May 20, 2008
NO JOY IN SPARTA:
If Things Don't Improve, Yanks Must Reconsider Future (STEVEN GOLDMAN, May 20, 2008, NY Sun)
The bullpen pitchers are fungible, and the Yankees will probably be overjoyed to see both Farnsworth and Hawkins hit the road, but the two veteran starters are another matter given the problems Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes have had. Pettitte was excellent last year, but his age, injury history, and constant threats to retire make him a risky player to bring back for another year. Further, it remains to be seen if his recent struggles are simply a random fluctuation in performance or an indication that his time is up. On the opposite end of the performance spectrum, Mussina's revival, with his 5-0 record and 2.76 record in his last five starts, has been heartening, but he remains a five-inning, low-strikeout pitcher who will turn 40 this winter.
The Yankees may be able to replace these pitchers internally, even if Hughes and Kennedy never come around. The position players are another matter. The young stars the Yankees need simply don't exist in the farm system, and the free agent market is unlikely to provide them. Likely free agents of interest include first baseman Mark Teixeira, for whom competition will be fierce, outfielders Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn, both born designated hitters who will lose a good deal of their value when they get away from the offense-friendly parks in which they play, and another DH in Manny Ramirez, assuming the Red Sox buy out his $20 million option.
Even if the Yankees can get, say, Teixeira and Dunn, it won't make for much of a lineup. Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter will be another year older, another year more likely to be hurt, and another year less likely to put up a big season. Assuming that the hypothetical Dunn signing results in his becoming the primary DH in place of Giambi (and there is some chance that the Texan native Dunn would not have the slightest interest in coming to New York), an outfield of Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Hideki Matsui would be offensively unimposing and a defensive nightmare. Damon and Matsui's contracts end after next season, when the Yankees will still likely be short of necessary replacements.
Further, if this season has shown anything, it's that Robinson Cano is an excellent but very streaky player who can never be counted on to be the center of a team's offense, because his impatience and moderate home run power mean that, when he goes cold and stops hitting singles and doubles, there are no redeeming factors in his offensive game. Finally, for all the scorn heaped on Alex Rodriguez, his absence has shown just how weak the cast around him actually is. The Yankees have hidden a great many sins in his shadow.
The 21st century Red Sox are a tribute to Gene Michael's Yankees--acquiring offensive players who work pitch counts and get into other teams awful-by-definition middle relief corps, while developing a nucleus of great young players.
The 2008 Yankees represent Brian Cashman's similar attempt to ape the Sox and they're a disaster. He has radically misjudged the quality of his youngsters even as he's made the team more dependent on their performances. Phil Hughes and Austin Jackson are the only important pieces in hand of the next good Yankee team.