Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Signing Off

This will be my last entry before leaving for the summer. I would like to end it with a not so brief overview of the Yankee's situation.

The Yankees have one purpose: the win a World Series. They have every advantage in the world. The core group of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, and Mariano Rivera give the Yankees a huge competitive advantage at their positions. George Steinbrenner is willing to write the big checks, and Brian Cashman is willing to make the right decisions. The Yankees should not have big glaring weaknesses like they do now.

I've said this many times before and I will say it one more time. Baseball is a game of adjustments. Hitters adjust to pitchers. Pitchers adjust to hitters. But the management of a team also needs to make adjustments. A lot was made about how "Moneyball" doesn't work. Experts like Joe Morgan were making fun of stat-head geeks who thought that they could run baseball teams.

Well guess what: Moneyball teams are ruling the day. Boston is in first place. Oakland and Texas are tied for first place. Toronto has a 37-32 record. Although gone, Paul DePodesta's rebuilding process succeeded, as the Dodgers are in first place. These teams are doing the exact same thing that Bruce Sutter did when he messed with his grip and invented the split finger fastball. They are making adjustments to give themselves a competitive advantage.

Brian Cashman has begun to make similar adjustments. He's building a young farm system that has a lot of potential. But he doesn't have his saavy manager who is also willing to adjust like Theo has with Terry Francona or Billy has with Macha. He has Joe Torre, forever married to his proven veterans and rigid player roles. And because of that, the Yankees are playing with a competitive disadvantage. It is testament to the success of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and that they were able to succeed despite this disadvantage. But they won't last forever.

Money is a great thing. The Yankees have lots of it. But they misuse it. Guys like Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Kyle Farnsworth, or even Hideki Matsui are not smart choices to put money in to. The downside of free agency is that you often get players, especially pitchers, in the twilight of their careers. Look at Mike Mussina. He's been a very solid free agent signing, but he's not the ace he used to be.

Youth is a good thing. Youth brings with it good defense, prime-time offense, and cheap pricetags. With lots of cheap pricetags, the Yankees can afford to go after those big time free agent signings. Two years ago, Carlos Beltran was that big time free agent. He was 26 years old and available. For 16 million per year, the Yankees could have locked up Beltran through his age 34 season. That is right, the Yankees could have had 8 years of one of the best players in baseball in their prime. But too many years of too-big contracts got in the way, and the Yankees were forced to pass on Beltran.

Things are changing. By 2010, the Yankees will be fielding a lineup that contains guys like Jose Tabata, Austin Jackson, Bret Gardner, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera to go along with a pitching staff of Phil Hughes, Tyler Clippard, J.B. Cox, Mark Melacon, and Ian Kennedy. All of this youth will enable the Yankees to do what they do best: get the biggest friggin free agent out there. Because in 2010, Albert Pujols hits the market.

The Yankees should be the greatest team in baseball. We have no excuse. We should win the World Series. There is no substitute for victory.

Have a nice summer. Check back on Saturdays for updates. I return in mid-August.