Sun, Jan 02, 2005 - Page 22 News List

Yankees to break US$200 million barrier this season


There appear to be few, if any, limits to what the Yankees can afford, the reason they can add Randy Johnson and perhaps Carlos Beltran to their firmament of stars.

Then again, money is no object when you play in a city where apartments sell for US$44 million, nursery schools can command US$24,000, and dinner for two at a top restaurant can cost US$1,000.

New York's acquisition of Randy Johnson from Arizona, which is likely to be completed next week, will boost the Yankees' payroll to about US$205 million, easily topping the major league record of US$187.9 million they set in 2004.

The Yankees, with a bottomless pit of cash and, some would say, arrogance, must pay a US$25 million luxury tax for last season -- about US$600,000 more than Tampa Bay's entire payroll.

Owner George Steinbrenner certainly doesn't mind spending as long as the World Series flag flies above his ballpark. Problem is, it hasn't since 2000. But that hasn't stopped him.

"When you accept big money from Mr. Steinbrenner," first baseman Tino Martinez said, "you have to win."

Martinez, who helped the Yankees win four World Series titles and five American League pennants from 1996-2001, rejoined the team Friday as a backup to Jason Giambi. He knows how Yankees fans view last season's team, which was an inning away from sweeping Boston in the AL championship series only to become the first major league team to squander a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.

"They came up short, they failed," Martinez said bluntly. "They have to win a world championship. That's what they're there for."

New York and Arizona finalized paperwork Friday for the Johnson trade and plan to submit it Monday to commissioner Bud Selig for approval. The Yankees are sending the Diamondbacks pitcher Javier Vazquez, prospects Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro and US$9 million. As part of the deal, they want a 72-hour window to discuss a contract extension for Johnson, a 41-year-old left-hander who has won five Cy Young Awards.

The Yankees' economics are far different from those of every other major league team. Their box seats near the infield will go for US$90 a game next year.

Of course, that's peanuts and Cracker Jacks for the city's well-heeled baseball fans. For many New Yorkers, money really is no obstacle.

For example, this week at Zabar's, a famous West Side food emporium, there was an express line just for caviar.

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