Thursday, August 7, 2014
Posted by el duque at 8:15 AM
In the end, his contract killed him. Roberts came within two at-bats of receiving a sizable cash bonus. So the Yankees dropped him - boom.
All that time, we fans were watching Brian Roberts, the player.
The Yankees were watching Brian Roberts, the contract.
Same with Alfonso Soriano, whose spiraling descent was torture to see, because he batted in the middle of the order and always left base-runners as he found them. We squandered half a season, watching him strike out 71 times and bat .229. We fans saw a tired, over-the-hill player. The Yankees saw a $18 million contract ($13 million of which was still being paid by the Cubs).
Lefty specialist Matt Thornton stank in spring training and spent the April through June feeding meatballs to lefty bats - that is, unless he walked them. We fans cringed at the sight of him, but who else did Girardi have? Cesar Cabral? We owned Thornton's contract for two-years, so we'd trot him out against Big Papi and pray. Lefty hitters on the season are batting .324 against him. So what happened? Recently, Thornton's contract started pitching well - so the Yankees used the opportunity to waive him.
Fans saw a pitcher maybe turning the corner. The Yankees just saw his contract.
When we signed Kelly Johnson to a two-year-deal, he was supposed to hit 20 HRs in cozy Yankee Stadium. Whoops. Not gonna happen. To get his contract into games, we stuck Johnson at 3B or 1B, positions he couldn't play. We couldn't try him at 2B, because we were playing Roberts' contract. Johnson's contract pulled a muscle adventuring in right field, where we usually play Ichiro's contract.
Meanwhile, the Yankiverse will never know if Zolio Almonte can play in the majors. He might hit 30 HRs at Scranton, but here's the rub: He's not a contract. He's just a player. Thus, we accept the wisdom of the Yankees "baseball people," who surely know more than you and I. Still... how could they sign off on Brian Roberts, Alfonso Soriano, Matt Thornton, et al?
I know what you're thinking: Me whining about Yankee moves has gotten tiresome. But the other day, when Thornton got the heave, somebody noted that Hal Steinbrenner is still trying to keep the bloated, unfloatable Yankee payroll at around $190 million. I thought, hm-mm. We could still be within striking distance of Hal's infamous $187 million budget goal, which would cut the team's luxury taxes next year.
Well, here we are, folks - chasing the second wild card slot, which is not a pennant. After Detroit and Cleveland, we go to Baltimore - where we either win and get inside their heads - or we settle for a month of Jeter and enshrinement ceremonies into Monument Park.
Soon, let's hope the brass decides what it wants. Maybe it's the Wild Card. But maybe can we also spin off another $10 million and chase that magic budget number, too? And next year, would it be too much to field a Yankee team of players, instead of contracts?