Age Is Killing the Yankees, So Who's Responsible?

Sam FogelgarenCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 2: Alex Rodriguez #2 (L) of the New York Yankees sits on the bench, joined by Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman (R) before a game against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium on July 2, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

For the last 15 years, the MLB playoffs have been quite unpredictable, with few certainties.

But there has been one guarantee—the New York Yankees.

Since 1995, the Yankees have made it to the playoffs every year, except last year. They also made it to the World Series six times, including four World Series Championships brought back home to the Bronx.

But that guarantee has run dry. After a changing of the guard, which featured Joe Torre handing down the responsibilities of Yankee manager to Joe Girardi, something happened, something that hasn't happened since 1995.

The Yankees didn't make it to the playoffs.

It was something so awkward, so different. It felt like vu ja de. 

Why did it happen? Why did the Yankees, who had been the only guarantee when it came to the playoffs, suddenly disappear? 

There is one reason.


Here are the ages for all of the Yankee starting position players of 2008. 33, 37, 25, 34, 32, 34, 23, 34, and 34. Now that is an old team.

The Yankees average age is 31.4 years, which isn't too bad when compared to the other teams.

But remember that number is an average of all players who have played for them last season, which includes guys like Chris Stewart, 26, who played one game. A guy like that will bring that average age number down a bit. 

The point is, the Yankees were old. Unlike teams like the Diamondbacks and the Orioles, the Yankees have a roster filled with expensive veterans who are good, but not as effective as most of the young players in the league.

For example, Johnny Damon is still pretty good, but wouldn't you rather have Ryan Braun?

The Yankees have faced this problem for years now, and it is only getting worse. 

The catalyst for this old player problem is Brian Cashman. You may recall this offseason the Yankees signed CC Sabathia, 28 (will be 29 next week), Mark Teixiera, 29, and AJ Burnett, 32. Let's look at these signings in a little more detail.

Now, we know that these are three incredibly talented baseball players, and they will play well for the Yankees. That's not why I am criticizing the signings. For the next three years (and hopefully, a little longer after that), these guys will play extremely well, as they are in the prime of their careers.

But let's look down the road. Sabathia will turn 34 the year before his contract runs up, Burnett will be 36, and Teixeira will be 36 as well.

Sabathia, as we all know, is a big guy, and therefore is very prone to back and knee problems. Though he hasn't had any yet, it is very possible that four or five years down the road, Sabathia could be facing some major surgery.

Burnett, who has been injury prone throughout his time with the Blue Jays, could easily face serious injuries in the future.

But in a way, Burnett is a little better signing because his contract is shorter. Nevertheless, he will be 37 when his contract is up, and a whole lot can happen between now and then.

Lastly, Mark Teixiera. He'll be 37 when his contract runs up, and frankly, I am not as worried about him than I am anyone else that I just mentioned.

Tex is in the prime of his career, and he should enjoy success for at least the next four to five years. By the time he hits 35, he'll probably start to decline, but even by the end of his contract, he should still be hitting about .260-.280, 15-30 home runs, and 75-100 RBI. 

Look at the 2008 team. Jason Giambi, who was signed to a seven-year, $120 million contract in 2002, hit just .247 with 32 home runs and 96 RBI.

Those numbers don't seem too bad, right? Consider the fact that he was making an astronomical $23.5 million!

And how about that 2007 season, the one where he missed half the season to injury and hit just .236? Same thing, $23.5 million. 

This is Cashman's fault. He signs big name players to huge contracts, thinking that since these guys have played well, a World Series is coming to town.

Not so fast. 

Now I swear by Mike Mussina's 2008 campaign, and would never EVER get on Cashman for that two-year deal he gave Moose before 2007. But it goes to show you what kind of players he's looking to sign.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't going out and saying this two years ago, but it tells you that Cashman is targeting older guys, rather than younger players. 

I have yet another perfect example of signing a guy to a huge contract when they are in their prime (you usually want to sign guys either before their prime starts or in the beginning). Alex Rodriguez.

By the time his current contract is up, A-Rod will be 41 years old. The fact that Rodriguez, a career .305 hitter, is hitting .256 in the second year of his 10-year contract has got to worry you. 

And here we go again. More long term contracts for Brian Cashman, more older players at the end of the deals.

Now is the beginning of an era. We have Sabathia, Burnett, Teixiera and A-Rod all at the beginning of their contracts.

This team has a chance to compete. If they don't win a World Series within the next three to five years, I got news for you, the curse of Brian Cashman will come into effect.