Let me be the first to advise certain Yankee fans to take a step back from the ledge. Everything's going to be alright. Between Boston trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing Carl Crawford, the Yankees missing out on Cliff Lee and Brian Cashman not trading for Zack Greinke, the masses are beginning to get a bit restless. It certainly doesn't help when Joel Sherman authors panic-inducing columns like this, making it sound as though the Yankees -- who still won 95 games in 2010 and basically have the same team intact -- are all but doomed if they don't make a trade for a big-time starter to fill one of the two gaping holes in the rotation.
However, the ridiculous plaints of "Cashman needs to go!" have to stop, right now. The expectations of the fanbase have gotten out of control, and calling for the firing of the general manager because Lee was never going to come to the Yankees to begin with and there was never going to be a fair trade that enabled Greinke to come to the Bronx is borderline absurd. What was Cashman supposed to do? Add an eighth year and another $25 million to the Lee offer? Ship Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances to Kansas City? Every GM in baseball knows the Yankees are desperate for pitching, and as a result, every GM is going to ask for a king's ransom in return for any star pitcher Cashman inquires about. There's a growing sentiment that the Yankees may be valuing their prospects a little too highly, but I'm certain Cashman would have no trouble parting with his top chips if the right trade presented itself.
The aforelinked Sherman piece includes the following passage:
"On a team with a $200 million payroll, Nova and Mitre probably should be the Nos. 6-7 starters; protection against injury, not main pieces.I understand the idea that a team with an aging core and $200 million payroll is expected to compete every season, but has anyone stopped to think that perhaps the way the team is currently constructed isn't necessarily ideal? Unfortunately the team has been saddled with some lousy contracts, but just because the payroll is at a certain level it doesn't mean the team should be mortgaging the future to compete in the present.
And exacerbating the situation in the AL East is that though the Yankees have been unable to address their major need, the Red Sox have added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, plus Bobby Jenks for bullpen depth.
'Right now, they are very far behind the Red Sox,' an NL official said. 'I thought the Red Sox were more talented than the Yankees last year, but won 89 games because they had so many injuries. I don’t think the Yankees are facing a doomsday scenario. In fact, I think they make the playoffs. But Yankees vs. Red Sox, I don’t think those teams are close right now.'"
Am I comfortable going into the 2011 season with a rotation of CC Sabathia-Phil Hughes-A.J. Burnett-Ivan Nova-Sergio Mitre? No, but if Andy Pettitte doesn't come back and that ends up being the case, you know the team will eventually look to improve any which way it can as the season endures. People are acting as if the Yankees have no pitching, but a front three of Sabathia/Hughes/Burnett should be plenty competitive as long as Burnett can get back on track. A back end of Nova and Mitre is obviously less-than-inspiring, but I wouldn't go in expecting an automatic loss every single time either of those pitchers toes the rubber. Maybe even Joba Chamberlain will get another crack at the rotation (and no, the dream will never die). And if Nova and/or Mitre is getting shellacked a month or so into the year, would it kill the Yankees to actually see what they might have in the farm system for once? Perhaps the Yankees take a gamble and bring up one of Andrew Brackman, Betances or Banuelos. And even if one of those pitchers get bombed, as a Yankee fan wouldn't you rather watch a prospect take his lumps than Sergio Mitre?
Additionally, just because the Red Sox went out and filled several glaring holes, it does not mean the Yankees need to respond in kind with their own flashy moves. The Yankee team as currently constructed should still be very competitive, and it seems everyone is forgetting that the Bombers have to face 12 other American League teams as well -- if all 162 games were against Boston then some level of nervousness would be warranted, but ultimately the Yankees need to worry about themselves and not what Theo Epstein is doing.
Sherman goes on to suggest the now-beyond-tired idea of the Yankees trying to acquire Felix Hernandez, but that's just not happening. Neither is Josh Johnson. Nor even Ricky Nolasco, another bandied-about name, now that he's agreed to a contract extension with the Marlins. Sherman ends his piece by more or less implying that the Yankees are in grave peril if they don't pull off a trade for a new member of the rotation, stating "At this moment, the Yankees are trying to project patience as they look for a way to thrive after unexpectedly falling off the Cliff," but this is just blatant fear-mongering at its worse.
I am by no means saying the Yankees should already forfeit the 2011 season, but I do think fans need to recalibrate their expectations on what could be a transition year. Obviously there's a concern that the core is only getting older, and I'm certainly as interested as anyone to see whether Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter can bounce back, or if they continue to deteriorate. Another bad season in 2011 for either player will make their 2012 outlooks rather grim, but that's the price you pay when you lock up former superstars until they're 40 years old. I can't think of any other team in baseball that operates this way, and the thinking has always been that the Yankees can afford to do things like this, but the next few seasons could be pretty damning depending on how A-Rod and Jeter perform. Of course, if they can re-approach their 2009 levels of production, then this conversation is moot.
And you know what? I for one wouldn't have a problem with a non-dominant Yankee team in 2011, as that'll help weed out many of the bandwagon fans who can't handle the idea that the Yankees don't have five aces in the rotation. What kind of fan are you if you're ready to panic at the first sign of duress? The whole point of following and supporting a baseball team is that you experience all of the ups and downs that come with it. Yankee fans really haven't had to deal with any downs since the early 1990s, which is basically the longest run of sustained success in baseball. Maybe it's time for the spoiled fanbase to take some lumps, and learn that not even Yankee money can buy everything, and that there are 29 other teams in baseball all competing for the same thing.
Those clamoring for Cashman's head need to take a step back and remember that the team just won a Championship one season ago. Sure, some of the moves he's made hasn't worked out, but name me a GM with a perfect track record. You can't run a baseball team if you're not willing to take the occasional risk, and Cashman's shown that when he feels the payoff is worth it, he'll make certain gambles. Blaming last season on not re-signing Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon and trading away Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy is revisionist history at its finest. The Yankees may not have even made the playoffs if Curtis Granderson doesn't rake to a .411 wOBA in September. Not only that, but the Yankees were a mere two wins from reaching the World Series and may have gotten there had they not fallen into a teamwide slump. Which goes to show you that even with a strong team that ran roughshod over the Twins in the first round, not even possessing a top-shelf offense can prevent a lineup from falling asleep.
Yankee fans need to be happy with what they have, namely a team that produced the best offense in baseball in 2010 despite down years from a third of its lineup; a pitching rotation headed by one of the five best pitchers on the planet, along with an exciting youngster who's only going to get better and a veteran who we've all seen dominate and who can't possibly be as bad as he was last season; and a strong bullpen anchored by the greatest closer that ever lived. Not to mention more money than anyone in baseball and the strongest farm system the franchise has had in years.
How quickly everyone forgets that the San Francisco Giants, who had the weakest offensive attack of all eight playoff teams, just won the World Series. A given team simply has to be good enough to get into the postseason, and once there, as we all know the hottest team typically wins out. If Cashman does nothing else significant before the beginning of the season, the Yankees will be fine. And I don't think he's quite done yet, even if the moves he ends up making are on the minor side.
The Yankees as presently constructed are still a playoff-caliber team, something that people seem to be losing sight of in the wake of the Lee saga. And if they don't make the playoffs, so be it. A down year or two will only make the next Championship that much sweeter.