a big rebound with Hank Steinbrenner and the new ballpark. Maybe it's all lucky timing, and more connected to all the contracts that came off the books this off-season. Whatever it is, the Yankees are back. I've enjoyed watching them struggle (in relative terms) with their massive payroll the last few years, but I've resigned myself to the fact that those years are probably coming to a close.
This Yankees team still won't be as good as the late '90s ones, and they are really going to struggle to build a dynasty. First of all, the late '90s Yankees were largely a product of an excellent farm system, which the Yankees don't have anymore, and won't rebuild real soon with all the picks they forfeit as they sign free agents. However, the biggest differences are the Red Sox and the Rays. Both of those teams are run way better than they were in the late '90s, and though they don't have the Yankees resources, I think they're too smart to let the Yankees run away and hide. If the Blue Jays weren't in unexpected turmoil with the death of their owner, I might include them in the conversation too.
The Yankees are not a budding dynasty, but they have re-established their empire. If baseball were all about the money, the league would be a one-team show. There is little doubt about that. Nobody spends money like the New York Yankees.