Will the Yankees ever regret a big signing? I mean… regret it again?

I remember reading something from Anthony Bourdain a few years ago.

To tell you he has had some… well… disagreements and issues with others in his profession would put it in a simple enough phrasing. Though if you know who he is, you already know the phrasing is a bit more complex (and funny).

At the time, the material I was looking at involved a passage on Emeril Lagasse. And the general concept expressed concerned the disagreements and issues he had with Emeril, which he now felt deserved to be placed in a new light.

I may be remembering things drastically wrong here… and I hope I’m not -- Bourdain mentioned that to a large degree he hadn’t considered that Emeril wasn’t simply Emeril, the person… he was also Emeril, the brand. He had businesses to run… employees to pay… obligations to meet. And occasionally putting your name on a frying pan, a set of knives, or a line of marinades isn’t always a bad thing.

My point is, when we look at the Yankees, there has to be at least a degree of appreciation for the brand.

You may hate the Yankees. You may not like them or anything they stand for. And you may have all sorts of reasons for your beliefs, along with bulleted points that support your opinions.

The thing is… in some conference room… there is a meeting taking place that consists of those front office types for the New York Yankees. And they are absolutely, 100% positively, looking over the landscape with at least one agenda item pointed at maximizing revenue.

(And that agenda item is in big, bold, italicized lettering.)

Folks… entertaining as sports may be… it is a business. And you can kick and scream and hold your breath all you want while crying about the inequalities of the system. It doesn’t matter. It is still a business.

When we start considering the ramifications of television ratings on the advertising dollars for the team network… the impact of not making the playoffs on ticket sales, including both regular season drop off in sales for a non-contending team as well as no playoff games to sell tickets for… the results of not having a name people want to sew on the back of the authentic souvenir jerseys… you may see where this is going.

So when it comes to pursuing the high-end free agents, I’m not asking you to appreciate or admire what the Yankees do in any way, shape or form. I am asking you to understand that there is at least something more to consider. There is a brand… there is a business… there is more to the story.

And so we arrive at the subject of Jacoby Ellsbury. And… well… listen, there is something very simple here that should raise all sorts of question marks. Here we go…

When the fans of a team don’t blink… don’t bat an eye… in fact if they do anything, they laugh when their hated rival signs a marque free agent away from them… that’s generally a sign that you should look at the situation a bit more deeply.

I remember years ago, there was a team that had traded a player making a huge sum of money. (I want to say it was Mike Hampton, and the story involved his trade from Colorado to Florida, and ultimately, to Atlanta.) And amazingly, in the telling of the story, there was continuous talk about how… by contributing millions of dollars to pay the salary of the player they had traded away… the team was saving millions of dollars in payroll. If you listen long enough to the media, read enough articles, and try to move the pieces around a bit, there comes a point where the idea of spending millions to save millions begins to make some sort of sense.

The trick is… Carl Crawford. As soon as the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford, there was no way Ellsbury was signing for anything less. No way at all. But even with that, most fans… knowing who he has for an agent… had been expecting Jacoby Ellsbury to leave Boston. They would have been stunned if he stayed.

Funny though… after winning the World Series, Red Sox fans were willing to look at things through new eyes. The championship had brought a new perspective to things. And while I’m not saying the way Boston approached 2013 is a new lead that everyone should imitate and follow, I can say that it bought their front office some leeway in decision making. Considering his injury history and other factors, fans had no desire to watch the team invest in eight years of Ellsbury when there was no guarantee that the investment would provide results.

And… championship or not… it’s hard to argue the concept.

The Detroit Tigers just traded away Prince Fielder. (He has one of the top ten contracts in the history of professional sports.)

The California Angels have Albert Pujols… the New York Mets spent on Johan Santana… and the Philadelphia Phillies would most likely love a do-over on Ryan Howard’s deal if you could offer them one.

Don’t be blind though. Some deals make sense. A few have even provided rewards.

I’m guessing the Detroit Tigers aren’t upset with Miguel Cabrera’s current deal. The Boston Red Sox won two championships while paying Manny Ramirez.

The trick though is simple… amazingly often… the New York Yankees are involved in some way. It might simply be a player getting the Yankees involved so they can try to get more out of someone else’s checkbook. (Greg Maddux… right?) And it might be Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez.

It might be overpaying late in the hopes of getting some immediate early returns.

The Ellsbury contract could go one of four ways.

First – The all on Ellsbury theory -- This is where this deal gets judged solely on how he performs. If Ellsbury can figure out how to appear in 130+ games each season for the next seven years, this deal will likely be considered a win for the Yankees. On the other hand… since 2010 Ellsbury has appeared in 18 games, 158, 74 and 134. That averages out to 96 games per season for 2010 through 2013. And if he doesn’t average 100 games per season, my initial reaction… call me crazy… would be to say that New York’s return on investment will be considered something less than successful.

Second – The Robinson Cano stays theory -- There is a good chance the Yankees have a bigger contract to award beyond what Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury have signed for so far in recent weeks. And if Cano stays, that batting order suddenly looks really, really interesting.

Third – The Robinson Cano leaves theory -- In this situation, there are actually multiple results. First off, showing some financial restraint might be pretty incredible to watch take place. Heck… what team is going to overspend, and for how long, to get Cano away from the Yankees? It could be a good thing that he departs. And yet, secondly (and far more likely the impression people will initially have), the moves they make to recover from such a loss will overshadow the Ellsbury and McCann deals as individual contracts.

And most importantly, fourth – The “What about Alex?” theory -- If Rodriguez is suspended for the 2014 season… if the remainder of his contract is in doubt… suddenly the Yankee finances are amazingly different. Dare I say, they almost seem thrifty when you hear their payroll for the season with his numbers off the books.

We could go on about the contracts and scenarios for a bit, but the reality is, we need to get back to the concept of this essay and my original thoughts. See… regardless of how this plays out… I don’t believe the Yankees act in any situation with regret.

It is possible that some of these contracts are above and beyond what New York should pay for these players. And, history suggests… no, not suggests, history shows… that time after time when older players are given major money, the dollars act like an anchor for teams. “We dodged that one…” for the team losing the player is more often the result than “we made out wonderfully with this move…” for the team acquiring the player.

But, as I tried to establish with Emeril, things are a bit different when your brand is the New York Yankees.

Roughly ten years ago, I heard similar stories about doom and gloom and millions of dollars tied up for years in a handful of players. Somehow, the Yankees continued to be able to field a complete roster of players. Somehow, today, the contracts of Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi have been replaced on the roster by Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia… second verse, same as the first, and the band plays on.

For now, it’s enough to say the Yankees do not fear these contracts. They may or may not work out. They may, or may not, make millions of baseball fans happy by making the playoffs.

But regret? I don’t think their management knows the meaning of that word. And if you think they do, you probably have an agenda for a different meeting.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com