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MLB - Dispelling the Yankee Rumors

By Marco Santana
Thursday, October 30th, 2003
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That was the sound of most of America rejoicing last Saturday. When the Yankees lose, you're in one of two camps: extremely happy that the Big Boss was beaten or extremely upset that your team lost. There really is no in-between.

Count me in the camp of the extremely happy campers. It couldn't get any better, or so I thought. But then something happened that has served to intensify my happiness and it is something that could lead to the short-term ruin of the Yankees, or, as many people like to refer to them as, the "Major Leagues' Public Enemy Number One."

Losing in the World Series is something that most franchises can only dream about. Everybody knows what the atmosphere in Chicago and Boston was like in the midst of a postseason run that barely reached the League Championship Series. Two seven-gamers later and the old refrains started up again. For Chicago, it was the confidence that a 21-game improvement instills in a beleaguered franchise. I believe "wait 'til next year" fits in here somewhere.

In Boston, the head of Grady Little was being called for. The Red Sox complied and sent their manager packing before the Yankees' visitors' clubhouse could be cleaned-up after a night of celebration. Never did they look at the ballclub that was built for Grady Little to lead to the Promised Land. It all came down to a decision, however poor, to keep the ace of the staff in the game too long.

The New York Yankees, on the other hand, were a team that was definitely not one of its better teams of the past few years. Question marks were all over the place. But they managed to make it as far as any other team would be satisfied with. 2003 was not a bad year for the Yankees. But it was for George Steinbrenner. This has led to a number of different rumors that have been passed around as to the anticipated revamping of the Yankees.

RUMOR # 1: The Yankees will trade 2B Alfonso Soriano in an effort to get Expos SP Javier Vazquez.

This rumor is one of the most knee-jerk reactions I've ever heard of. Soriano was a non-factor in the postseason. That is without question. But the man has still had a couple of amazing seasons. To trade this guy would be to split-up what may be the best middle-infield duo in the major leagues.

(Derek) Jeter/Soriano could be around for a very long time and they could dominate for a very long time. The rumor also throws in Nick Johnson and Jose Vidro in the deal. Vidro is a great 2B who would be a superstar on any other team. But the fact remains that the Expos would not make this move and the Yankees should not want it to be made.

RUMOR # 2: Andy Pettitte is no longer welcome and will be let go via free-agency this offseason.

Here is another rumor that makes absolutely no sense. With Roger Clemens opting for retirement -- and yes, Yankees fans, he is retiring -- and David Wells also not likely to return to New York, Pettitte would be a steady influence in the rotation that would be sorely needed. The career Yankee left-hander has been consistent, if not outstanding. His defection would be a major blow the Big Boss's attempt to piece together another run to the postseason.

RUMOR # 3: The Yankees will be bringing in Gary Sheffield or Vladimir Guerrero through free-agency.

This rumor may just come into fruition. But it will be just another sign that Steinbrenner just doesn't get it. When the Yankees were winning their three titles in a row at the end of the 1990s and 2000, they did it through free-agency. This was at the beginning of the new era of Billy Beane and like-minded owners and general managers. During these three years of championships, teams were focusing on stocking their farm system rather than going out and trying to outspend the Yankees.

While it has not translated into much more than watching the Yankees in the World Series again this season, the impact has just begun. The Marlins are one of those teams with the formula for success that always seems to elude Steinbrenner. Build up your farm system, spend wisely on one or two big-name free-agents, and add where necessary during the season.

The Marlins, Athletics, Cubs, and Marlins are just four of the teams that have figured out the formula. The Yankees are one that has not. These teams that began building their farm systems during this era of the Yankees' three-peat are now reaping the benefits. While the Yankees may make a play at Guerrero or Sheffield, they would probably be better served taking that money and looking for scouts!

The Yankees have a great tradition of winning. The old tradition of winning, however, was predicated on smart ownership in an era of not-so-smart owners. With the intelligence of rival owners increasing, it seems that Steinbrenner is trying to bully his way back into the winner's circle. It won't be as easy, however, as opening up his checkbook.

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