Close your eyes, this could get gory.
Unless of course, you are a proud, card-carrying member of the “I hate the Yankees Club.” If so, pull up a seat.
If Yankee venom drives you, and helps fuel your soul of fandom, you’ll want to stick around.
You’re going to enjoy this.
“This” is the freight train bearing down on the Bronx beginning next week, and the collision is inevitable. Tradition and aura paired with high ticket prices and unrealistic expectations clashing with reality.
The reality of an aging, creaky team trying to redefine it’s style due to an overwhelming amount of injuries and attrition.
Lose roughly 170 HR’s to free-agency and injury and suddenly, under the obscure sun of Florida, learn how to play “small ball” in about 6 weeks?
That’s actually hysterical.
Here’s a very quick summation of the New York Yankees: when they hit HR’s, they win. When they don’t, they lose.
2012: 245 HR’s (1st, MLB) 95 wins, playoffs.
2011: 222 HR’s (1st, MLB) 97 wins, playoffs.
2010: 201 HR’s (3rd, MLB) 95 wins, playoffs.
2009: 244 HR’s (1st, MLB) 103 wins, World Series Champions.
2008: 180 HR’s (T-9th, MLB) FAILED TO QUALIFY FOR PLAYOFFS.
Keep in mind, in 2012 the American League average for HR’s per team was 179. In the National League, that number dipped to 152. Barring the addition of say, Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, the 2013 Yankees look as if they will skew closer to the NL trend.
For a fan base used to celebrating a barrage of jacks every summer, that’s going to paint some customers awfully cranky in the overrated museum known as the new Yankee Stadium.
“Now batting for the New York Yankees, left-fielder Juan Rivera…or Ben Francisco…or Brennan Boesch…or wait, here comes the savior…VERNON WELLS!”
GM Brian Cashman should be praying for Carmelo and Co. to hang around as long as possible in the playoffs. If the Knicks are really good, perhaps people won’t notice that the Yankees really are not.
A-Rod? Quite possibly lost for the season, and if we’re lucky, gone forever.
Mark Teixeira? See you in 2014. Wrist injury.
Curtis Granderson? Broken forearm. Updates not encouraging.
Nick Swisher? His regular season magic now resides in Cleveland.
Russell Martin? Due to a suddenly conservative Yankee budget, he’ll swat 15 + jacks for the young and ascending Pirates this summer.
Ibanez, Chavez? Gone and gone.
Which brings us to the brightest star in the Yankee Universe, the incomparable Derek Jeter. Watching him gamely hobble around the bases this spring was flat-out depressing. Rapidly approaching his 39th birthday, the Captain is at a physical crossroads, and he’s doing it in the most unforgiving and boisterous arena in the world: New York.
That’s not good.
After amassing 216 hits and hitting .316 during his renaissance 2012 season, some fans, including this one, quietly crunched numbers and plotted out a course to 4,000 hits and beyond, meaning, you guessed it, Pete Rose territory.
Now, I’m not even sure which yields better odds on the Vegas board: total Yankee wins or games played at SS by # 2 in 2013.
Weigh these ominous words from one scout assigned to Tampa: “(It) was sad. He’s still hurting. How is he ever going to play shortstop?”
Luckily, the Yankees starting pitching is relatively solid, but let’s be honest about one thing: it’s not nearly as good or as “dominant” as some fans position it to be. CC Sabathia aside, what else is there? I love Andy Pettitte, but he turns 41 in June. Hiroki Kuroda is 38 and Phil Hughes has battled injury all spring. Plus, when healthy, he’s not NEARLY as good as advertised when he was the crown jewel of the minor league system a few years back. He’s decent. Absolutely nothing more, and far from special.
Speaking of the minors, the true positional reinforcements are at least a summer away, and as we know, there are no guarantees when it comes to prospects. Will the next Bernie Williams arrive on the scene or is Ricky Ledee 2.0 lurking around the corner? Your guess is as good as mine.
In the back of the bullpen remains Mariano Rivera, easily the greatest closer of all-time and quite possibly one of New York’s Top 5 all-time athletes. He resides, waiting patiently for the call to close out games. When that call comes, will his knee hold up? And if so, will his devastating cutter cooperate? His age now exceeds his uniform number.
For nearly 20 years, the New York Yankees have dominated baseball, racking up 90+ win seasons with ease and serving as home base to some of the greatest stars and biggest names in the game. But look around MLB’s landscape. Things have changed dramatically.
Mike Trout plays for the Angels. Stephen Strasburg pitches for the Nationals, combining with Bryce Harper to form a nice core in DC. The Braves have a solid, talented and young roster. Clayton Kershaw pitches for the Dodgers. The reigning NL MVP is in San Francisco, while Starlin Castro plays in the Windy City for the Cubbies. Andrew McCutchen is leading a Pirate-revival in Pittsburgh and the Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, resides in Motown, along with, arguably, the game’s best pitcher in Justin Verlander. Manny Machado, Will Demps, Hosmer. Young, talented.
Sure, mystique and aura pops up from time to time in October in New York, fueled by the ghosts of Ruth and DiMaggio. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, lived it on many chilling, awesome throwback nights in the Bronx.
But October means nothing if April thru September are uninspiring and lethargic.
Truthfully, the easy thing to do is pile on, to kick dirt on the Yankees grave before the first meaningful pitch of the season, to attempt to be ahead of the curve on the inevitable demise of the Yanks.
That’s the easy way out.
The 2012 Oakland A’s taught me literally, that anything is possible. That too, I witnessed with my own eyes, up close at the Coliseum. I was in the building when Josh Hamilton dropped a routine pop-up to open the floodgates and spring unlikey champagne in the East Bay.
Quitting has never been a part of my DNA.
I grew up just as Reggie Jackson was bolting the Bronx and watched my idol, Don Mattingly, gracefully guide the franchise from the muddy waters of Stump Merrill to the steady hands of Buck Showalter who eventually handed the keys to Joe Torre and another glorious chapter in Yankee lore, led by a young Derek Jeter.
No one is great forever, and nothing good lasts forever.
It’s called life.
I don’t know about you, but the Yankees have treated me pretty well as an adult.
It’s going to be tough, and I’ll have to remind myself this summer to show constraint, but I will. I will enjoy Mo’s final season and respectfully root for the Captain to regain his gait and stand tall despite so many visible warning signs.
They’ve earned that.
The New York Yankees have earned the right to die an honorable death.
How many baseball fans can truly say that about their team?
Didn’t think so.
But make no mistake about it: the ride is over.