Mandel’s Musings: Yankees Celebrate Pennant But Keep Eye on Next Season

Published on: 26th October, 2009


Mandel's Musings: Yankees Celebrate Pennant But Keep Eye on Next Season  | read this item

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The Bronx – It’s exciting when your hometown team wins its way into the grand old game’s ultimate showcase, the World Series. It’s a long, hard season, this sport of a 162 game regular season plus three levels of post-season play to earn a championship. So, celebrate Yankee fans. As Jack Buck once exalted on television after one of his beloved Cardinal favorites hit a game-winning home run, “Go crazy, Cardinal (Yankee) fans, go crazy!”


After you go crazy however, start to think about the reality that your Bronx Bombers, as currently constructed, will be torn apart after this season ends, no matter if this season ends on a successful note or not.


As most Yankee teams have been during the Steinbrenner era, now in its 35th season, this Yankee team was built to win this year by General Manager Brian Cashman. The culture of this organization has always been to win a World Series every year. Anything less is unacceptable to the players and management of this franchise.  


Any team built to win  now necessarily has its share of players on short or expiring contracts. It’s a good thing this Yankee team is headed to the World Series this year because in looking at this roster, there could easily be a turnover of as much as half of its starting players, plus some key performers on the pitching staff. Welcome to the world of expiring contracts and free agency, Yankee fans. Turnover is inevitable in the new age of baseball, ever since the infamous “reserve clause” was eradicated by Curt Flood and Andy Messerschmidt in the early 1970s.


Uniquely though, we may be viewing a world championship roster that turns over much more than the average baseball champion.


There comes a time when the tough decisions have to be made and in about 10 days time, whether or not the Yankees win their 27th World Championship or not, the Yankee brass will sit down and begin to evaluate who will be invited back and who will not. It says here, the changes are going to be significant.


If you’re a Yankee fan, take a good, hard look at this year’s outfield. It may be the last time you see it configured in the same way after the last pitch of the Fall Classic. Anyone who thinks former every day left fielder turned gimpy-kneed designated hitter, Hideki Matsui is returning to the Yankees, raise your hands. Now, go away since you’ve already exhibited a lack of baseball instincts and knowledge.


What are the chances Johnny Damon, at age 36 and possessor of the weakest throwing arm in recent Yankee history, will be offered  more than a one year contract to return? Now, do you think Damon, looking to capitalize on his excellent 2009 season, will turn down bigger money and more years from another organization to return to NY for one season, only? Uh, I don’t think so.


In centerfield, the combination of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner served the Yankees very well over the course of the season with Cabrera hitting a productive .274 over the course of his 449 at bats. He hit 11 home runs and drove in 76 runs and played decent enough defense out in field to be more than a useful player for this team. Gardner, in his first full year, was playing wonderfully as a spot-starter against righthanded pitching and was a real asset with his speed. Unfortunately, Gardner was injured early in the season on June 15th with a fractured thumb, causing him to miss the next two months. When he returned, he wasn’t quite as impactful as he had been but that’s also because Cabrera had played well enough to secure the job on an every day basis. The point is, both of these young players are nice role types to have on a good team but it also seems they each have ceilings to how far they can expand their games. Most scouts don’t see either player as being talented enough to play every day in center field for a contending team like the Yankees. Are they good enough to play well for a lesser team, in a smaller market where they can develop and become useful players without dealing with the huge media focus of New York? Can they be packaged as part of a trade to get an everyday outfielder or a solid Number 2 starter? Yes, a resounding yes and if that opportunity comes the Yankees way, it will be bye bye Melky and/or Brett.


It’s pretty much the same thing with the Yankees every day right fielder this past season, Nick Swisher. Swisher was brought in to be a backup outfielder and backup first baseman and pinch-hitter extraordinaire. That’s what Swisher is. A good, solid, useful utility guy who will be very productive with 250 – 300 at bats per season. When everyday rightfielder, Xavier Nady was lost for the season with shoulder surgery, Swisher was next in line. He turned out to be a good player, not a great one but, his 28 home runs and on-base percentage of .393 proved an excellent addition to the Yankee attack, if a surprising one.


Now, here comes the trickier part of this equation. Jorge Posada, the long-time catcher who took over the job almost ten years from the Yankee manager, Joe Girardi and has been a proud, productive leader in the clubhouse and on the field.

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