Friday, April 1, 2016
Posted by el duque at 7:06 AM
Before we start, I just wanted to get that out of my system...
I do this, because if the Yankees had finished 5th the last three years, we'd be anticipating a dynasty. But the former Evil Empire is the one team in American pro sports living the delusion that it can win the pennant every year, and never have to rebuild. In the early 2000s, they competed by annually buying the best free agent on the market. The rules changed, and now, we have an owner - no, we have the son of an owner - who sports the hubris of believing the Yankees will simply outsmart the rest of baseball and win without spending. It's madness, of course. And it forms the basis for these predictions.
The 2016 Yankees will finish third in the AL East, about six games over .500, continuing their stay in the Wild Card level limbo, which they have occupied for three ugly, long, fruitless years. We no longer compete for pennants. We chase the expanded Wild Card slot, and this year, we will miss it by a couple games.
We are an old, brittle team in a sport dominated by young, ascending players. The 2015 Yankees illustrated this. They led the AL East into July, then sank without a bubble in August. By the end of September, we looked haggard, beaten, frail and - frankly - terrible. We couldn't even beat last place Boston. This year, the core of the team will be even older, and there is nothing Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman can do to change this.
The breakability of this team was magnified yesterday, when Andrew Miller was diagnosed with a chip fracture in his wrist, and Bryan Mitchell - the promising swing man - went out with a broken toe. Both are durable young players. Both were freak incidents, the kind that happen commonly. But no Yankee fan in captivity believes Gardner, Ellsbury, Beltran, A-Rod, Tex, Sabathia, Tanaka, Pineda et al - will last the full 2016 season. It's far more likely that none of them go the whole year. In every winter trade, Cashman sought youth. (Except for the Aroldis Chapman, which was affected by his legal status.) We're just too damn old.
Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius will become the core of the team. Don't be surprised if, by the end of the season, they are batting one and two. Counting Ellsbury and Gardner, we have four lead-off hitters. The problem: Driving them home. The middle of the order is really, really really slow. The DP-ball is going to kill us.
If there is a key to the Yankees, it is Luis Severino. He looks like our version of a young Pedro Martinez. You don't want to hang that kind of comparison on him, but for the Yankees to win the Wild Card, we need an ace, and who else is going to rise into that role?
The other key is Teixeira, now in his contract year. He wants to retire in New York - a desire that runs directly counter to Hal Steinbrenner's plans of weeding out expensive contracts. This is where we should pause to once again lament the injury to Greg Bird. He was going to take over 1B. Now, who knows? But Tex could be good... until he's hurt.
As much as we love the three-closer bullpen, it's just a show. We can't wait for that one game when Betances, Miller and Chapman shut the door from the seventh inning on. But it's a fantasy. We might lose the next game, because three were unavailable. Can Girardi manage this threesome? Last year, he turned into Joe Torre - in a bad way - overusing closers until they fell apart. And now Miller is going to start the season with a bad wrist. Is that really a good idea?
The AL East won't be the patsy league it was early last June. Toronto is loaded, Tampa has mucho pitching - (Chris Archer could win the Cy Young) - and Boston is building via the tried-and-true method: They have finished last two years in a row. They made huge blunders by signing Sandoval and Ramirez, and maybe Rusney Castillo, but they won't come in last forever. They have a strong wave of young talent on the horizon - Yoan Somethingorther - and if a few players emerge, the bump we feel will be Boston passing us... maybe for a while.
We are in a limbo. Third place. It's going to be a long year.
OK, everybody: It's time to post your views.