At some point in the last few Yankee seasons, there has been a point when the Yankee pitching hits a slump and someone reacts by making a plea for the team to go out and get Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez.
On the surface, that seems no different than any other fanciful trade proposal cooked up by callers on talk radio who ignore reality in hopes of fulfilling their dream of seeing their favorite team win the World Series. Since these calls were coming from more plugged in corners as well, though, there was something else going on.
The assumption was that the Yankees can pretty much do whatever they want whenever they want because they are the Yankees. Years of seeing the team land every free agent or trade target they desired made it safe to hold these feelings as truth.
Thursday brought the latest, geatest sign that the baseball world has gone through some dramatic changes. Multiple reports have the Mariners and Hernandez dotting the i's and crossing the t's on a five-year extension that would pretty much eliminate any reason to fire up the Hernandez rumor mill ever again.
Hernandez reupping with a Seattle team that hasn't exactly been a big spender in the recent past is the biggest blow, but there have been plenty of other signs that the Yankees aren't the only ones flush with cash. Years of increasing revenues, skyrocketing cable contracts and a robust online presence have flooded major league teams with money and that means there are a lot fewer players in line to make money that only the Yankees can offer.
That shift is one that the Yankees have either failed or chosen not to understand. This isn't about Hal Steinbrenner's austerity plans, although it still seems odd that a team with money like the Yankees who charges their fans to watch a team that stands above the fray is opposed to spending money on the team itself.
It's about the fact that the Yankees never used their financial advantages to corner the market on a player development system that would enable them to look outside the organization for help only when it was really necessary. Instead Brian Cashman is left sifting through leftovers to fill out his roster every year while the other 29 teams in baseball build teams around long-term goals that include keeping their own players because it is no longer a financial impossibility for them to do so.
The last time the Yankees were behind the curve was in the mid-1960's when they decided that the institution of the draft wouldn't mean a thing to a team that was used to just throwing money at every problem. It took a decade for the Yankees to catch up and that only happened thanks to the start of free agency.
Let's hope this isn't a case of history repeating itself.