The glory years have long since ridden off into the sunset, and the days of championships and dynasties are nearly a decade in the rearview mirror.
Arrogant chants of “1918” have been replaced by seated confessions (and denials) before Congress and a spending plan as loose and irresponsible as the US government.
Yankee T-shirts proudly displaying slogans such as “Got Rings?” or “Who’s Your Daddy” are now collecting dust in the back of closets across the tri-state area.
Even mindless banter between rivals has become less enjoyable without a chamber full of witty and damaging verbal bullets.
The vulnerability of MLB’s empire began with the shifting of Gene Michael into the shadows of the Yankee organization.
The deterioration commenced the day Brian Cashman was given laissez-faire authority.
In the years leading up to George Steinbrenner’s ultimate removal as figurehead of the Yankees, Cashman was being given more superiority and freedom to perform his job without too many strong-arm demands coming from over his shoulder.
Cashman was now somewhat supplanting Steinbrenner in the throne, and all success and failure could be attributed to his name.
As the payroll began to launch skyward like an Apollo mission, the Yankees were left with disappointment after disappointment from their acquisitions.
It technically all started with the signing of an unnecessary replacement for Tino Martinez—a still productive offensive player, unequaled defender, and fan favorite.
Jason Giambi quickly became a one-dimensional slugger and such a defensive liability that he could not even make throws taught on Little League diamonds.
This signing occurred before the era of laissez-faire I am referring to, but it signaled a changing of the guard in how the Yankees would do business. It became all about big names, big legacies, and even bigger contracts.
The first regrettable moves made by the general manager involved the ever-weakening pitching staff.
Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Jimmy Key, Orlando Hernandez, and David Cone were replaced by Jeff Weaver, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Javier Vazquez, Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Esteban Loiaza, and Jose Contreras.
Ramiro Mendoza, Jeff Nelson, and Mike Stanton were replaced by Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon, Tanyon Sturtze, Scott Proctor, Steve Karsay, Felix Heredia, Kyle Farnsworth, Sterling Hitchcock, Antonio Osuna, Chris Hammond, Armando Benitez, Felix Rodriguez, and Octavio Dotel.
There are countless other calamities being omitted in the interest of space, but for a five-year span to include a name scroll longer than Wilt Chamberlain’s sexual conquests is nothing short of repulsive.
It didn’t matter in 2005 that Wright was coming off of the first season he started more than 10 games since 1999, that his ERA consistently floated around 7.00, or that he had never once thrown 200 innings in his career.
It certainly didn’t matter that Weaver was 39-51 in his career with a 4.33 ERA when the Yankees acquired him from Detroit. Wouldn’t it be nice to still have Ted Lilly in the Yankee rotation?
Just when fans in the Bronx wondered how things could possibly get worse, Kei Igawa happened in 2006.
The man who boasts a 6.66 career major league ERA in 16 games currently decomposes at the Triple-A level while swimming through a pool of gold coins in his backyard.
Cashman, in all his sagacity, coughed up $26 million just to earn the right to sit at a negotiating table.
Another $20 million later, the Yankees were paying more per season for Igawa than Roy Oswalt, John Smoltz, Mariano Rivera, Torii Hunter, and Aramis Ramirez were being paid at the time.
To make matters worse, Cashman admitted that they projected Igawa as “a back of the rotation starter.” Excuse me for a second while I attempt to avoid choking on my own vomit.
The Yankees were then able to “strong-arm” Alex Rodriguez into a 10-year contract worth upwards of $300-plus million—running into the meat of his 40s.
(You certainly showed him who’s boss, Brian.)
Instead, the only moves he gets right are the no-brainers. A gorilla flinging feces at a list of names on a chalkboard could have done a better job.
Not only are his successes limited to the likes of like Mark Teixeira and Mike Mussina, but his only negotiating tactic is adding years or zeros—eventually leaving New York with a pile of overpaid former stars with diminishing skills.
To put this into perspective, Yankees SP A.J. Burnett is being paid a higher annual salary than Albert Pujols—the unquestionable premier hitter in MLB.
In order to justify this contract, he would have to pitch like Ron Guidry circa 1978—but is instead just 5-4 with a nearly 1.50 WHIP.
Cashman has been a disaster since Hall of Famers and clutch miracles were diving into his lap like kids on a mall’s version of Santa Claus.
It is time that he faces the music and perhaps embarks on a lonely walk down “the ole dusty trail.”
The Yankees need a man with savvy, a man with baseball intelligence, and a man who can supplement smart-money signings with high-priced free agents.
They need a man who will not ignore the development of homegrown talent for the better part of a decade—only to pretend it has now become his No. 1 priority.
They need a man who will make personnel decisions based on a player’s moxie, dedication to the game, love of the bright lights and big stage, and workmanlike attitude—as opposed to clinging to statistics and star power like an old unwanted girlfriend.
That man is clearly not Cashman, and it is time for a change.
Also seen at: Heartbeat of the Bronx