How to Right the Yankees’ Sinking Ship

The New York Yankees' recent pitiful showing in the AL Division Series vs. Cleveland, during which they only managed one win, and key bats were quiet, has fueled a great deal of speculation regarding where the blame lay. Though most credit the club for being able to secure a wild card slot after a disastrous 16-26 start, the Bronx Bombers have failed to deliver in every postseason since 2000, and have only reached one World Series since. It is manager Joe Torre's fault? Is it Alex Rodriguez's, or have the other teams just caught up with the once three-peaters?

Though Torre should probably go, it is not he that continues to sign Roger Clemens over and over, has not gone out and found new pitchers, or traded to replace worn closer Mariano Rivera. And Torre doesn't bat in the postseason either. When the team was unbeatable (1998-2000 in the recent vintage), Rivera was young, and a nucleus of young players who manned key positions — Derek Jeter at short, Jorge Posada behind the dish, and Bernie Williams in center — were influenced by veterans from outside the organization like Tim Raines, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, David Wells, Wade Boggs, John Olerud, and Ruben Sierra mong them.

In those days, the Yanks didn't attempt to build a fantasy team, they sought gamers and role players. A postseason clutch hit was as likely to be delivered by a Luis Sojo, a Sierra, a Jose Vizcaino, or an Aaron Boone as by a superstar. The Pinstripers had an aura, a swagger. Since they've shifted their philosophy to adding stat sheet stuffers the likes of Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, and Bobby Abreu, all they have is a swagger. That fault lies at the feet of GM Brian Cashman, not Torre.

The Yankees lack an attitude. If Torre is canned (or, because of his years of service, "allowed to step down," which would be the dignified approach), A-Rod bolts, and Mariano Rivera leaves because Torre is gone, no new skipper can give them pride. Not Joe Girardi, who is equipped to handle the heavy-handed New York media, and not Tony LaRussa, who unlike Torre, manages in a league where one must pinch hit for pitchers, manufacture runs, and be more than a caretaker. The fight and inspiration must come from the guys who take the field. Besides, neither LaRussa, Girardi, or Lou Piniella is gonna pitch.

This organization needs the kind of (younger) arms that made Oakland, Minnesota, Arizona, California, Cleveland, and Detroit winners over the past five seasons. When the White Sox swept to their Series victory, they got complete games out of all four pitchers. One, Jose Contreras, was inexplicably given up on by Cashman. So was another Cuban that can still get guys out — Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez — and they were not replaced.

Teams do not retool by adding a new slugger every offseason. The Red Sox employed this tactic from 1940-2002, with limited success. Walt Dropo, Jackie Jensen, Dick Stuart, Tony Conigilaro, Ken Harrelson, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez, Tony Armas, Don Baylor, Mike Greenwell. They were bombers, too, but the team never posssessed the type of left-handed pitching to keep opposing righties from launching balls over the Green Monster. Instead, they signed guys for a club designed to outscore the opposition by aiming for the Great Wall themselves.

Sure, the 2007 Yanks almost caught Boston, but postseason baseball is about pitching. Why didn't Cashman go after closers like Billy Wagner and Eric Gagne when they were available in recent years? Why weren't the Yanks in the market for starters such as Bartolo Colon, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Mark Mulder, Esteban Loiza, and Josh Beckett? They were available. And if Cashman insists on going older, why not Tom Glavine and not always Roger Clemens (who doesn't pitch the whole summer anyway)?

There are middle school kids who can't remember when the team was dominant. It is time for a change, but the biggest changes should be made in the front office, not by a star-struck GM obsessed with mind-boggling stats.

Comments and Conversation

October 16, 2007


This is one of the dumber rants I’ve seen about the Yankees first round loss. Actually, I’m being kind. It is the dumbest. Why didn’t Cashman go after Billy Wagner, Eric Gagne, Bartolo Colon, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Mark Mulder, Esteban Loiza, and Josh Beckett? Did the writer of this blog watch any baseball this year? Beckett is the only one in the group who had a decent year. And he cost the Red Sox the NL rookie of the year, and a young pitcher who threw a no hitter as a rookie for Florida. Not a cheap pickup. Most of the rest of the pitchers listed were disasters. Rivera had a far better year than Wagner - ask any Mets fan. Gagne probably can’t take the mound in Fenway again without an armed guard he’s so hated up there. ” if Cashman insists on going older…” How is bringing up Hughes, Kennedy and most of all Joba a sign of Cashman trying to get older. It’s obvious the opposite is true. And how was Rivera the problem in this year’s postseason when he held the Indians scoreless in the three games he appeared in, giving the Yankees at least the chance to win all three.

October 17, 2007


Absolutely agree with Chris. This article is terrible and pretty indicative of someone who has barely watched a Yankees game all year. Cashman (especially the Cashman of the last couple of years) has not been going out and buying the biggest name on the market at the expense of younger talent (a la Gagne). He has been keeping guys like Hughes, Chamberlain, Kennedy, Cabrera, Cano, etc. etc. etc. Cashman assembled a fantastic offensive team this year and, with the influx of pitching over the next couple of years, this has the potential to be one of the best all around teams in recent memory. Getting rid of Cashman would be the absolute worst thing the Yankees could do. Torre, while having a lot of postseason success - which I’m sure his level-headedness has played a role in - has some faults in terms of bullpen management and other in-game issues. If anyone is to blame for this season its either him or the players themselves, but definitely not Cashman. The only reason I don’t suggest the Yankees fire Torre for a change of pace is because of the impact it could have on bringing back Posada, Mariano, and potentially A-Rod.

October 17, 2007

Bijan C. Bayne:

I was referring to Gagne, Colon, Wagner, Hudson, et al, when they first switched teams and were on the market, not their performances in 2007. As in “when Rivera, The Unit, and Mussina first displayed signs of wear”.


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