How the New York Yankees Blew Up a Dynasty
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It's been three years since the Joe Girardi era began in New York. Three seasons and one World Series ring later, I still hate the guy.
The New York Yankees faced elimination last night in Texas as "Mr. MVP" Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers were staring their first World Series appearance in the face. The Rangers finished the job, they beat not just one, but two of the best teams in baseball. They are going to the World Series.
The Yankees will now go sit at home and watch how the rest of this plays out. Can the unstoppable Phillies get beaten by "The Freak" and the Giants? I know I should be more interested, I know I should want to watch this fantastic series and watch who ends up holding that trophy when the World Series is over, but after watching one of the longest Yankee seasons of my life, I can't help but not watch another game until April.
Going into last year's offseason, the Bombers were looking like a team that could be a dynasty. They had three top-of-the-line rotation starters, and a lineup where anybody could launch a home run. Their team was fun to watch and they had a GM who had an unlimited supply of money to go make the team better. They had a team that was very good, indicated by the championship rings that were on their fingers from the previous season. But like any team, they now had a few holes.
Hideki Matsui, the man that literally won them Game 6 of the 2009 World Series, was now a free agent. This team needed a DH. This team seriously lacked a bench and with a team that was aging rapidly, that wasn't good. Andy Pettitte, who was one of the three top rotation starters, (and if you don't believe me on that go look at his postseason numbers from that year) wasn't even sure if he was coming back or not. Brett Gardner was going to be the starting left fielder—his batting average two years ago was .228. We had Austin Jackson, an unproven rookie starting in center field. Jackson had been labeled the next best thing by Yankee scouts, but we have all heard that before (see Joba Chamberlain, Melky Cabrera).
Enter Mr. Brian Cashman, who apparently was told that he needed to keep the budget down. Apparently Hal Steinbrenner realized the team had a $200 million payroll, and spending any more money would make baseball unfair I guess. Cashman decided it would be best to go out and get another starter, so CC, AJ and Pettitte wouldn't have to throw out their arms to win another World Series.
But instead of asking for a little extra money and signing a veteran like John Lackey, we went out and traded the only good bench player we had in Melky Cabrera for Javy Vazquez. I thought that we had already seen Vazquez fail trying to pitch in New York, but I guess Cashman forgot. "That's okay," they must have thought, "maybe this time he can pitch better in the toughest city in the world."
I figured they would now go out and either re-sign Matsui or a proven DH. Once again Cashman made another genius move, he dealt for Nick Johnson. Anybody else remember when Johnson was shipped out of town when the Bombers signed Jason Giambi? Johnson was a decent player at best, with very limited power and had a track record of not being able to stay healthy.
But who else was available? Nobody, right? I mean, the only guy that was available until about a week before the season started was Vladimir Guerrero. You might have heard of him, he hit .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI this season on the team that eliminated the Yanks last night.
Then it wouldn't be a Yankee offseason without dealing for an All-Star, right?
The genius Brian Cashman went out and dealt one of our blue chip prospects in Austin Jackson (who was going to be the starting center fielder), and got Curtis Granderson. Apparently the Grandy-man was a proven star out in Detroit—I didn't know superstars hit .249, but I guess the Cash-man did his homework.
The Yankees have done this for as long as I can remember, dealing young promising talent for "superstars" to fill their ego. If there is anything I have always hated about New York, it's that.
Add outfielder Marcus Thames and we were ready for the 2010 season. We added a DH who has shown he can't stay healthy, an unproven pitcher in New York (and in the American League in general) and a "superstar" that hit .249 the previous season. Not bad I guess. And about that whole "not raising the payroll too much," Granderson and Vazquez made a combined $17 million last season.
The thing that I have always hated about the Girardi/Cashman combination is that they are all about numbers. You watch Girardi in the dug out and he's constantly looking at matchups and numbers. That's what he does, so let's look at the numbers.
The numbers said that Nick Johnson had a great on-base percentage. The numbers said that Curtis Granderson hit 30 home runs last season and that the short porch would be great for him. The numbers said that Vazquez won 15 games and had a 2.47 ERA in Atlanta last year. Cashman and Girardi must have missed a few stats though. Nick Johnson hadn't played more that 98 games in the last four seasons, Granderson hit .249 along with his 30 home runs with the Tigers and the last time Vazquez pitched in New York, his ERA was almost five.
Then we started going, and it was a typical Yankee season. They had a slow start, but they picked it up. They started hitting, CC Sabathia started dealing and winning games.
The new Yankees struggled as a lot of people thought they would. Vazquez struggled early and often, he finished the season with a 10-10 record, and a 5.32 ERA. You didn't even see him the second half of the year. Nick Johnson played 24 games for the Yankees this year, before going down with an injury that was supposed to sideline him up to six months. You didn't see him again for the rest of the year (he hit .167 in the 24 games). Curtis Granderson missed a lot of the season with an injury, and while he played very well at the end of the year, he still finished with a .247 batting average.
But then some things started happening that I don't think anyone expected. AJ Burnett had a mental breakdown—he won one game in the last 85 days of the season. Burnett finished the season with a 10-15 record along with a 5.26 ERA. Derek Jeter stopped hitting and that was one of the most painful things I have ever watched. The soon-to-be 37-year-old watched his batting average drop from about .310 to .270 over the last two months of the year. Jeter has always been clutch in the postseason—he had 10 hits in 40 postseason at-bats this year.
The worst part about this season was the trade deadline. Nick Johnson was done for the year, Javy Vazquez couldn't wait to move out of New York by the time, the Yankees bullpen had been getting constantly beat up and they needed to make a move to make up for the terrible offseason they had. Who was available?
First you had pitcher Cliff Lee. The un-hittable machine was available from the Seattle Mariners for a good young prospect. Lee had shutdown the Yankees in the World Series last season when he was in a Phillies uniform—Cashman should have looked at those numbers. They had a deal in place for him, to trade another blue chip prospect in Jesus Montero for Lee.
The deal was just about done when the Rangers jumped in and some how pulled off a deal to get the All-Star pitcher. The way a lot of Yankee fans looked at it at the time was, "At least he didn't go to the Rays or the Red Sox. It won't come back to haunt us at least." We were wrong again.
Then you had the power hitter Adam Dunn. Dunn had put up monster numbers for the Nationals in the first half of the season and with an expiring contract it seemed Dunn was destined to part ways with his organization. He was rumored to go to the Rays, which I guess got the Yankees involved. In the end, he stayed in Washington DC, he'll be a free agent this offseason.
Instead the genius Brian Cashman went out and dealt for 34-year-old Lance Berkman. The former All-Star had hit .245 in Houston the first half of the season, but I guess Cashman or Girardi saw a stat where Berkman would fare better in New York. I'd like to see that stat, because he hit .248 the second half of the year for the Yankees. Then they dealt for reliever Kerry Wood, who actually turned out to be pretty good in pinstripes. If I had to pick one trade I have liked over the last year, this was it.
I think the hardest thing for a Yankee fan is that nothing good came out of this year. We enter next season with several old players that just got a year older—Jeter is the most interesting one. Jeter is going to be 37, and he is going to ask for at least $100 million in what will probably be his last contract. Mariano Rivera is a year older and that guy named Joba that was supposed to replace him can barely get out of the bullpen now. A-Rod is going to be 36 years old next year. This team is old and nothing is going to change that.
So what happened to the New York Yankees? Can we really blame Brian Cashman for what happened to this team? I do. He had chances to go out and get hitters like Adam Dunn and Vlad. Cliff Lee might not leave Texas at the end of the season to become a free agent if they win the World Series this season.
There are more question marks than there are good things for the Yankees right now. Joe Girardi doesn't have a contract for next season, neither do busts Javy Vazquez or Lance Berkman. Does Andy Pettitte come back? Does Mariano Rivera come back next year, because he doesn't have a contract either? There are conversations of the Yanks going after Royals ace Zach Grienke, but I have read he doesn't want to pitch for a big-market team. The biggest question mark of all will be the captain Derek Jeter and how much he will want and for how long.
When it comes to this offseason, I think it will be very interesting. However one thing is clear: If the Yankees don't start making better moves with more common sense and they continue to ignore the age of their players it's going to come back to haunt them eventually.
That's a stat that Cashman should look at.
As for the overall view of this season, it was a failure. They made mistakes in the trade department, and the signing department. It is for these reasons that I would like to thank Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi, because they just did something I thought was impossible for them to do even if they made the wrong moves. They just ruined a dynasty.
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