The other night I was talking to one of the guys in my fantasy baseball league, and he posed several topics to me to write about. One of the ones I found the most interesting is the difference in how the Yankees dealt with filling a position hole in the mid-late-'90's to the way they do it now.
That really got me thinking. It seemed like back then if the Yankees had a position spot that needed to be filled they rarely signed a high priced free agent. They made a trade or signed a seasoned veteran, and ended up winning four championships in six years.
Since 2001, they broke away from that formula and haven't won a World Series since. Obviously there are many factors that contribute to a team winning or losing, but there is something to be said for a change in the way of things being done as part of the reason.
After Don Mattingly retired, the Yankees needed to fill the hole at first base. They witnessed first hand the damage that Tino Martinez could inflict on his opponents, and decided that trading for the reliable veteran was the best way to fill Mattingly's spot.
Tino went on to play six seasons in the Bronx, won four World Series rings, and came through in some of the most clutch situations.
When the Yankees let Tino go after 2001, they went after the high priced and overrated Jason Giambi. Giambi couldn't match what Tino did for the Yankees. He played for the Yankees for six seasons and the Yankees never won the World Series while Giambi was there.
He ended up being involved in the steroid scandal, and spent much of his time in New York battling different injuries that prevented him from playing.
Giambi doesn't get re-signed after 2008, and the Yankees first trade for Nick Swisher. Swisher can play the outfield and first base, so the Yankees planned to use him in a variety of spots.
It appeared as if the Yankees were reverting back to their old ways by trading for a guy that wasn't necessarily an All-Star, but could provide the Yankees with a lot of options.
And then, the Yankees went out and managed to land the high priced free agent named Mark Teixeira. I happen to believe that Teixeira is a much better signing than Giambi was because he's a switch hitter and he can actually play first base.
However, there's always more of a focus on the type of contract that a guy like Teixeira gets than on anything else. If he's in a slump it always goes back to the amount that he gets paid, instead of just letting him make the transition.
If Teixeira ends up not helping the Yankees win at least one World Series during his time in pinstripes, the signing will be viewed as a complete bust.
The situation is the same for the position of third base. After the '96 season, Wade Boggs left the Yankees as a free agent, and they had a few guys like Charlie Hayes to fill the spot, but the team knew they needed more than that. Before the '98 season, the Yankees traded for Oakland third baseman Scott Brosius.
Brosius was a veteran who just came off of one of the worst seasons of his career. No one expected that he would contribute much to the team.
Somehow, Scott Brosius was able to shine in New York. He made plays at third that reminded Yankee fans of the days of Graig Nettles, and he came through in the clutch when most people would've counted him as an easy out.
Brosius became a fan favorite with his feats in the '98 World Series (He was the MVP of the series). Not to mention he helped the Yankees rally from behind during the 2001 World Series. He was a solid player who handled playing in New York with such ease that it looked like Brosius had been there his entire career.
Once Brosius was gone after 2001, the Yankees filled third base with a couple of people. One of those people was Aaron Boone and while he didn't have the same kind of success that Brosius did, he will forever be known as the guy that sent the Yankees to the World Series and the Red Sox packing with one swing of his bat.
Boone was going to be the starting third baseman for the 2004 season, but ended up blowing out his knee in the offseason, which allowed the Yankees to trade for Alex Rodriguez.
At the time, it seemed like the best thing that could happen to the Yankees, but five years later, a lot of people are questioning that move. During A-Rod's time in New York, the Yankees haven't made it to the World Series, and only once made it past the ALCS.
His post season production is nothing to speak of, and as a result, Yankee fans are left to wonder if they would've been better off with someone else.
Of course, there is the whole issue of hind sight, and if we all knew what we know now would the choice still be the same? Unfortunately, the trend of signing high priced free agents in the place of solid veterans is not yielding the results that the Yankees are looking for.
It is difficult to ignore this when teams like the Red Sox are putting together a competitive team year after year with a lot of solid veterans and farm hands and having success.
A team like Tampa Bay, with no where near the spending capabilities as the Yankees managed to win the AL east with guys that they had in their farm system and a mix of reliable veterans.
That's what the Yankees used to do. They brought up guys like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, homegrown players to mix in with a group of veterans that knew how to get things done.
Over the past couple of seasons, the Yankees have made moves to look like they are going back to the old way, with the promotion of Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and Joba Chamberlain to the big league club.
Even this year, the Yankees have promoted guys like Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner, and Ramiro Pena to fill in for injured regulars. It is uncertain whether or not these changes will produce the positive results the Yankees are looking for.
Still, it's hard not to wonder if the Yankees had never messed with their way of doing things if there might be a few more championships banners hanging.
Just goes to show you, if it ain't broke don't fix it.
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