Whither the Yankees?

I’m not back from vacation yet, but I wanted to talk about the baseball playoffs – and more specifically how the Yankees suck.

The Yankees looked awful, didn’t they? Where was the vaunted offense? Where did the pitching go? The one thing I keep coming back to is how phenomenal their four championships in five years was. I mean, this present team was no bunch of slouches…Rodriguez, Posada, Jeter, Giambi, Cano, Abreu, Matsui…I know Joe Morgan kept saying it might be the best lineup ever assembled — and it seemed hyperbole as the Tigers pitching shut them down – but he just might have a point. They slugged their way to a AL East title this year, and overcame some truly horrible starting pitching in doing so. That they would exit the season for lack of hitting was a surprise, especially to the likes of Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman.

But best of all, rumors have Boss Steinbrenner destroying this team in the offseason. That can be only good news for baseball, because when Steinbrenner puts his hand into things, in invariably results in poor Yankee finishes. The best news – for baseball – is that the Boss is going to sack Joe Torre and hire either Lou Pinella or Joe Giardi in his stead. There’s also talk of ditching Alex Rodriguez – maybe the best shortstop of all time, a guy who’s hit consistently in the .300 range with power, and who plays good defense.

Consider the winning Yankee ballclubs of the late 90s: they were assembled by then-GM Bob Watson while Steinbrenner was serving a suspension and not allowed to participate in the running of his ball club. It was Watson who found and played Yankee-bred players like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettit, Ramiro Mendoza, and Mariano Rivera. It was Watson who signed David Cone, John Wetteland, Wade Boggs, Joe Giardi, Darryl Strawberry, Tim Raines, and Paul O’Neil. You could even argue that Watson was responsible for the Yankee players who later emerged to help the with the WS wins, like Jorge Posada, Ricky Ledee, and Shane Spencer.

Brian Cashman, on the other hand, was obviously an extension of the Boss. He did the Boss’ bidding and signed the players the Boss demanded. Some of the signings worked well: Roger Clemens, Tino Martinez, David Wells, Graham Lloyd, Orlando Hernandez, Scott Brosius, Chili Davis, and Jeff Nelson. Others didn’t work out so well: Chuck Knoblauch, Kenny Rogers, Hideki Irabu.

But the core of the team remained, even with the tinkering made by the Boss.

Then came Giambi and Robin Ventura and Karim Garcia and Raul Mondesei and Jeff Weaver and Jose Contreras and Gary Sheffield and Javier Vazquez and Jon Lieber and Kevin Brown and Tony Womack and Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. All paid outrageous sums of money to turn in mediocre performances and sometimes childish behavior (the sissy slap, anyone?), and the winning stopped at the playoffs, when the games really started to matter.

Do I think the Yankees will slink to the bottom of the AL East? Do I think their run of playoffs are over? No. But these guys look old – Sheff and Giambi and Bernie Williams and the Moose – and their pitching stinks, and Rivera’s going to crack one of these days, and how likely is it they’ll win another WS this decade? They’ll pay for premium players as always, but they won’t find the young, top-of-the-line starters they desperately need.

So thanks Boss Steinbrenner! Wreck your team! Fire Joe Torre. Fire Lou Pinella whose motivational technique with players is to scream at them. That will go over real well with the grizzled veteran superstars that typically play in New York.

  1. In the book Moneyball, the author has Billy Beane pacing in the parking lot during the first round of the playoffs, knowing he can do nothing to change the outcome, because essentially the outcome is random. Five games is not a true test of a team. Would the Yanks have won in seven? Not likely, but I wouldn’t rule it out. In a short series, two pitchers can determine the outcome. See, for example, St. Louis/San Diego.

    And like it or not, the Yankees are good for baseball. People are not neutral about them, and turn out to see them and root against them when they can. That’s a good thing. They draw TV viewers. I thought the best possible outcome of the playoffs would be a Yankee-Dodger series – big ratings, Fox recovers its investment, and baseball in general prospers.

    That would be good for all of baseball and for the team that I follow – the Reds, who in 2006 flirted with the concept of “average.” Next year, they’re going for “Don’t totally suck.”

  2. Widowmaker

    Couldn’t refrain yourself from posting during vacation could ya touchstone =)

  3. jim

    Yankees? Forget about that freakshow. Go Tigers!!!

  4. Hayduke

    The Yankees are SOOOO 20th Century!

  5. A couple of years ago A-Rod was the best player in the game. What happened?

  6. Still is among the best – Steinbrenner would be a fool to let him go.

  7. …essentially the outcome is random. Five games is not a true test of a team.

    Hmmm…sort of…but Beane developed his teams around winning a 162-game season. If we see the attributes of good playoff teams they generally have the following:

    –At least two excellent starting pitchers. The Yankees had none.
    –Good team defense. Yankees were okay here, tho’ Jeter is sub-par, Damon has a weak arm, and the Sheffield/Giambi platoon at first is a disaster.
    –Speed. Other than Abreu, can anyone on the Yankees take an extra base?
    –A deep bullpen. Outside of Rivera, the Yanks’ pen is at best average.

    Note that slugging ain’t on this list.

    In the playoffs, the pitching is better, so there won’t be as many walks or hits — key elements of Beane-ball. You need to cut down on mistakes and be able to go to your bullpen early and often. You need to take extra bases and sacrifice –anathema to Beane-ball — because you don’t get as many chances to score. There aren’t as many “crooked numbers” put up on the scoreboard in the playoffs, so you play for one or two runs when you have a scoring opportunity.

    Beane’s statistical approach works over a 162-game season where you’ll see a lot of mediocre pitchers, where bullpens are managed differently, and endurance is paramount.

    This year he’s got the starters and the bullpen…only the As’ defense is mediocre. (See “Swisher, Nick” at first base in last night’s game.) I like the Tigers. They’ve got pop and speed and starters and a wicked, wicked bullpen.

  1. 1 Why the Yankees suck and a World Series prediction « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] When the Yankees dropped out of the playoffs, I crowed. The implication was, the Yanks stopped signing players with character, and started buying the “best talent.” And you need more than talent to win the post-season. […]

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