Sunday, June 30, 2013

Yankees Fans Need to Make Up Their Minds and Stop Whining: A Semi-Rant

We know how you feel El Capitan

The year 2008 was very memorable in the history of the New York Yankees. The team was playing its last season on the site of the original and renovated versions of Yankee Stadium. There was a new manager, Joe Girardi, for the first time since 1996. Most of all, the team stunk by the Yankees and George Steinbrenner's standards - 89-73, 3rd place in the AL East, eight games behind the division winning Tampa Bay Rays. The Boston Red Sox took the AL wild card, six games ahead of the Yankees. The fans were livid.

The battle cry was shouted from the rooftops around the metropolitan area. Sign great players!!! Bring in All-Stars!!! We have to win now!!! The Yankees did just that giving deals to CC Sabathia (7 years, $161MM), Mark Teixeira (8 years, $180MM), and A.J. Burnett (5 years, $82.5MM). They traded for Nick Swisher (originally to play 1st base before Teixeira's signing), who became integral after Xavier Nady was lost early in the season. And of course there was still Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada.

The Yankees immediately won their first World Series in nine years and Yankees fans were figuratively fat and happy heading into the winter. Then something happened over the next four years. Players got older, some retired, some skills deteriorated, some didn't heal as quickly as they once did. The 2013 version of the Yankees is the fan base's nightmare. An old, injury riddled team that is currently filled with players who don't have the bat speed or the fastball they once did, and youngsters who aren't ready to be playing regularly in the Major Leagues.

So what's being shouted out now? Why can't we be more like the Pittsburgh Pirates? Say What? You know how the Pittsburgh Pirates got the way they did? By losing and losing some more and losing even more. It's not hard to build a good squad when you are perennially in the bottom of the division and have draft picks in the first five picks every year. Throw in a couple of key free agents (e.g. Russell Martin) and have a bona fide home grown star (Andrew McCutchen) and suddenly life is grand.

Then when the Pirates stars are ready for big money, they'll get dispatched to other teams around the league. Just the same way the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals do. Do you think for one nanosecond, any Yankees fan is going to put up with the seasons it would take to build a team of young talent like that? Not one, not a single one!

89 wins in 2008 and the first non-playoff team in 13 years proved that. Not a team that barely won 70 games, but a team that almost won 90 drove people crazy. It's hard to argue with the Yankees haters when they say the fans are spoiled, because, for the most part, it's true. The younger fans didn't go through the rotten years when there were no championships like the late 1960s and early 1970s, and most of the 1980's and the early 1990s.

You want to talk about bad teams? You did't have to watch guys like Jerry Kenny, Dooley Womack, and Horace Clarke. (Ever see a guy get over 680 at-bats with an OPS less than .600?) Please don't let me tell you about the 1982 "speed team".  The 1996-2000 squads gave many of today's fans a sense of entitlement. The championship is ours or the complete season is a waste. Really? And you claim to love baseball?

Many fans were ready to riot after the team lost in the 2012 playoffs...the American League Championship Series no less. Four wins from reaching the World Series, but the reaction sounded as though the Yankees finished in last place in the AL East.

Of course, the fans are right about some things, it just takes losing to set them straight. The Yankees front office did this to themselves. We all know that. They knew there were rumors about A-Rod's steroid use, but they went ahead and bid against themselves to re-sign him to a ridiculous 10-year, $275MM deal when he opted out of his current contract after the 2008 season. (Just like they knew Giambi in all likelihood was a user before they signed him to a large deal prior to the 2002 season.)

CC Sabathia's a much better person on and off the field than A-Rod could ever hope to be, but re-working his deal through 2017 wasn't a great idea. No, the Yankees didn't want to lose him when he opted out of his deal after the 2011 season, but perhaps they should have let the free agent market help decide the length and amount of the deal.  The big man has a lot of innings and pitches in his left arm and last year his elbow complained loudly about it. Sabathia has looked ordinary and has lost velocity this season. He's guaranteed $71MM over the next three seasons and can get $25MM in the final year of the deal if he stays healthy.

Teixeira has gotten beat up, pull happy, and still has three years and $67.5MM on his contract. Now, you can't count on bad things happening, but when players are on the other side of 30-years of age, things happen more often. Unfortunately, a lot of them occurred this year. But fans can't bash the same contracts they applauded before the last two seasons. (Many of these same fans wanted the Yankees to sign Josh Hamilton this past off-season - 28 RBI and a .665 OPS in 77 games so far for the Angels.)

The worst part about all those contracts combined with Hal Steinbrenner's quest to get the salary to $189MM? The Yankees are not going to be able to sign Robinson Cano. They might even be wise to deal him at this year's trade deadline. Rumor has it that Cano wants a 10 year deal. If the Yankees are dumb enough to give it to him (or for that matter if anyone is) you can expect more 2013's in the future. I love Cano, he's one of my favorite players to watch bat and field, but the insanity has to stop somewhere.

Fans are going to have to learn to live with whatever happens this year. There are no teams like the LA Dodgers to take all the bad contracts away like those idiots did last year with the Red Sox. (It's laughable that people give Boston credit for that move.) Not only aren't there teams like that, but somehow Bud Selig would find a way to not allow the Yankees to salary dump. (He shouldn't allow it either, just like he shouldn't have allowed Florida and Boston to do so last year.)

Most of all, all of us want a competitive, interesting team to watch. If the Yankees front office doesn't wise up, and I question if the current group can, attendance will continue to dwindle, ratings will continue to drop, and the Yankees will not make the playoffs, let alone win a championship, for a very long time.

Then you will really hear some whining.

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