Anothy Rieber of Newsday recently penned an article about the problems posed by Hideki Matsui:
Hideki Matsui? Great guy. True Yankee. Solid player. Also, a total liability to the 2009 Yankees’ plans to get to the playoffs and win the World Series….. How does it affect the team? Let us count the ways the Yankees would be better of if Matsui wasn’t taking up a roster spot:
– Without Matsui, the Yankees could go into the season without a regular DH….
– Without Matsui, the Yankees could afford to carry a third catcher on the roster. Posada could DH three times a week and catch three times a week. Jose Molina is an exceptional defensive catcher. The Yankees, and Posada, would be better off if in a time-share arrangement….
– Without Matsui, the Yankees would have a mechanism to get Nick Swisher at-bats….
– Without Matsui, the Yankees could ease A-Rod back into the lineup as the DH when he returns in May.
Rieber’s reasoning is faulty on various levels, but I think it would be valuable to look at the sunk cost concept before delving into what he wrote.
The sunk cost concept is one that is often ignored by sportwriters and club executives when analyzing baseball teams. Let’s get a definition from About.com:
Sunk costs are unrecoverable past expenditures. These should not normally be taken into account when determining whether to continue a project or abandon it, because they cannot be recovered either way. It is a common instinct to count them, however.
How does this apply to sports? Well, once a player signs his contract, his salary becomes a sunk cost, as the team has no way of recovering it. Therefore, the amount of money that a player is earning should have no bearing on future decision making. The cheaper player should play over the high priced guy if he is better, and the fact that you have tons of money sitting on the bench should be irrelevant.
My point? Just because Matsui is making 13 Million a year does not mean he has to play. If he really was such a liability so as to totally wreck the Yankees roster, he would not be on it. The reason he is on the roster is because having him in the lineup is more valuable to the Yankees than any of the options Rieber lists.
Rieber wants them to leave the DH spot open for Posada, A-Rod, and Damon. They can accomplish that easily, by making Matsui a pinch hitter rather than a starter. Under the current arrangement, any day in which they need that spot, they can send Hideki to the pine. Same thing with getting Swisher or A-Rod at-bats in the DH spot- just stick Hideki on the bench. If they do not do that, it is because they realize that Matsui is an asset to the club, rather than a liability.
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