Thursday, May 15, 2008

'Cause It's 1-2-3 Cavities, You're Out

'Cause It's 1-2-3 Cavities, You're Out
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

Erik is out of the office this week. But it's baseball season, and the Yankees are once again the highest paid team in Major League Baseball. To commemorate the fact, we're reprinting a column from late 2002.

When companies face high taxes and financial strain, good executives will try anything they can think of to fight their way out of a bad situation. They'll make salary cuts, slash travel and advertising budgets, and even cut employee benefits.

Cue the wacky sports blooper music!

That's the situation New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner finds himself in. His Yankees have the highest payroll in Major League Baseball. In 2002, the Yankees' payroll was $125,928,583. The Boston Red Sox were second with $108,366,060, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were dead last with $34,380,000 -- nearly 64% less than the Yankees spent.

Or to put it another way, the top three Yankee paychecks -- Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, and Mike Mussina -- totaled $3.5 million MORE than the Devil Rays spent on their entire team.

So Steinbrenner is racing to avoid paying the "payroll luxury tax" that came from this year's collective bargaining agreement. The luxury tax is a fee assessed to baseball teams who go over a certain dollar limit on their total payroll, and it galls Steinbrenner to pay it, even though it's his fault it exists.

So what's the Yankee Spender doing to fix the problem? Firing one of his middle-of-the-road bench sitters? Cutting a small percentage of every player's payroll? Asking Jeter to take a slightly smaller piece of his $14.6 million per year pie? No, he's eliminating the dental plan for his 150 front-office employees (of course, the players and coaching staff will not be affected by this move).

Steinbrenner: Have fun at our office Christmas party everyone, but don't eat too much candy. By the way, your dental insurance is canceled. Merry Christmas.

According to sports humorist Robert Hunt Jr.'s "Monday Morning Noter," Steinbrenner is doing this so he can save. . . are you ready for this? . . . $100,000!

When your team payroll is three-and-a-half times higher than the Gross Domestic Product of the island nation of Montserrat, how is gouging your support staff going to help? Wouldn't cutting player salaries be a better idea?

After all, Derek Jeter earns $100,000 in ten innings. How about asking him to taking one for the team to help out the front office folks? It could go a long way in helping him avoid certain headaches next season.

Yankees' launderer: I don't know who put the Icy Hot in your jockstrap, Mr. Jeter. I meant to wash it, but the pain in my tooth was too much, and I had to go home early.

Yankees' publicist: Derek, I know you were supposed to visit the Children's Hospital last night, but my filling fell out, and I had to rush to the dentist. I don't know how you ended up at the Leprosy & Bubonic Plague Sufferers Christmas party. You're not contagious, are you?

Yankees' secretary: Mr. Jeter, your wife called earlier today, but I'm so worried about how I'll pay for my son's braces, I may have accidentally told her you were with another woman.

Steinbrenner, whose notorious cheapness and bad business decisions have turned him into a punchline with a bad haircut, seems to be looking in the wrong direction to solve the problem. Maybe he should focus less on whether or not 150 of his employees have icky teeth, and worry more about the fact that if the Yankees were a country, his team payroll would rank 192nd out of 268 countries and island territories on the world's Gross Domestic Product list.

But he doesn't do that. Instead, he nickles-and-dimes his front office employees to cut back on team costs. This past October, Steinbrenner fired nearly 25 people because of the luxury tax, and forced them to sign a "media non-disclosure" agreement or lose their salary.

"(The Yankees are) coming off record revenues and record ticket sales, and they've made the playoffs for eight straight years," one anonymous source said in an news story. "It would seem inconceivable that they would stoop to that. This is something only a really bad businessman would do."

You hit the nail right on the head, Mystery Baseball Source. When a CEO worries more about the cost of a box of paper clips than the fact that all his Vice Presidents have been arrested for insider trading, he is fired and and bludgeoned by angry stockholders. But when a baseball owner whines and chisels every cent from his support staff, but still insists on paying top dollar for his players, he's hailed as some kind of financial genius.

At least his overpaid players think so. Everyone else thinks he's a financial moron.

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