Tale of Two Joes

Now that the dust has settled and A-Rod has opted out of his contract. I figured it would be time to discuss the 2007 Yankee Postseason and the departure of legendary skipper Joe Torre. Yes, I have recovered and can pontificate on the future of the ballclub.

First I was pleased that the Bombers made a huge push and seized a playoff spot. You have to realize that the team was left for dead in June. They were 14.5 behind the Bosox and trailed five other teams for the Wild Card spot in the AL. Obviously, the lionshare of the credit goes to the ballplayers for finally playing up to their potential and also the faith of the GM in playing the youngsters from the farm system. You have to recognize that Torre does not lead with a great deal of emotion and you will never see him in a fit of rage on the bench. This demeanor clearly rubs off on his players. If there were any doubters in that clubhouse, they were well hidden.

Perhaps this is why Mets manager Willie Randolph, a Torre protege never showed much trepidation as his ballclub slid out of playoff contention?

Torre's tenure in NY was extremely successful, 6 WS appearance 4 World championships and 12 consecutive postseason appearances and 9 consecutive AL East Titles. The latter a streak that ended this season. Oh yeah, congrats to RSN, but I am not ready to crown Bosox as the next baseball dynasty. If Boston can show me success over a decade, I will consider it. For now, their recent success is simply "thermal noise" when compared to what the Yankees accomplished in the 90's.

Yesterday, Joe Girardi and Joe Torre were both named managers of their respective new clubs(Yankees and Dodgers). I found it interesting that LA would announce Torre's signing on the same day of Girardi's. Considering how NY management treated Torre during his last days in pinstripes, I certainly can understand if there was bad blood. It probably does not make sense to get into the details of the contract, suffice to say that Torre was given an ultimatum which he deemed disrespectful. So he walked. Especially, considering his successful tenure on the most storied sports franchises. I wish him much success, he certainly earned it.

Girardi was not the people's choice for Yankee manager. Don Mattingly (aka Donnie Baseball) was the fan favorite. Unfortunately, Mattingly had never held a managerial position. So, I suppose it was a relatively easy choice for the impetuous Yankee leadership. While we're talking about Yankee management, it is worth noting that Hank Steinbrenner is likely to be as volatile as his pops George Von Steingrabber :)

George's sons have about as much baseball knowledge as Isiah Thomas. Nonetheless, it was their birthright to run the ballclub. It will only be a matter of time before GM Brian Cashman is released, as there are problems that cannot be addressed through payroll.

Let's reflect on some of the good news of 2007. We have some young arms that will help the club reload (not rebuild) and stifle opposing offenses. Yankees do not "rebuild" as management and fans are quite impatient. Win now and often has always been the motto and the expectation. Although, they have postseason appearance streak that is 2nd only to the Atlanta Braves, the difference between the Braves and Yankees is quite apparent. Yankee ballclubs are expected to crush and dominate opponents. Making it to the postseason means nothing at all. Winning the World Championship is how Yankee ballclubs are measured. Since they have not won since 2000, they have underachieved. Hence, Torre's departure.

Now, getting back to the pitching.. Perhaps the biggest reason that they have not won a championship since 2000 is their inability to pitch well enough to match opposing staffs in the postseason. Teams that make the postseason (NL teams the possible exception) have very good pitching staffs. The ace of your staff must be able to stifle opposing lineups. The Yankees have not had a bonified ace since Andy Pettitte was 25 yrs old. Chien-Ming Wang is very talented but an ace he is not. This became quite clear during the 2007 Divisional Series. Wang does not strike out enough batters to warrant the title of an ace. Additionally, he seems to lack confidence when pitching on the road against tougher competition. In fairness to Wang he is a sinker-ball pitcher. Most sinker-ballers pitch to contact and use their defense to get outs. He has won 19 games in back-to-back seasons. If his club didn't have such a thin number of quality starters, he would not be expected to be the ace.

Next season the starting pitching will be better, but _again_ there will be holes in the bullpen. Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and Phil Hughes are going to help immediately. They have emerged from a very fertile farm system. These days it seems that there is a plethora of young pitching prospects in the Yankee farm system. This had not been the case 5 yrs ago. Recently, management had decided that _if_ they were ever going to become a dominant ballclub again, they would have to develop a farm system. FWIW, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Ramiro Mendoza were once pitching prospects in the Yankee farm system. How many championships do they have among them? You get the idea.

However, positional players are another topic entirely. There aren't many on the farm. We still have aging veterans in key skill positions. How many years does Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter have left in the tank. Posada and Jeter came from our farm system. Who will replace them? Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano have been "energy" for the Yankee ballclub but we need more of them. Cabrera is going to have become more patient at the plate to stay in the lineup. He does not appear to have much power, but he does have youth on his side and there is still time for him to develop better plate discipline. Cano is going to anchor the infield for a long time. If you look at our archrivals in Beantown, they have already begun to reload the infield with younger positional players. It is unlikely that Posada's 2007 performance will be duplicated. He was phenomenal and at 36 consider it lightening in a bottle. Jeter struggled with nagging injuries late last season and was largely ineffective at the plate during the postseason.

The Bx Bombers made the postseason based upon a bullpen that was solidified by Joba Chamberlain, the sudden awakening of left-handed hitters in the lineup (Abreu, Matsui, and Cano), and of course the awesome season of Alex Rodriguez.

Regarding A-Rod.... There have been many superstar free agents who have donned pinstripes in the Bx. However, a choice few ever left a legacy behind. Reggie Jackson and arguably Paul O'Neill were such free agents. As stated earlier the expectation are quite high in NY. I'm not certain that A-Rod was very concerned about his legacy. If you look at his track record, he was very consistent. Yankee brass knew exactly what they were getting. A very talented ballplayer that had not really tasted much success in the postseason. His tenure in Seattle and Texas should have been clear indicators. So why did everyone expect him to be the next Reggie? Hmmm. Could it be the loot? Give that man a dollar. Actually, I thought he might stay, but I think it's an insult to use the excuse that "uncertainty of signings of key veterans factored into his departure", that's bullshit.

A-Rod is about the money, nothing more, nothing less. He'll likely break Bonds homerun record but it will not be as meaningful without a championship to his credit. Actually, I do not believe that means much to him. I wonder who will pay him $250M over 12 years. Hell, if the Yankees won't pay, who will?

Will the Yanks reclaim the AL East next year? It is very likely. Can they win the AL Pennant? Very unlikely. Time will tell, baseball is a strange game.

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    This page contains a single entry by AG published on November 2, 2007 3:35 AM.

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