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Monday, November 9, 2009

Mike Lupica After World Series victory, New York Yankees will now deal with 'budget' concerns

For any other team, even a team like the 2009 Yankees that finished 101-48 after A-Rod returned, you would say now comes the hard part, deciding which players they should keep and which they should let go. But these are the Yankees, who have a $100 million payroll with just four star players Jeter, A-Rod, Sabathia, Teixeira that most teams in baseball can't match with their entire rosters.

Everything came together with this team, a great New York Yankee team, the way it usually does with teams that win it all in sports, that have a dream run like this. But this team is the one that was able to commit $425 million in long-term contracts to three players last winter: Sabathia, Teixeira, Burnett.

The Yankees did this one year after committing around $400 million on three players: A-Rod, Mo Rivera, Jorge Posada.

Nick Swisher is a nice player, gave the Yankees more offense - and more right field - than anybody thought he would. Phil Hughes and Phil Coke and David Robertson finally gave the Yankees youth and real arms in the bullpen ahead of Rivera. Melky Cabrera is a nice player in center.

All of them helped make the Yankees the best team in baseball again, and Brian Cashman deserves the credit he is getting for getting the mix right, finally.

And yet: Cashman knows and baseball knows that it doesn't happen unless you start with Sabathia and Burnett and Teixeira. It doesn't happen if after spending a quarter of a billion on the two starters he had to have - and Sabathia probably could have gotten $200 million if he'd held out a few days, that's how badly Cashman had to have him - Hal Steinbrenner didn't find another $180 million under the bed for Teixeira.

The Yankees do have hard decisions to make on Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. We will start to hear about how they have a "budget," really they do, and that maybe 2010 is the year when they get under the magic number of $200 million. It is just cosmetic, and they will still be miles ahead of the field. If they were under $200 million this year, they still would have been $80 million ahead of the Phillies.

But if the object is to win every year, and the object IS to win every year, and the question is money, both Damon and Matsui give them their best chance to repeat.

Matsui is 35, but he is also a DH, and when did that become a young man's game? Damon is a perfect No. 2 hitter for this batting order and before he slumped at the end of the regular season, looked like he might be on his way to 30 home runs and 100 RBI in that spot.

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