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Monday, December 29, 2008

Don't Drink the Yankee Kool Aid

With the recent signings of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Texiera by the New York Yankees this winter, many baseball fans find the upcoming 2009 season to already have a determined outcome. Personally, I don’t think we have to fear any Yankee domination come October ‘09. Sure, I feel the Yankees have a fantastic shot at winning their division but an actual pennant or championship seems to be a bold prediction. The Yankees have skirted around a $200 million dollar payroll for the last six years and have come up empty handed each season. Their nearest World Series titles (’01 & ’03) came with the help of ageing vets from the 1990’s dynasty like Paul O’Neil, Scott Brosius, and Roger Clemens. Having their origins in one of the wealthiest markets in the world coupled with a rich historical history has granted the Yankee organization with a tremendous ability to acquire pristine baseball talent that most baseball franchises can only dream about. Since the 2001 free agent signing of Mike Mussina, Yankee high priced off-season acquisitions have been met with utter dismay from the rest of the league and have trumpeted an outpouring of claims to forgo the regular season and present the title to New York. As soon as New York announced signings of Jason Giambi in 2002 or traded for the venerable Alex Rodriguez in 2004, fans have criticized the Yankees of destroying the competitive integrity of Major League Baseball. The fact is, since Luis Gonzalez’s 2001 World Series winning blooper, the Yankees (0-8) have been watching other franchises poor Champagne over their heads come the end of October.
In some ways you can argue that the Yankees reckless spending is detrimental to their title cause. If one looks at their successful 90s teams, one sees a lineup mixed with quality all-stars (Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, & David Wells) and consistent roll players (Paul O’Neil, Tino Martinez, & Joe Girardi). Today’s Yankee lineup today seems to be more a row of me-first superstars (AROD, Johnny Damon) who have trouble fathoming the concept of teamwork and understanding a role that might place them as a second fiddle to another player. The Yankees spending is also detrimental to all out victory for the fact it places the team under an immense public/media microscope where only total victory will quiet the detractors yet unify fan bases that despise New York. Even if they Yankees do win a World Series in 2009, will the players, front office, and fans even enjoy the victory since they were supposed to win anyways?
So go ahead and be seduced by the signing of a chubby pitcher coming off 250 innings pitched in 2008. Hey, even talk yourself into A.J. Burnett putting in 30 starts in a non-contract year or Mark Texiera living up to the tremendous pressure of a mega contract. We know ARod is doing well with the scrutiny from New York’s media that has been generated by a massive salary. Rodriguez has put up some outstanding numbers in the regular season but has failed to achieve the same semblance of success come playoff time. Something Texiera will have to contemplate as he becomes the latest high price talent to sport pinstripes. Besides, offensive production has never aided the Yankees come playoff time this decade. In 2007 and 2006, the Yankees scored over 900 runs in the regular season but were trounced each time in the ALDS. Therefore, I’m not necessarily sold that this team’s perceived excellent offensive firepower will spell victory come October.
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