Thursday, April 16, 2015

Latest news from the meltdown front: No lead is safe

Last winter, Brian Cashman played an interesting strategy... sort of like in the board game Risk, when you stash all your armies in Australia. He hoarded bullpen "power" arms. He traded Frankie Cervelli for one. (Frankie's hitting .304 in Pittsburgh.) He traded Manny Banuelos for two of them. (Manny with a 2.08 ERA at Triple A.) He traded Shawn Kelly, a power arm, for another one, (who never even got invited to spring training.) He let David Robertson walk and signed a cheaper replacement. He churned through the waiver wire, the Yankee version of catch-and-release trout fishing. And the Gammonites agreed: The Yankees' strength this year would be their bullpen.

Bullpen and defense. That's how you win the big garbanzo bean.

So much for that.

The latest Yankee meltdown - this, in a season devoted to them - is a reminder of the old political domino theory, the one that every now and then costs the world a million lives: Once a domino topples somewhere, the columns never stop. If you don't halt the commies in the marshes of Vietnam, they'll soon be running through the streets of Omaha. First to fall was the Yankee offense. Then came the defense. Then the base-running, and then the rotation. Last night, the bullpen followed suit. We are a five-tool cellar-dweller.

Tell me a strength of the 2015 Yankees, and I'll show you the next domino to fall.

Listen: It's far too early to plan leaf-peeking treks in October. The 2015 Yankees have shown guts, injuries could repaint the AL East and - exciting news here - Chris Capuano is throwing BP! At some point, the Yankees will make their run. They'll win five, maybe six in a row, prompting Cashman to be hailed as a grand guru. (There are no shortages of victory laps during a Yankee hot streak.) But this drone won't fly. Cashman has been the Yankees GM since 1998, the first year he vowed to build a farm system. He's now run the team 17 years. Seriously: If he were going to build a system, wouldn't he have done it by now?

Sometimes, I think we are merely tracking through a reincarnation phase of George Steinbrenner, via his son, Hal... aka, "I'm Not Cheap." One more lost season, and Cashman will probably be kicked upstairs. That would usher in a GM revolving door phase - the Syd Thrift and Murray Cook era. The Stick Michael phase could be five to seven years down the road. Someday - I might not live long enough to see it - a Yankee team will emerge, and the name will be restored. Right now, we are the worst in the AL East, and the dominoes haven't even begun to start falling.

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