The right to be pessimistic…
Anybody who has read my blog knows that I have been very pessimistic about the 2013 Yankees. I didn’t feel right about the team coming out of training camp as the Yankees did nothing to upgrade the talent on the team and then when the season started, it became a comedy watching all of the regulars, well, for the most part, end with significant time on the disabled list.
A slight bit of optimism started to slip into my thinking last week when the Yankees started inching closer to the second wild card slot. But that was quickly dashed by the weekend sweep at the hands of the AL East leading Boston Red Sox. The Yankees weren’t just defeated in the series, they felt like a minor league team against giants. It “felt” as though it was impossible for the Yankees to take charge of a game and even when they did hold a lead, it seemed very fragile and in retrospect, it was.
I was reading Joel Sherman’s recent column about the bleak prospect for 2014 and I have to agree. CC Sabathia has shown nothing to lead one to believe that he’ll restore his status as the team’s ace. It is very possible that we are watching the final pinstripe days for Hiroki Kuroda who has been the team’s best pitcher. Ivan Nova, after a brief successful run, has shown he is nothing more than a roller-coaster. Phil Hughes is auditioning for his job elsewhere next season and not doing a very good job. I do not see any scenario that brings Andy Pettitte back for another season. I am sure that this one has been a grind and at his age, that’s enough to pack his bags and head back home to the Lone Star State for the final time. He’ll be a spring training regular as an instructor, I am sure, but as for Yankee Stadium starts, the end is near. I honestly have no clue what season’s rotation will look like other than CC anchoring the bottom end.
As much as I want to see the return of Robinson Cano, I don’t want the Yankees to break the bank. It’s that type of mentality that led them to their current predicament. But I recognize when Hal and Hank Steinbrenner make comments that there’s a limit to what they’ll spend (even if it is the right thing to do), it will psychologically send a message to Cano that maybe they don’t want him as bad as the crosstown Mets or the ‘spend-foolishly’ Los Angeles Angels. The outfield is a disaster with the cast of characters that can call themselves the “Forty-Something” Club. Granted, Brett Gardner isn’t 40, but he’s also proven that he is DL-prone. That’s not an affliction that gets better with age. We’ll most likely see the return of Vernon Wells for no other reason than he won’t cost the Yankees anything toward the salary cap. Derek Jeter is a Hall of Famer, but as a 40-year-old shortstop playing on a bad ankle, he’s not a guy that you want to see on the field for 140 or 150 games. Mark Teixeira is on the express train to insignificance. Chris Stewart has done a decent job as the replacement for Russell Martin, but he’s a backup on almost any other club.
A look at the Yankees’ farm system does not show anyone that is ready to be handed a first class ticket to the Bronx. This is definitely an organization in a state of flux, and I am not convinced that it is one that GM Brian Cashman can survive. I think the Yankees will bring back Joe Girardi (there’s not really anyone else that stands out as a surefire upgrade) and someone has to pay the price for Hal Steinbrenner’s frugalness. Cashman’s mantra was building the farm system, but as it stands today, it is a system filled with overhyped prospects with the best talent years from maturing.
How do the Yankees overhaul their aging, overpaid and underperforming roster? Boston’s GM Ben Cherington gets great credit for his salary purge last year that led to his team being on the fast track to the World Series. Unfortunately, I do not see any other team willing to accept the Yankees’ excess baggage. Are we facing a 1980’s drought? I hope not, but then again, I am not seeing anything that would instill confidence. I hope the team’s off-season meetings are about how to improve the team and not to avoid exceeding the 2014 salary cap. Another 2013-like year, and this is going to be a very difficult hole to dig out of. I would not expect the Yankees to compete again until after the contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, and the other older vets are distant memories.
Meanwhile, my favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, is 0-2. 2013 is not playing out to be a very good sports year for me. I need help. Hey, San Jose Sharks, can you do something to lift my spirits?…
The end is near for the Yankees but sadly that also means….
The end of the legendary career of my personal favorite Yankee, Mariano Rivera. He’s been my favorite since he was zooming fastballs in the 8th inning prior to the entrance of closer John Wetteland. Mo has been the epitome of the ideal baseball player. When I think of all the Yankee greats, there is some sadness that I never got to see them play, like the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig. But in Mariano Rivera, I saw a pitcher that my grandchildren will be talking about. I’ve been very proud of his career and accomplishments and even in those moments of failure, there was never sadness because you knew that Mo gave it his all. It’s been a pleasure to be a fan during his reign and his career will always be one that I’ll be so thankful and happy for. I thought his words in the Fenway Park dugout were sincere, simple and so-Mo. He is and has been the best…
Do I really think that 2013 is the year the Yankees win their 28th World Championship? No, not really. I think the off-season of inactivity proved to me that the magic wouldn’t be in the air. The team started strong with the scrap-heap substitutions of Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis and others, but as it stands today, the season is starting to play out as expected. Following today’s loss (and series loss) to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees are only 2 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox, but my intuition tells me that the top 3 of the AL East will inevitably be the bottom 3. The Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays are both starting to get their sea legs, and they, the Jays in particular, are starting to make their move.
I was listening to MLB Radio today and Joel Sherman made the comment that Phil Hughes has reached his ceiling…a .500 pitcher who’ll have some outstanding games but will threw in a few clunkers, with a 4.50 ERA. I didn’t need to hear Joel’s words to know that Hughes needs a change of scenery. I am not crazy about Ivan Nova but I’d prefer Nova over Hughes on an interim basis until Michael Pineda is finally able to take his spot in the rotation. I am not exactly sure what Hughes can bring you in trade, but there are other ballparks that perhaps he’d excel and have an “Ian Kennedy”-like renaissance. I’ve given up on it happening in the Bronx and hopefully Brian Cashman has too.
I don’t think the Yankees will win a championship with David Adams at third, but I still prefer him over Alex Rodriguez…
I am not sure what it will take for the Yankees to return to the World Series with the current construction of the roster. It’s unfortunate that Mariano Rivera will not be able to ride out in a blaze of glory, but he’s been nothing short of spectacular in his final season. Not too many guys can put up such a great season as their final journey after a long and lengthy ride. He is, without a doubt, the greatest closer in Major League Baseball history.
It would be fun to see Zoilo Almonte to continue to hit. The more the young guys produce, the more unlikely Curtis Granderson returns in 2014. Even with Almonte’s success, I don’t see anyway the current Steinbrenner regime brings Grandy back next year. That’s too bad, but I hope they don’t make the same mistake with Robinson Cano. Cano is the one Yankee the Steinbrenners should open up the vault for. But aside from Cano, the Yankees need to be looking into an exit strategy for Mark Teixera, Alex Rodriguez and even Derek Jeter. While they need a superior outfielder to go with Brett Gardner and youth, the entire infield needs a makeover.
If it were my team, I’d look at CC Sabathia as no more than a #3 starter at this stage of his career, which means that I’d need a solid #1 and #2 fairly quickly. I am not sure how the Yankees can produce those types of arms and I am not a proponent for depleting the farm system of talent in an attempt to bring an aged arm like Cliff Lee to New York.
So, all this leads me to believe that the Yankees should be sellers in July. Yeah, the team is only 2 ½ games out of first place at the moment, but I realistically do not believe that the team has the horses to win in October. At this point, I would not want to overpay just to bring further October disappointment. I’d rather be well-stocked and in good position to contend in 2014 when potentially the team has a stronger chance to succeed.
Do you believe in miracles? Not this year…
Dollars to donuts…
Joel Sherman has a good post today with his Hardball Blog in The New York Post entitled “’What would George do?’ among questions in Yanks’ $189M quest”.
I do not dispute the reasons for why the Yankees are financially motivated to get under the $189M threshold given the reduced tax penalties it will create for future years in addition to the savings in 2014. But can the Yankees maintain a championship caliber club in their quest to reconcile the bottom line? Something’s got to give, and I am fearful that it will be the quality of the Yankee clubs put on the field in the next few years.
That sounds kind of ridiculous to say when other clubs have proven you can succeed with lesser dollars, but in Tampa, for example, it was years of high draft picks that filled the cupboards with premier players like Evan Longoria and David Price. I see the same thing happening in Kansas City as they’ve been building solid, young talent. The Yankees, on the other hand, have been picking at the bottom end of rounds for years and there have been more than a few misses along the way. There has been a renewed emphasis on the farm system in recent years, however, it is still not within the upper echelon among the other clubs.
This paragraph in Joel Sherman’s post cuts to the heart of the problem:
“The aging/diminishing Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira plus the roughly $11 million each team is charged for a benefits plan costs about $84 million toward the luxury tax each season. That would give the Yankees roughly $105 million to complete a contender in 2014. But say Robinson Cano gets $22 million a year. Now it is $83 million for everything else. That is doable, but less so after a year in which the Yankees’ farm system regressed horribly, potentially derailing the expected pipeline of lower-cost talent.”
I checked the cities of Baltimore, Boston, and Tampa against Manhattan on a cost of living calculator and found that the equivalent salaries in New York would need to substantially greater to maintain the same cost of living. A Boston salary would need to be 63.10% greater, Baltimore 89.70%, and Tampa 145.28%. Okay, not every player will live in Manhattan and that’s probably an extreme, but it still shows on the affordability scale, it simply takes more dollars to live in New York than anywhere else. Other places like Florida and Texas have no state income tax. I am sure that when A.J. Burnett got to Pittsburgh, it wasn’t just the reduced spotlight that helped his successful turnaround, the realization of how much further his millions would go in the Steel City probably factored into the equation.
As it stands at the moment, it is very likely the Yankees enter the 2013 season as a weaker team than the one who was swept by the Detroit Tigers last month. I know, a lot can happen between now and then, but for the sake of this post, I have only the insight for where we stand today. I felt that it was essential for the Yankees to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda. As soon as there were indications that Kuroda would consider a one-year deal, the Yankees should have been aggressive in locking him up. But by delaying, the two LA teams are stepping up their pursuit and the area has an advantage given Kuroda’s familiarity and close ties to Southern CA. I believe that his wife and two daughters still reside in California. Losing Kuroda from the rotation will hurt. I am not convinced that David Phelps can match the level of performance that Kuroda achieved this past season.
The sooner the Yanks can move Alex Rodriguez to full-time DH will be better. They need a quality, front-line third baseman who can hit in the clutch. Sadly, there are not any high level prospects so free agency or a trade might be the only options. Given the former is probably not where the team intends to put its “limited” dollars, a trade is most likely the only solution. Of course, that will only deplete the Yankees of other young talent.
I guess Moneyball is alive and well and living in the Bronx. It is time for Brian Cashman to prove to the critics that he is a good general manager despite the Yankee resources. I do believe that he is so it will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold. I have read those who believe the Yankees will ultimately spend without regard to 2014, but given Hal Steinbrenner’s financial background, I see the team sticking to its plan. Time will tell if his stance is justified. Perhaps this is a radical, game-saving approach that will bring fiscal responsibility back into the game. Then again, maybe not…