Monday, December 9, 2013
Posted by el duque at 7:01 AM
Just seeing the phrase, it hurts, it hurts! It conjures a momentary vertigo, the impending sense of disaster after your car hurtles off the cliff, and you're awaiting the impact. The Yankees are heading to the Winter Meetings. God save us.
They happen this week in a Hell-spawned place, the ideal location to mark the Yankees' return to 1985: Yes, it's Disneyworld... the fabricated consumer Vatican, the community of fake history, where "dollars" feature the face of Mickey Mouse. There, the lords of baseball will spend four days dizzying in the teacups, riding through "It's a Small World After All," and hot tubbing all night, pulling deals that will torture us for the next 12 months.
This winter, it's interesting - no, amazing, if you think about it - how the Yankees have managed to screw up everything. Seriously, if you were trying to mess up the Yankees, secretly attempting to destroy the franchise, could you do a better job?
Last winter, the billionaire heir Hal Steinbrenner invoked his de facto self-destruction, claiming the team could not sign multi-year contracts, because it had to lower the payroll to $189 million - the magical number to luxury taxes. They let Russell Martin walk, passed on several useful free agents and then - oops - signed the venerable human powder-puff, Ichiro Suzuki, to a two-year deal! Nothing like sticking to your guns, eh?
Last June, the wheels fell off the Yankee team, as every writer, blogger and half-interested fan in captivity had predicted - yet it caught Hal's pals by surprise. For three months, they fought A-Rod's return, then reversed course and promoted it - (Plummeting ticket sales and YES ratings do get their attention.) The team finished fourth while the Redsocks won everything. And did I mention that the farm system went zero for 2013, its second straight fruitless year? (Now going for three.)
Soon after the season ended, the front office started its anonymous whispers about Robbie Cano. Yes, the Robbie thing is complicated, and maybe we'd never have signed him anyway - but the weekly leaks eventually riled Cano and help push him out the door. Maybe you can't save egomaniacs from themselves. But remember all that crap about how Cano had no market, no teams likely to go after him? We went through the entire 2013 season certain that Cano would stay. I recall John Sterling flatly stating there was NO WAY he would go. Now, he's gone. How in hell did that happen?
So they sign Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, the two brittlest outfielders on the market, and here we are: Sitting in a Disney reality, with too many outfielders, having to trade Brett Gardner. Yes, we're taking offers! We're about to deal away not only one of the few products of our farm system, but one of the few gamers we've seen. We're going to trade him so Alfonso Soriano - who turns his fly ball doubles into singles by watching them from home plate - can bat third and play everyday. We have managed to put ourselves in a place where we almost must trade Gardner. Wow. How in hell did this happen?
Most of all - and this is where Disney fantasy really kicks in - we now are depending upon Brian Cashman to trade our way back into respectability. Cashman is fine working a scrap heap. But has anybody checked his trading record? If you're generous, he's barely at .500. It's not all his fault. It's the secret rule of baseball GMs: Nobody trades with the Yankees unless it's a slam dunk.
In the early years, Cashman seemed to be the Voice of Reason - the guy who wouldn't trade youth for hacks, as opposed to the Dallas Greens and Syd Thrifts who rolled through, promising a quick fix. Now, the overnight turnaround is Cashman's assignment. And when we bring in the next Rick Rhodens or Ken Phelpses, who are we sending out the door?
Hal Steinbrenner likes to say the Yankees intend to compete each year for a championship. If that were so, we would hold the line one year and rebuild, create an organization with youth and supplement it with the dough. Right now, we're just hoping to compete each year for that ridiculous one-game Wild Card. Welcome to Disneyworld. When you hear of Mickey, trust me, they won't be talking about Mantle.