Yankees fans can’t scoff at Tigers, Angels when Hal Steinbrenner’s around

Hal Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Hal Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Those hoping for the return of Major League Baseball anytime soon were dealt another catastrophic blow late Thursday night with the reveal that not only are the owners and players nowhere close on a CBT threshold agreement, but that four owners voted against reaching even the rejected and not-so-high heights of the “best and final” offer from the league.

Thanks to Evan Drellich’s reporting (subscription required), we know the four ownership groups opposed to raising the luxury tax threshold even to $220 million, a number rejected by the players, were the men behind the Tigers, Angels, Reds and Diamondbacks.

So cheap were these owners that they even attempted to tie players’ meal money into the newly-proposed luxury tax number, further reducing the spending power any of them had without “crossing” or approaching the dreaded faux-salary cap.

Before Yankees fans demean these four owners for killing baseball, though, perhaps they should look in their franchise’s mirror.

Are Yankees fans really supposed to laugh at Chris Ilitch of Detroit and Arte Moreno of Los Angeles when their own Hal Steinbrenner is a little bit of both men?

One is a son of a man who used to care, who inherited a proud tradition and then unified with the rest of MLB to neuter his own advantages. The other is a mogul in one of America’s largest markets who should have a relatively unchecked checkbook on hand and somehow doesn’t. Steinbrenner knows both these faces of evil very well.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner isn’t much different from Tigers, Angels owners

Our sense of superiority is naught these days. There used to be nothing the Yankees wouldn’t do in the name of winning. Now there’s nothing the league won’t do that the Yankees won’t join in on to suppress earnings.

“Wait. Didn’t Hal Steinbrenner authorize the Gerrit Cole deal and the Giancarlo Stanton trade? Where do you get off claiming he’s part of the conspiracy?” Moreno gave a thumbs up to a Cole deal, too (and got outworked). He signed Anthony Rendon for seven years and $245 million that same offseason. Like Steinbrenner, he spends on occasion, but when it becomes clear that expenditure wasn’t enough and he could theoretically get over the hump with $20-30 million worth of depth pieces, he closes the spigot.

Steinbrenner, like clockwork, has ducked under the tax every cycle to reset it for one more big expense, ignoring the fact that those tax years came during the prime window of this current Yankees team. During the winter of 2021, instead of adding pieces like Michael Brantley, Marcus Semien or Charlie Morton, Steinbrenner authorized a risky signing of Corey Kluber (also, uh, for a lot of money), a trade for Jameson Taillon, and a Brett Gardner re-up. When given the chance to add Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo at the deadline, he did so, but only at the cost of additional prospect capital in exchange for the Rangers and Cubs paying every remaining cent on their 2021 deals.

The CBT, as constructed, is working. It’s stopping the Yankees from stomping on the league because the Yankees are now owned by a son cut from a different cloth. Hal Steinbrenner loves keeping up airs. He does not love winning Major League Baseball games at all costs, ruthlessly gutting the rest of the league to get his way.

Of course, there’s also the hammer we’ve yet to drop. Hal Steinbrenner is more like these callous men than you’d like to believe because … earlier in the offseason, he voted to drop the $210 million threshold all the way to $180 million, effectively setting a salary cap $30 million below where it currently stands. This would put his own roster firmly in violation of the tax at the moment, and it would lead you to believe his dream is not leveling the playing field so he can cross the $180 million mark by $40-50 million, tax penalties be damned.

Instead, he’d like an excuse to cut his own spending off even further than he already has. You thought it was difficult enough to retain the team’s top expiring names, from DJ LeMahieu to Aaron Judge, while also supplementing the roster around them? If Hal had gotten his way, it seems he would’ve avoided both duties.

Just call him Arte Ilitch.