Joel Sherman offers his Yankee face-lift plans for 2016. (Empty the farm system for Sonny Gray!) So does Anthony McCarron, (though it's even more depressing.) Every Yankee web site in captivity is trotting out next year's makeover, and it's reminiscent of Mike Tyson's old line: Everybody's got a plan, until they get hit in the mouth.
In this case, our sock to the jaw comes from the Yankee royal family, most notably Prince Hal "I'm Not Cheap" Steinbrenner, who has now run the Empire for most of eight years. I'm Not Cheap is hesitant to sign any more big name long-term deals and pay the luxury taxes, and - let's face it - he should know. He and brother Hank were there during the renegotiation of A-Rod's doomsday contract. Hal's the one who signed Jacoby Ellsbury to seven years, Brian McCann to five and gave Carlos Beltran a three-year deal two years after we declined to give him a two-year deal. Chew on that. In fact, every long term woe the Yankees face has one common denominator: I'm Not Cheap signed off on it.
Well, I have no 2016 Yankee makeover. It's not in me. Frankly, it's a parlor game that we fans are supposed to play in order to boost our spirits whenever the franchise kicks us in the nuts. "Hey, Yankee fans! let's think about next year!" Screw that. I won't play. It still hurts too much. We failed to give Mariano and Jeter a final post-season, and as far as I'm concerned, losing a one-game playoff is no better. It's taken three years for us to march into Big Muddy, and it may take three more to march out. Hey, fans, what should we do next year? I DON'T GIVE A SHIT.
But here's something I do believe:
If the Yankees stand pat - that is, roll into 2016 with the same tired horses who barely qualified for a glue factory this fall, we won't even make the Wild Card.
This winter, four major free agent pitchers will hit the market: David Price, Zach Grienke, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann. Right now, the official line goes that I'm Not Cheap will pass on all four. Too expensive. (Not that he's cheap, of course.) But if the Blue Jays sign one of the above, we can forget the 2016 AL East. We'll play for a Wild Card. And if Boston signs one - as they seem prone to do - that whoosh we will feel in May is the Redsocks shooting past us, because they may have sucked this year, but they won't suck forever. Unlike the Yankees, Boston is willing to rebuild, and they have a formidable core of rising stars.
Last week, the real numbers came in for 2015. Yankee home attendance fell. They sold an average of 39,922 tickets per game... first time in I'm Not Cheap's reign that the numbers fell below 40,000. (In 2010, we averaged 46,922.) Viewership on YES also tumbled, while it rose for Mets games. Expect that trend to continue. I mean - seriously, is anyone looking forward to seeing this same tired team try again? Prince Hal still has more money than he can count. But considering his love of counting coins, we could be on the cusp of a feedback loop - that is, declining interest spurs declining revenues, which spur declining payrolls, which spur declining teams, which spur declining interest...
It's also called a quagmire.
And Sonny Gray isn't going to pitch us out of it.