Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Yankees' looming existential crisis

O to be young! (Or as Chris Berman once said, "Oddibe Young McDowell!") If the Shakespearean truth about romance and reproduction is that youth always prevails... here's a question for the Yankee brain trust on this grand morning after Tyler Wade's and Miguel Andujar's first MLB hits:

Why did it take most of the last two decades for the Yankees to figure out what every other team in baseball intrinsically understood?

Today, as the franchise is being hailed for its fully revved farm system - and I too stand in the Judge's Chambers, clapping along - maybe we should take a quick look back. Of course, it's easy to look at history with 20-20 vision, but in a quick glance, I can identify at least three crucial points over the last 10 years when the Yankees could have launched a rebuilding program similar to last July's. And I might add, there were voices calling for such moves. Last summer, it looked so easy, so effortless - and the fans loved it - when we traded Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Aroldis Chapman for a future. But why did we wait so long?

The three fulcrum points:

1. In mid-2008, en route to a third place finish, eight games out of first, they could have moved the aging Johnny Damon and the wall-weary Bobby Abreu - both 34 - for a future that wouldn't require us the following winter to spend a zillion dollars on CC, AJ and Tex - and cripple our resources for nearly a decade. Our shot at a post-season ended with Joggy Cano nonchalantly waving his glove at a roller into right, launching winter rumors that he should go. But that summer, instead of cutting bait, we larded up with Xavier Nady, Ivan Rodriguez, Sidney Ponson, Morgan Ensberg, et al... because, as our ownership loved to say, the Yankees never rebuild.

2. In mid-2013, en route to finishing third, 12 games out, they could have traded Joggy for a chorus line of prospects, including maybe a 2B who would spare us from the likes of Brian Roberts, Stephen Drew and the cast of "Lost." In fact, trading Cano to some Stygian death hole like Seattle might have made him realize how much he'd miss NYC, and the following winter, as a free agent, he might have told Jay-Z to go for location rather than the Almighty Dollar. Would he have pulled an Aroldis and come home? Oh well, instead, that July, we traded for Alfonso Soriano, because, as our ownership said, the Yankees never rebuild.

3. In mid-2014, en route to finishing second, 12 games out, they could have forsaken their pathetic assemblage of old age - bringing in Chase Headley, Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, Brandon McCarthy et al - and offered to the market Hiroki Kurodi, David Robertson and/or Ichiro. Teams desperate for pitching could have shot their wad with Kurodi, and the funny thing about no-trade clauses is that when teams let a player know he's being shopped to a contender, they often just don't matter. Oh well, we chose to get older, because, as our ownership said, the Yankees never rebuild.

Again...  it's easy to pick apart the things we didn't do. I can assure you that humankind will never invent a time machine, because otherwise, some enraged Yankee fan would have come back and prevented the re-signing of A-Rod after his opt-out. What's done is done, and while critical voices were raised, a joyous chorus of Gammonites always cheered every move. We get one shot at life. (That's why I became a Yankee fan, by the way.) 

I would simply like to point out, however, that as the Yankees today enjoy a surge in youth and in hope, part of the reason for this newfound popularity is that our ownership kept its head stuck deeply in the sand for most of this Millennium. And here's the killer: There is no guarantee Hal Steinbrenner has learned his lesson. The question remains whether the Yankees next month will suddenly start sending young players in every direction to obtain new versions of Sori and Sidney, of I-Rod and Xavier.

Will we stick with youth or go back to our old ways?

Oh, one other thing: I have a bone to pick with Tyler Wade and Tyler Austin. How can a ballplayer christened "Tyler" not call himself "Ty?"


Tom said...

Let's not look this gift horse in the mouth. Right now, I'm ecstatic. Andujar hit the ball harder twice last night than Headley has since his "magic" season of 31 homers in 2012. He should be installed immediately as the third baseman. And if Andujar doesn't work out, let Lil Ronnie Torreyes play there the rest of the season. Headley plays, but why? Contract might be the big issue, but after nearly 3 years of his mess, one wonders if there's some racial/appearance issues that trigger the braintrust. "He just looks like a ballplayer," they might be saying to themselves after watching somebody's MLB home movies from the '50s and '60s. Headley's picture should be in the dictionary next to the word mediocrity.

Now, will the Yankess return to their spendthrift ways? Well, that's another thing you just can't predict. However, as the recent articles in the Times spelled out pretty clearly, the people running our team are highly motivated by large piles of money. Best way to save money -- and tons of it -- is to run the young talent out there, let the old contracts expire and start raking it in. The Yankees are competing not only for the Wild Card consolation but also for first place in the division. Hal and Cash can stand pat and still say, Hey, we're in it to win it -- just like that old fool Phil Jackson.

New York sports: Mismanagement R Us.

Alphonso said...

Good points. Headley plays, I think, because management never re-builds and he was, once, a number two draft pick of the Padres. They also love amortizing his contract and pretending he was " worth the investment."

The Yankees go by the book.

Also, Girardi quickly tires of having to speak to a player via interpreter. That's is my fear for Andjuhar. Unless he goes 3-4 every day, with 4 rbis, Joe may just ignore him. Hasta La Vista, baby.

And the more I see Torreyes, the better he becomes. We won't miss a beat with him playing full time at second ( maybe we lose some power, but he is a pesky hitter and a great defender ).

By the by, I think we can consider him part of the " youth movement." Isn't he 24?

Duque; did Ronald play in the minors with the Yankees?

Local Bargain Jerk said...

I really wish Yanks Senior (and Dugout) management could read this comments thread. These are some prudent and sound suggestions.

el duque said...


No, Torreyes came as a free agent, probably because some team saw his size and figured he can't play baseball. Some nameless Yankee scout - and we give them plenty of shit, so we should make sure to say this - deserves a raise for seeing what others did not.

ranger_lp said...

This should be put in context...before 2014/15 thereabouts, you still had players on steroids who knew how to not get caught. I'm sure around that time, Jeter knew when his random test happened. When Arod broke down two years ago was when you saw that you couldn't do that stuff any longer. As the Yanks had these elder players relying on PEDs they could stay in the pennant race and take their chances.

Game has changed...youth supplants age now...Yanks are doing what other teams are doing now...remarkable it has happened without complete rebuild.

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

I am wondering: Is Girardi tonight going to "rest" the guy who went 3-for-4 last night?

Mark Hesler said...

They can, or could, but will they?

Leinstery said...

Joe, if you have to ask that question than you don't know what the binders hold...but the answer is yes.

John M said...

Oh, my, we olden fellows know all of these turning points well, along with many others in the 80s and others in the new millennium. It's always so gratifying, for me, to chart the stupid moves the Yankees have made in the Steinbrenner era, George and Hal alike. All of the George crap about winning is just crap. It, like much of the political powers the Steinbrenners support, is actually about power and showing who's in charge, no matter how dumb they may be on any topic in question.

Have I mentioned that Kate Smith was between pizzas during the recording of "God Bless America"? Perhaps.

The Yankees post-1964 are a story of stupid piled on top of idiocy. George got lucky in the later 70s and has been lionized since, but he was a bully and a moron where baseball is concerned. And the management, including Torre, was completely unable to assemble or manage a championship team once the original non-Steinbrenner teams of the late 90s aged.

Yes, our management at various levels has been generally incompetent for over 50 years now, but there was some luck and some short-lived, Steinbrenner-banned wisdom that resulted in rings. 2009 was really a fluke that worked out. But not for long.

Now, maybe, we won't do something stupid. Maybe. And we'll have the golden years of myself, Duque, Alphonso, Mustang, et al, to enjoy actually exciting baseball and a rotation of young, mold-breaking talent. Let's hope.

Anyone have Jake Rupert's cell number?

joe de pastry said...

I hate to let the facts get in the way of a great story, Alphonso, but Headley's OBP and slugging percentage are both about 50 points higher than Torreyes's.
Torreyes is a wonderful inexpensive, utility infielder, but not as good a hitter as Headley or, for that matter, Martin Prado.

And John M, that "story of stupid piled on top of idiocy" included 11 AL championships and 7 World Series wins. How would you describe the post-1964 story of every other MLB team, I wonder? Expensive veteran like Catfish, Reggie, Cone, Mussina, Boggs, etc., had a lot to do with those pleasant chapters in the story.

Going all in on kids is no smarter than going all in on aging former stars.
Or have you guys forgotten Kevin Maas, Shane Spencer, Phil Hughes, Joba, and Greg Bird?