The collapse of the New York Yankees is a prime example of vulture capitalism
- The Yankees were supposed to be one of the best baseball teams this year.
- The team’s greedy front office decisions prevented this from happening.
- Vulture capitalism has a detrimental effect on sport and entertainment in general.
- Eoin Higgins is a New England journalist and opinion writer for Insider.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
It was supposed to be the year of the Yankees. New York’s first baseball team, one of the most successful franchises in sports history, had the parts to compete and go to the World Series.
Now, with their season on the line, the Yankees are in freefall. They lost two series to the Orioles and Cleveland, who play poorly before sweeping away modest Texas, a patchy performance that made a 13-game winning streak starting in August seem like a distant memory of a different team.
The team is playing average to poor baseball, statistically, and the apathy of team ownership is brutally apparent. New York presents a potential perennial candidate who fills seats and makes money. It’s all that matters.
The current state of the Yankees season is a prime example of how modern American vulture capitalism sucks the soul out of everything it touches. Billionaire team owners looking to keep the millions of dollars coming while playing poor at the fans have given players nothing to fight for, as every big decision is made by analytics departments and computers.
The Yankees are a particularly high-profile version of this approach, but they are by no means the worst offender.
You can’t predict baseball. But that doesn’t excuse what has been a lackluster season so far for the Yankees – and the root of the problem goes to the top.
Constrained by an artificial salary cap in the form of a negotiated “luxury tax” – in which every dollar over $ 210 million in 2021 is taxed at a rate relative to the number of consecutive years the club has passed it – the Yankees have adopted a conservative approach to choosing players in the offseason. The front office clearly hoped that a patchwork team merging the contracts and cheap talent they already had with some big bets would do the trick.
Overall, this is not the case. Even a surge of trades on the midsummer trade deadline didn’t help.
All of this has led to a sort of unease hanging over the Yankees dugout that you would, in the past, be more likely to find in Boston or on another team with less pedigree. The New York squad – this one, at least – isn’t supposed to be playing so badly. They haven’t had a loss record for 29 straight seasons and have made the playoffs in all but six (this year could be seven).
For Yankees fans, part of the fun of rooting for the giant is arrogance and pride. The Yankees are basically a fundamentally evil team, built to dominate and intimidate their opponents with a powerful brand of baseball. To see them with such a lackluster approach is depressing.
But that’s the name of the game under the soulless, analytical first approach that the Yankees play. When every dollar and every move has to be hyper-analyzed by a team of number shooters, the product on the pitch won’t have the same pep in its approach that you will find teams led by a front office with heart.
It’s hard to look at the current state of baseball operations in the Bronx and not think that the team’s front office is always trying to outdo the rays of the spokes, the Tampa team whose slash-and-burn approach to talent has been largely allowed by playing in a small market where the fanbase, such as it is, doesn’t care enough about making fuss.
However, this vulture capital approach to managing a team is not unique to the Rays, although they do it well. It’s part of an increasingly mainstream view of how to run a business that has infiltrated almost every aspect of American life. Cutting business costs and relying on numbers rather than feelings reign supreme.
Once you start looking, the signs of the vulture capital’s takeover of our culture are hard to miss. Baseball is one of the most visible arenas in public life where this impulse is so clearly visible, but it is far from the only one. In the entertainment world, the need to cut costs and generate profits at the expense of quality is pervasive and an article of faith. Disney’s Marvel properties, for example, have become ubiquitous – their sense of style and humor permeates almost every nook and cranny of the film industry at the expense of creativity.
But this brand is built on the same money-saving tactics as the Yankees. For Disney, it’s an over-reliance on CGI’s non-union labor to cut the costs of set and costume design, forcing unionized workers in those industries to leave the set. This in turn led to a washed-out and sterile feel of films in general and sparked a backlash against Disney’s overall cultural dominance.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but decisions about art, entertainment, and sport are rarely made with the purity of the product in mind. Rather, they’re seen as a way to an end, a way to extract as much money from the audience as possible while cutting corners whenever necessary. This does not mean that there is no pride in creating entertainment for the public or that players and teams do not try to be successful – it means that they do not receive the tools necessary to succeed by. the people who control the purse strings.
For the New York Yankees, the frustration with the constraints of the game’s vulture capital approach is obvious. The owners refused to take steps to make the squad considerably stronger both during the offseason and during the summer as it would have cost them more than they were willing to spend. This fixation on cutting costs to maximize returns and minimize expenses has led to a slow and uninspiring team. But as long as fans continue to support the Yankees with their money, there is no reason to change the quality of the product.
This column could turn out to be ridiculously incorrect in just a few weeks. Baseball’s unique schedule and the unpredictability of the sport could lead to a situation where the Yankees are propelled into the playoffs and a World Series victory, as unlikely as that may seem at the moment. But if they do, it will be despite and not because of the capital-driven decisions made by the team’s front office.