Saturday, October 27, 2007
The Future of the Yankees
Back in 2001, when the Yankees lost the World Series they should have won against the Diamondbacks (or D-Backs, as the marketers would have you say), I got an anxious feeling in my stomach. Even after 4 World Series wins in the past 6 years, you just knew this loss wasnt going to sit well with Steinbrenner. He was going to do something about this loss. And you knew it was going to be brash, splashy, and stupid.
And it was. He signed a talented Zombie named Jason Giambi. A huge home run hitter, despite the fact that the 96-00 Yanks never had big HR hitter, and had won with pitching, defense and smart, clutch hitting. Those facts be damned. What the Yanks needed was a colossal, base-clogging, defense-deficient, HR-hitting 1b. Bye Tino.
I'm getting that feeling in my stomach again. Since that winter when Steinbrenner signed Giambi, Rondell White, Sterling Hitchcock, and later, Gary Sheffield, Carl Pavano, Kyle Farnsworth, Jared Wright, Randy Johnson and Johnny Damon (and history has proven him right, no?), the Yanks have not won a World Series.
I'm worried now because of the Steinbrenner sons, specifically The Hankster. Hank seems to love to gab to the press, see his mug on ESPN. And that worries me. He says all the right things, patience, youth, etc. But what happens if the Yanks dont win next year? Does he seem the type to go quietly, regroup and come back next year. Or more the type to get the back pages back with a big trade? Say Phil Hughes, Melky and Cano for Jamie Moyer?
Which brings me to the Future of the Yankees. What they need to do. Cashman has had them on the right path, but even he seems interested in signing useless free agents. He got Damon when they really didnt need an aging, injury-prone CF with a canary wing for an arm. The Yanks should take his rebuild from within vision and take a step further.
1. TRADE DAMON AND FARNSWORTH
By all accounts, Damon is a class act and a good guy. But he's useless right now. Melky has CF bottled up, and for now, Matsui and Abreu are entrenched in the other spots. Jason Zombie has the DH spot as he isnt fit for any other place (at least until 2009, when he gets off the payroll). And Kyle is the definition of a guy totally ill-suited to the Big Light at the Stadium. But both have value. A team like the Braves could use these guys. With Andruw Jones probably all set to leave Atlanta, the suddenly frugal Braves could get the Yankees to pay for part of the salaries and get back a couple of prospects from the always-talented farm system. Or the Angels or White Sox who both have nice young 3Bs in case Alex leaves.
2. GET ANDY PETITTE TO COME BACK
You need a couple of big-game pitchers come fall. When the Sox got Beckett, I shuddered. The kid is mercurial, sure, but watching him beat the Yanks in 2003, you knew this kid wanted the ball come crunch time. And he would deliver. Those guys are rare. And when you have one, keep him. Hopefully, Andy will come back, anchor the rotation and maybe, rub off on Joba, Hughes, Kennedy and the youngsters.
3. HIRE JOE GIRARDI
Look, nobody loves Donnie Baseball more than me. When the Yanks finally won the Series in 1996, my first thought was for Mattingly, who retired the year before, poor bastard. But the truth is Girardi is the man for the job. He already had a team of kids in Florida and got them in the playoff hunt till the last week. Even as a catcher, he was a manger on the field. He knew how to call and control a game. And he has a strong opinion of how the game should be played, which unlike other people, I think is a good thing. For all my love for Donnie, I question if he can stand up to Hank and the whole Tampa crew of upper management second guessers. Torre, a dignified, quiet and beloved man, yes, was no pushover. And I think Girardi could be cut from the same mold. A firm hand on a notoriously rocky ship.
4. KEEP A-ROD, POSADA AND RIVERA AND FORM A NEW CORE
Look, A-Rod wants to stay. Even if he does leave, you know Alex will consider this a failure. They guy wants to be the player of his generation. He wants the number retired, the plaque in left field and the trip through the Canyon of Heroes. He wants to PROVE HIMSELF. Because even with all the MVPs, and the gaudy numbers, he doesnt have the ring. He doesnt have the shining moment where he became a winner. Jeter has "the flip" and the 10th inning HR against Arizona, Rivera has countless big saves. Could you think of an Alex moment. Not in April?
Get him to stay. He wants to, so get him. Keep him with the old Yankee core and form a new one. Watching Cano, Melky, Shelly Duncan, Joba and all the kids laugh and play this season, you could see the camraderie building. You could see the future. So keep the old core and get them to help the new one. Joba and Rivera in the bullpen, Cano and Melky with A-Rod in the dugout. Build a foundation.
That anxious feeling in my stomach—if the Yankees do all this—maybe it goes away.