Thursday, March 24, 2016

Alex Rodriguez, lame duck Yankee, is counting down the clock... just like Food Stamps Hal

Three springs ago, when Mariano Rivera announced his impending retirement, the Yankees vowed to send him out with a shiny new World Series ring. Somewhere along the way, though, their starting catcher became Chris Stewart, with their 1B Lyle Overbay, their 3B being Jason Nix, and the heart of their batting order became Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. They finished third in the AL East, 12 games out, behind some team that remains only slightly less forgettable. Mariano received a tearful farewell, but not even a wild card shot.

Two years ago, it was Derek Jeter's turn. That season, our 2B was Brian Roberts, and Yangervis Solarte accrued the most games at 3B. That spring, facing the prospect of another bronze medal, management signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran - but it wasn't the massive outlay you might think. They let Robbie Cano walk to Seattle, and they dropped the huge contracts for Mariano and Andy Pettitte. Jeter's farewell came in Boston - the last place we wanted it to happen - though, truth be told, Fenway did him right. He didn't get a shot at the post-season.

Last year - oh why bother? We know what happened. The fact is, since 2014, the Yankees have refused to spend on the one commodity - an ace starting pitcher - that could make a difference. The price for a workhorse shot up, and the Yankees simply don't want to pay it. Last year, the absent image of Max Scherzer haunted us: Had we signed him, we probably would have won the AL East and from there - well - who knows?

In each of the last three years, we have been one starter away. We have a way of either sitting out auctions or finishing second.

So, now we sit in an owner-created purgatory, where Hal "Food Stamps" Steinbrenner pleads for patience because he cannot - O, how he'd love to, but he simply cannot! - afford to sign any high priced free agents until all these bloated Yankee contracts are gone. (If the Pentagon adopted that strategy, we wouldn't make any more bombs until we've used the ones we already have.) That means this years "farewell tour" belongs to Big Papi in Boston, with Mark Teixeira in a holding pattern: He'll say goodbye to the Yankees and next winter probably sign with a team that will pay him more.

That means around this time next year, we will heralding the finale for CC Sabathia - (if he can make it that far) - and now A-Rod, who announced yesterday what everybody in the Yankiverse already knew: He'll be done after 2017.

The news story was spun as though we'll be saying goodbye to a grand old Yankee. But I think most Yankee fans saw the other side of it: Even if he marries the first lady of Google, he's not going to retire early.

That makes 2017 an exciting prospect, eh? A-Rod and CC will be in their final incarnations. (Because he missed the year, he won't be chasing Barry Bonds for all-time HR total.) Beltran will be gone (though he says otherwise.) McCann will be - what - our 1B? Ellsbury - good god, will he play 50 games? Gardy? Headley? I guess his disastrous spring means we should throw in the towel on Slade Heathcott. How much can hope for from Greg Bird, considering that he won't play this year. Aaron Judge? Fingers crossed here, but he struck out a lot this spring. Jorge Mateo will probably see most of 2017 in Scranton. Yoan Moncada? Ooops, I forgot... SLOOOOLY I TURN...

Will the final days of A-Rod simply see the Yankees tapping their toes, waiting for him to leave?

Oh, well, who cares? By then he'll own Facebook - (let's hope it's not Yahoo) - and if he's lucky, his last game will be played in Boston, where the "rivalry" remains warm and cozy. Calling Bernie Williams: We're going to need your wistful guitar one more time.

Two more years. That's the Yankee motto for 2016: Only two more years.

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