Not repeating and no longer reigning as champions was not the game plan the New York Yankees had at the start of the 2010 season.
Losing the ALCS to the Texas Rangers was heartbreaking. The Bombers elimination seemed almost unreal, as the Yankees were the stronger ball-club all season long.
The blame-game is in full swing in New York, pointing fingers at Skipper Joe Girardi for his managerial calls and GM Brian Cashman not facing a team of over-the-hill players in time.
Yankees Universe is spoiled and winning it all is the only mark of achievement. Any outcome otherwise is considered a failed season, but this rigid motto is what players sign up for the moment they put on the pinstripes. Call it whatever you want, but it has led the franchise to the most elite status in sports.
What needs to happen in the offseason to get the Yankees back on top in 2011?
Here are the five I want to see happen:
1) Go get Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee is sure be on the top of Cashman's list.
Lee just bombed his first World Series start and if he repeats a piss poor, performance maybe he could come cheaper. Not by that much, but Lee is 33 and has had back problems in the past. Regardless, Lee went from a want to a necessity today after hearing some startling news from the Yankees.
First, ace CC Sabathia has to have knee surgery later this week for a small meniscus tear in his right knee; while not serious, it is not comforting news at all. CC is physically enormous standing at 6'7", weighing 309 lbs and at 30-years-old, which is implementing some serious stress on his body. CC threw 3,903 pitches in 2010, not including spring training. This was a concern when the Yankees signed Sabathia, as the odds were all stacked against him being able to avoid injuries like this one down the road. Finally, Yankees fans got a concrete clarification behind Sabathia’s why postseason struggles just came out of left field. Sabathia waved his option to remain for the rest of his five years in pinstripes.
Secondly, Girardi came clean as to the reason he switched Hughes and Pettitte in the rotation for the ALCS. Everyone was quick to blame the Yankees skipper for another horrible stat-based decision. Then today, the news broke that Pettitte felt off during his final start against the Twins in the ALDS. Smartly, Girardi played it extra cautious by switching him and Hughes to give Pettitte and extra two days off.
Add the above to AJ Burnett’s mental state and Phil Hughes inexperience making the rotation too risky. Get Cliff Lee and all will be ideal again.
2) Renegotiate reliever Kerry Wood’s contract and sign him on for two more years. Wood was a huge reason the Yankees won games in the second half of the season. Wood still throws heat form the mound, has a dominating presence and his experience eludes his confidence. I believe Wood is an inspiration and mentor for Joba Chamberlain, who significantly improved once Wood arrives. Also, god forbid Mariano Rivera becomes mortal, but at 41-years-old, it is going to happen. Wood can help the transition go smoothly from the baseball side during this unthinkable time.
3) Grab a position player that has proven his merit already, but do not spend the money on Tampa Bay Rays Carl Crawford. Crawford will be a fortune to acquire and with all the money going out to resign Jeter, Rivera, Girardi and hopefully Lee the Yankees can go cheaper. Crawford’s personality is something of concern because he can be quite immature at times and not always a team player. Crawford’s hard work after the 2009 season was not for the Rays, but for his pending free agency contract. Obviously any player wants to do his best to get the most money, but you can still be a team player at the same time. New York City will swallow Crawford with the instant celebrity status, which Rays players do not receive in Tampa Bay.
Philadelphia Phillies Jayson Werth would be perfect in pinstripes, but beware of his recent hiring of agent Scott Boras who might shop Werth with too big a price tag. Werth is older, so he will come cheaper than Crawford without a doubt, plus Phillies players are icons at home so he is used to all the craziness. Boras will go right to Cashman and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, as he knows how to drive up the price. Still, even if money wasn’t an object, I truly believe that Werth is a better fit for the Yankees.
4) What about keeping Marcus Thames? Thames could mainly be a DH because Jorge Posada will catch some games next season, despite all the hype that he is finished. Posada hits better when he catches, and Thames has been a productive DH right off the bench. Also, Thames can play in the outfield to give guys some more days off to help avoid pre-postseason injuries. For the 2010 regular season, Thames hit 12 home runs (nine as a DH) and 33 RBIs (24 as a DH) in 212 at-bats. In the postseason, Thames hit in clutch situations, hitting .364 in his first 12 at-bats, with one home run, three RBIs and striking out just once. Thames is great in the clubhouse, has the right attitude and works so hard just to help anyway he is asked. Thames should stay in pinstripes for 2011.
5) Hopefully Cashman won’t trade away catching prospect Jesus Montero for some over-the-hill all-star, whose name is big, but skills are good for maybe a half-a-season. Yankees fans have been drooling over Montero for two seasons, just waiting to see if the budding star is the real deal.
The same excitement swirled around outfielder Austin Jackson for even longer, but before he made it to the Bronx, Jackson was the main player in the trade for now Yankees Curtis Granderson. Granderson has been excellent in the second half and overall a solid person, so things worked out in the end. Still, the Tigers had a phenomenal, young outfielder whose athletics expand beyond the baseball field. Jackson was offered scholarships to play Division 1 basketball at Top 10 colleges. Jackson is in contention for the AL Rookie of the Year so stay tuned to see if he wins it.