Remember how Luke Skywalker and the gang destroyed the Death Star at the end of what we thought was the first Star Wars movie, only to see it reform, more powerful than ever in “Return of the Jedi?”
Well, you know how the Orioles must feel as the offseason heats up for real. It was going to be bad enough between the end of the 2013 season and the start of spring training for 2014 with the knowledge that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. Think of that as the new Death Star. Now, comes word that the old Death Star, the New York Yankees, is being reconstituted, as the new head of the Empire, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner, seems on the verge of behaving like his father, George.
Great. Just great.
Over the weekend, the Yankees signed Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann to a five-year contract worth $85 million. McCann, who hit .256 last season with 20 home runs and 57 RBI becomes the highest paid catcher in baseball. On the surface, you might say that if the Yankees want to pay that kind of money for a guy who will be 30 years old in February with a .277 batting average, then they should go right ahead. After all, going back to old man Steinbrenner, the Yankees have famously been known for throwing real money around like it was Monopoly cash and buying up talent. The thought, after George died three years ago, was that the Yankees would amend their free spending ways and be sensible with their cash, especially as they were paying millions of dollars in luxury taxes for overpaying for talent. But the signing of McCann, coupled with the very real possibility that the team will be able to skate on paying Alex Rodriguez the remaining years of a mammoth $275 million contract thanks to a suspension, may indicate that the Yankees are ready to buy, buy, buy.
And that does not augur well for the Orioles, who may be forced into difficult roster choices going forward, because of a relative lack of cash. Make no mistake: No one is having bake sales to support Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who has a sweet deal working with a team that makes money at the turnstiles, but also owns its own regional television network. That means, local cable and satellite operators must pay the Orioles to carry their programming. Add that revenue to whatever the team gets in ad revenue and you’ve got a nice little nest egg for the Birds. But, on his best day, Angelos can’t come close to raising the kind of money that the Yankees and Red Sox make with similar arrangements in much larger markets. And that means that the day may come when the Orioles have to decide whether they can afford to hold on to mainstays like shortstop J.J. Hardy or catcher Matt Wieters, both of whom could eventually end up in New York wearing pinstripes.
Orioles fans can take comfort in the analogy that the Birds, like plucky young Luke Skywalker, can win the day. It just took three movies to finish the deed.