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…
The Boston Massacre or the Bronx Massacre?…
Since the games are being held in the Bronx, I suppose the Boston Red Sox kill of any Yankee play-off aspirations should be called the Bronx Massacre. Unfortunately, the high hopes coming off the sweep of the Chicago White Sox were dashed as the Sox are definitely now on the other foot.
Thursday’s game was disappointing as the Yankees launched a valiant rally only to lose a game they were within one strike of winning. The defeat came with none other than the legendary Mariano Rivera on the mound. Friday night, it was the Yankees who built the large early lead, but the Red Sox stormed back and thrashed the Yankees. Although Boone Logan gave up the key grand slam, I blame Phil Hughes for changing the momentum of the game. Today’s game (Saturday) is still underway but the team is getting royally throttled at the moment (12-3 in the 5th inning). The Yankee pitching staff has not shown the ability to get Red Sox hitters out during this series so I have no reason to expect the team to rally from the latest hole (either today’s game or the season). If they lose today’s game as expected, they’ll be 11 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East standings. The races for the Wild Card spots are still within reach but the Yankees aren’t playing like a team that wants to win. They still have one more series against the Red Sox (in Boston) and if they can’t beat the Sox in the Bronx, they certainly are not going to win in Beantown.
This has been a very weird season as a Yankees fan. The team did nothing to improve upon last year’s squad and simply filled key roles with bargain basement replacements. Alfonso Soriano is the only quality acquisition, but he is an aging player with a large salary. It’s not exactly like it was a brilliant acquisition for GM Brian Cashman. The Chicago Cubs were glad to part with Soriano even if they are still picking up a large part of his compensation. I’ve been reading many articles that talk about the great managing job Joe Girardi has done this season, but no one is saying the same about Cashman. The unknown variable is that we do not know the restraints he is under from Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. If you are under standing orders that you cannot increase salary, it’s not exactly like you are going to go out and land a Giancarlo Stanton or Cliff Lee. But it’s odd watching the Pittsburgh Pirates being more aggressive in the addition of reinforcements (i.e., Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd and John Buck) than the Yankees. A few key “stronger” players here or there could have meant the difference in the current Wild Card standings and the Yankees wouldn’t be on the outside looking in.
The only guarantee is that there will be changes in the off-season. At this point, I have to believe that the departure of Cashman is a possibility. I do not expect Joe Girardi to be going anywhere but this team will look radically different, particularly if the Yankees do not re-sign impending free agent Robinson Cano. I am not sure what to expect with the 2014 Yankees. I don’t know if optimism will be part of the equation and if we will be looking at another “patched-together” squad of expensive, deteriorating older players and cheap free agent acquisitions of players released from their current clubs. The Yankees need to get younger but is this going to take a season or two, or years. The decisions being made by Hal Steinbrenner will impact the Yankees for years to come. Time will tell if he is making very astute and winning decisions to set up future success, or if he is ensuring that this time period will be the 1980’s re-visited.
If somehow the Yankees manage to salvage the 2013 season and grabbed a Wild Card spot, I seriously doubt they’d be able to do anything with it. Hopefully, the Steinbrenner family is able to do something to return optimism to the Bronx in the not-so-distant future.
Pondering the Quarterback situation…
As a long-suffering Minnesota Vikings fan, the hope is that this is the year QB Christian Ponder “figures it out”. He is a talented and intelligent guy, and there’s no reason for him not to become the answer for the Vikings if he chooses to be. How many guys would like to have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, Greg Jennings out wide, and Kyle Rudolph at tight end? Ponder has the weapons and he has the physical tools to succeed. It is all up to him. If the Vikings have to make the move to replace Ponder with backup Matt Cassel, then the team is sunk.
Last year was a pleasant surprise but it will be more challenging this year with the more difficult schedule. I do wish that Adrian Peterson would let go of the dream to reach 2,500 rushing yards in a season. I would not want to see him at such risk for injury nor would I want an individual goal to become superior to the team’s goals.
The Vikings start the season against the Detroit Lions, a team that knows a thing or two about having huge offensive weapons. The young Vikings secondary will have to show that they are ready for the big time as it doesn’t get any easier in the coming weeks. It’s too bad that, so far, the team hasn’t been able to get former starter Antoine Winfield to come out of retirement. Josh Robinson is fast, but we’ll see if he can keep up with Megatron…
Hockey’s around the corner…
Soon, the San Jose Sharks will join the Minnesota Vikings as “distractions” for me during this disappointing MLB campaign. I am looking forward to a full season of NHL Hockey rather than last year’s strike-shortened version. I am still having a tough time thinking of the HP Pavilion or “Shark Tank” as the SAP Center. While it is called S-A-P and not the word “sap”, how long before the latter becomes the norm if the team fails to succeed?
Where are you, Optimism? I miss you… 😉