Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yankees Getting Kicked In The Head From All Sides

  • Red Sox 11-Yankees 3; Marlins 4-Braves 1:
Amid the stunned feelings of resignation of their current predicament that are beginning to
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permeate Yankeeland, there are other aspects of the story that are only going to serve to make things worse from the organization itself to the entire fan base. It's one thing to lose; it's another thing to have that loss receive an exclamation point from perhaps the most-despised current member of the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia.
Since his arrival as a full time big leaguer last season, Pedroia has baited, aggravated, irritated and antagonized the Yankees because he's good; because he knows he's good; because he'll tell you he's good; and because he has a penchant for getting big hits. With the Yankees clinging desperately to any chance of climbing back into contention, it must have been tantamount to getting kicked in the stomach watching Pedroia trotting around the bases after his grand slam.
With their division deficit now at 10 1/2 games behind the Rays and the Wild Card deficit at seven behind the Red Sox and 4 1/2 behind the Twins, the Yankees hopes are fading unless
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they get hot and get hot fast. Individuals in the Yankee organization must be feeling the sting of what's happening elsewhere as well. On the same night that Pedroia and the Red Sox hammered the Yankees staff of journeymen and mediocre pitchers; Johan Santana gutted his way through six innings for the Mets; and Josh Johnson was in Atlanta pitching for the Marlins and punctuating his comeback from Tommy John surgery (that the Marlins front office still blames Yankees manager Joe Girardi for playing a large part in making necessary) with a complete game effort against the Braves.
Since much of his perceived ability to manage was based on the job he did in his single season with the Marlins, it should diminish Girardi's resume even further as that same Marlins team may end up 2008 with a better record as they function with a payroll that is 10% of that of the Yankees. Girardi's strengths are there for all to see----he's hard-working, intelligent and relentlessly positive----but the negatives are there for all to see as well. He has
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much to answer for regarding strategy, just as he did two years ago; and he hasn't proven to be any more successful with a $200 million payroll and championship expectations than he was with a $15 million payroll and no expectations. The credit that Girardi received for the Marlins rise in 2006 is dwindling with every competitive day the bargain basement team stays in contention for a playoff spot under Fredi Gonzalez and Johnson's dominance since his return is shining a light (fairly or not) on the fact that he got hurt while pitching for Girardi.
If the Yankees season continues to slide down this road (and they've shown no reason to believe that anything's going to change over the last month), there are going to be questions about the wisdom of everything that transpired from 2007's conclusion until the end of 2008. Even though the Dodgers have problems of their own, Joe Torre's success at getting the Yankees into the playoffs no matter what can't be dismissed if they don't make the playoffs in
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the first year after he was allowed to leave. Was it the smartest thing to let Johan Santana slip through their fingers (especially to go to the Mets) to keep the likes of Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and whoever else the Twins asked for, especially since they took the Mets deal they didn't really want because they were out of options? It's easy to critique such decisions in hindsight, but since when do the Yankees let money stop them from making a move that would've added an ace in his prime like Santana? Since when does money take precedence over the good of the team?
GM Brian Cashman has made some mistakes, but he's still a good GM; even with that, there have to be questions about his motivation in making these moves. The rookie mistakes that Hank and Hal Steinbrenner have made stem from allowing Cashman to try and
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lower the payroll at the expense of doing what's best for the organization in the short run. As I've said before, what is Cashman's motivation to slash costs? What difference does it make to him what the team payroll is unless he's trying to garner some credit for himself as to how wise he is with a dollar? To think that the Yankees, with their almost limitless resources, needed to save the money that Santana would have cost is absurd. After all the money wasted on the likes of Carl Pavano, what difference would another $20 or so million added to that $200 million have been if it meant a playoff spot?
Unless things take a drastic turn, there are going to be angry and rightfully indignant questions from the Yankees fan base as to why these decisions were made to play for three, four and five years down the line when the nucleus of the team is aging so rapidly. How many stellar seasons from Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter does Cashman think are left? What are they going to get out of Jorge Posada as he returns from injury? There's no doubt that Yankee
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fans were spoiled by the four championships in five years and Torre's annual trip to the playoffs even if they got knocked out in the first round; now they're learning what life is like if they're transitioning to a younger and more frugal organization. The one thing that should make Yankee fans angriest is that there was no reason for the attempted payroll reduction and reliance on young players. They have a new ballpark on the way that is going to provide a windfall; they have an established brand that is going to make money no matter the condition of the team; why cut corners on the bench? On the bullpen? Or the starting rotation?
Even if, as expected and whether Cashman's there or not, the Yankees make big plays for the likes of C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Ben Sheets and whoever else, it's still not going to explain why they decided to become frugal in 2008 and started spending again when the grand plan didn't work immediately; and to think the empty threats of Hank Steinbrenner are all of a sudden going to turn into decisive (and occasionally
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ill-advised) action just like those of his father and are going to fix things lends credence to the question as to why they decided to go down this road in 2008 at all; it adds to the poignancy of wondering what the purpose of all of this "looking toward the future" was from the start.
Teams like the Ahtletics, Padres, Rockies, Marlins, Twins all have an argument for scrimping and saving here and there----the Yankees don't. This all began with Cashman's decision to go young and become the object of admiration of others, saving money that he wasn't under a mandate to save and finding bargains where he didn't need to find bargains. While the previously mentioned teams have found inexpensive and productive "finds" doing business their own way, the Yankees don't have to do that, which leads to the question as to why they tried to develop a startup when they can afford to purchase established goods; why they did the equivalent of buying swampland in the Everglades when they can afford to buy land on Park Avenue. Because the plan looks like it's going to fail and the Yankees are just going to go back to throwing money at their problems which, even without a championship since 2000, at least got them into the playoffs, makes it look all the worse. What was the point?

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