- Last Updated: 12:20 PM, July 31, 2012
- Posted: 1:41 AM, July 31, 2012
The Yankees sell Mythology every day. They sell baseball gods named Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle off their very own Pinstriped Mount Rushmore that will one day include the ones who go by Jeter and Rivera.
But they’re not buying Mythological figures anymore, at least not now, at least not if doing so would push the Yankees over the 2014 payroll tax threshold of $189 million, a number becoming as famous in The Bronx these days as the ones hiding in plain sight in Monument Park.
“Read our lips,” the Yankees have been saying for months. “No new taxes.”
That policy, apparently etched in granite by ownership following adoption last offseason of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that features significant penalties for clubs exceeding the threshold and rewards for big market clubs that stay under the ceiling, was reiterated by general manager Brian Cashman last night on the eve of today’s non-waiver trade deadline.
The GM took a question about the Phillies’ take-my-lefthander-please Cliff Lee, who has $87.5 million remaining on his contract beginning next year, and turned it into an opportunity to restate the Bronx version of fiscal responsibility.
“I’m not allowed to speak about another team’s player,” Cashman said before the Yankees’ eighth defeat in their last 11 games, this one by 5-4 to the Orioles.
“But if there was a hypothetical, mythical beast that makes like $25 million a year for the next ‘X’ number of years that became [available on] the market, we certainly could not participate in [acquiring] that level of financial talent.
“If it doesn’t fit, it’s a non-starter.”
There are big dollars at first base when Mark Teixeira is there, big dollars at short in Derek Jeter, monstrous dollars at third when Alex Rodriguez is on the field. There are big numbers on the mound when CC Sabathia takes the ball, are big numbers on the rubber when Rafael Soriano comes in to close and there presumably will be big numbers in the ninth next year when Mariano Rivera returns.
This is not to mention the huge numbers Robinson Cano will command on his next deal.
“At 189 [million], I should be able to get everything done that needs to be done,” Cashman said.
Point taken, but for an organization whose vision of manifest destiny is to plant the World Series flag at the end of each of October, this is a policy of cents over sense.
The Yankees still wouldn’t trade places with anybody in baseball, holding a 6 1/2-game lead over the Orioles that represents the largest divisional edge in the majors, but the seams are fraying for this team that failed to bury Boston over the weekend and failed to do the same last night to Baltimore while sustaining what could be yet another significant injury to Teixeira, who left with a wrist problem in the eighth.
Five of the last eight defeats have come by one run, with the club slipping to an uncomfortable 13-15 in that category. The key hits have been few and far between, but more disturbing is the team’s increasing propensity for this all or nothing at all lineup to strike out in key situations.
Fact is, the Yankees not only struck out 94 times over the last 11 games — nearly 1.5 per above their prior average — but they have struck out a combined 23 times in the eighth and ninth innings through that stretch, plus four more in extra innings.
Indeed, the Yankees went down on strikes 10 times last night, and twice in the ninth, including Russell Martin’s K for the final out with the potential tying run on third and hypothetical winner on second.
“Our offense is kind of sputtering a little bit,” said Eric Chavez. “It hasn’t been really consistent.’’
But ownership and management has been. It’s $189 million or bust in 2014 — whether or not a beast is out there, whether or not the personnel is capable of scaling the mountaintop.
They’re not buying mythological figures in The Bronx these days. Only selling them.Follow @NYPostsports