How Hal and Hank Revitalized The Brand Without Increasing Spending

The Yankees have blown past $189 million, and Hank Steinbrenner wants you to know about it. The Associated Press spoke to the two Steinbrenner brothers following the Masahiro Tanaka signing, and Hank had some very interesting quotes. Andrew Marchand of ESPN passes them along.

“We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to win. Anybody that questioned our commitment to winning is going to have to question themselves.”

“There has been criticism of myself and my brother the last couple years that, gee, if our dad was still in charge, we’d be spending this and spending that and doing whatever it takes to win.”

“He didn’t have revenue sharing, at least for most of his time. That’s what these people in the sports media don’t seem to get. If it wasn’t for revenue sharing, we’d have a payroll of $300 million a year if we wanted to. So we’re doing this despite having to pay all that revenue sharing.”

Considering ownership was last talking about building a winning team around a $189 million, it seems that they've had a change of heart. Who would have predicted a bunch of quotes about a commitment to winning? I did, and quite a few others. There's no doubt that today is a great day to be a Yankee fan, but the payroll is actually still $20 million lower than it was to start the 2013 season.

As William Juliano points out at The Captain's Blog, ownership has brought down payroll expectations by focusing so publicly on the $189 million figure. I took a similar stance in mid-December, when I talked about revitalizing the Yankee brand with a budget. Believe it or not, spending $200 million a year on a baseball team can grow stale after a decade, and with George Steinbrenner passed, the sons never significantly increased payroll. As Hank points out in his quote above, criticism from Yankee fans was inevitable.

But instead of upping the budget to $260 million, the team set a very public goal of $189 million. Fans weren't very happy as the team seemingly prepared for budget cuts in 2014. Expectations were lowers, and now that the Yankees payroll is at $210 million, fans think the Steinbrenner sons will do anything they can to win.

In the article I wrote in December, I mirrored the process to the New Coke theory. When Coke saw a hit to Pepsi in the 80's they released New Coke to replace the regular recipe. It was hated so much that when Coke put their classic recipe back on the shelves after just 77 days, the company saw a major brand revitalization. It seems that Yankee ownership is trying to mirror this process.

In the end, the Yankees are still the Yankees, but Hank and Hal have revitalized the brand without increasing spending. In fact, to this point they've decreased spending, and some early reports say that they may not get to the $230 million budget they had in 2013. That would mean the Yankees have not only dropped their own payroll, but they could start the season without the highest payroll in baseball for the first time since 1998. Despite this, the Steinbrenner brothers will now be heroes in New York.