Your Team, Your Voice: Why the Yankees model would not work for the Red Bulls – by Tom Bellows

YOUR TEAM YOUR VOICE is a series dedicated to the fans of the New York Red Bulls. You have a soccer story, let us help you tell it.


For the New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole fulfils a need in securing a starting rotation that proved an Achilles heel for the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees have brought in many players “like” Gerrit Cole over the past twenty-five years. C.C. Sabathia, Carl Pavano, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, and the oft maligned Kevin Brown. Big name pitchers (or the current hotness) that have all been optioned in from the outside as this final and long heralded missing piece. The results have never been guaranteed, and have produced a mixed bag. You can call them difference makers if you want, though few made the difference that media harps on.

What built the New York Yankees was their ability to secure and develop some of the best prospects in the history of professional sports from the very beginning, up until the end of their Hall of Fame careers. Exploiting their well rounded scouting system, the New York Yankees found THE generational talent playing semi-pro baseball in Cherokee County, Kansas. He cost under $20,000 in today’s money. The greatest first baseman in club history was followed and rooted out from right under the nose of the team at Columbia University. The club’s favorite pitching son was found in Astoria.

This is how the New York Red Bulls, and indeed the entire Red Bull project has decided to operate. Identifying players that fit positions of need within the organization, who can further be developed into something so much more with the right supporting cast. Using these as the building blocks of your organization to gel together into a formative monster that develops as the same rate and forms a cohesive bond between the key players in the squad.

Players of the ilk of Sadio Mane come to mind and his teammate Naby Keita, a perennial talent who is coming into his own within the ranks of the European champions. Joshua Kimmich also found his start under the RBG umbrella. These are merely the players who have moved on from the pastures of either Salzburg or Leipzig. Current stars such as Timo Werner, Emil Forsberg, and Yussuf Poulsen have been at the team for four seasons or more and have been able to play together for so long by being found at such a young age and utilized correctly by the team.

How does that tie into RBNY? Perhaps no one is looking at any of the current crop of players and expecting them to match Mel Ott’s record of playing twenty-two years in New York. But what should be expected is that RBNY should focus or core groups of players at important outfield positions and continue developing them as a reliable core. Good, to potentially great, players that are snatched up on the cheap and turned into well tuned weapons in their selected field, all set up to play an integrated system that they are raised in and understand before they even see their senior debut. We’ve seen how successful that method can be, as the recently departed Tyler Adams made waves throughout Major League Soccer before moving on within the global organization.

Young talents such as Amir Murillo, brought in on a loan to evolve into one of the clubs premier talents at the right back position. Aaron Long fits the mold of another player identified for a specific job. Low risk, high reward transfers were the letter of the day under the Marsch administration. While history might not exactly place Jesse Marsch akin to Paul Krichell in terms of judging and facilitating talent, the two knew exactly what pieces could and should be brought in to best exploit success for their already strong teams. Seeing what works, and having a plan to integrate seamlessly through younger players coming up together on cheap deals from both locally and brought in young enough that the small price tag is easy to justify.

Spending money, solely to spend money, fails. This is a misconception of the Steinbrenner era Yankees. Flashing the cash simply because you have it led to the steady regression of Yankees teams from the mid 90s until bottoming out with the early 10s. The loss of assets in thinly planned out deals because “they were a name” led to the loss of potential contributors for next to nothing. Ted Lilly was shipped out for the rental of Jeff Weaver, Randy Choate sent out for Javier Vasquez (the first time), or the Jay Buhner deal. Trading off a young Al Leiter only to reel him back when he was past his prime. Ian Kennedy, who was involved in the trade that sent a young Max Scherzer to Detroit. Jake Westbrook (traded with Zach Day) all these productive career major leagues were sent out, and often in pursuit of players who didn’t bring the result over the line. A token of fairness for Westbrook, who was apart of the trade to secure David Justice in the 2000 World Series run.

So it is with RBNY and the constant pressure to buy “someone”. Who? Why? What role do they fill? Do they make their surrounding teammates better? Do they fit with the present construction? When Kaku was brought into the club, he checked every box in Jesse Marsch’s New York Red Bulls. When Bradley Wright-Phillips entered his final form, he was playing in a style that played to every bit of his strengths. Or when Juan Pablo Angel, Rafa Marquez, and Thierry Henry were on the field in 2010… they were just a bunch of names on the team sheet that didn’t have a team around them. The players that are brought into a team such as the old Yankees were (in the vein of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Roger Maris, etc)… these players are coming in to well entrenched positions and teams where they should easily fit in and continue to produce since they’ve been (hopefully) inserted in a position where they are most likely to succeed after careful planning.

Adding a big name mercenary just to add one, is fools gold. One need only to look at the cross town New York Mets, or one could simply gaze upon the past history of this organization. Players, and organizations, have the most to gain when coherent plans enable each to feed of the others strengths. Players are acquired and put in place to address needs that in house development has not reached the point to address satisfactorily. This comes from clear local scouting, and an intelligent scouting strategy for beyond local. Identifying players and bringing them in, and to mold into something which directly fits current and projected team needs. Without that key integrating factor, teams are just organizations throwing money away at vanity projects. Which, as history can show, is not a sustainable method of success.

Photo by Bill Twomey Photography

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About Joseph Goldstein

Joseph Goldstein is the managing editor of RBNN as well as the co-host of the Seeing Red and Raising Bulls podcasts.

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One Comment on “Your Team, Your Voice: Why the Yankees model would not work for the Red Bulls – by Tom Bellows”

  1. Appreciate the banter. I think this generally mischaracterizes my argument and in a lot of ways we clearly agree on what RB should NOT do, but I would love to turn this into a deeper discussion. I’m sure that’s what Joe was going for by offering this forum to us. Personally I’ve been craving a community to discuss RB topics with so hopefully this jumps off.

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