Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Painful Finish, An Uncertain Future

Some time has passed. The wounds are still fresh, but rehashing the injury won't remedy the situation. To be blunt, the better team won. It isn't often that phrase is uttered with the Yankees not being the team referred to. A lack of clutch hitting, subpar pitching, and questionable managing will doom a team, and this most recent ALCS demonstrated just that. Give the devil their due: Texas hit, pitched, and ran better than the Yankees, and while Ron Washington certainly had a quick hook for pitchers not named Cliff Lee, he looks a lot more astute than Joe Girardi and his black binder. The Yankees got beat. Nobody took it from them. Nobody cheated them. They only have themselves to blame, and as they were cleaning out their lockers, I hope they took enough time to tip their collective hats to the Rangers. I underestimated the erstwhile Senators, and I'm sure that I'm not alone in that statement.

What to do about making this a blip on the radar and not a disturbing trend will be the true test of Brian Cashman's mettle this offseason. Age and under-performance, when coupled together, aren't easy demons to exorcise. That is not to say that the situation is dire and we are looking at a return of the days of Horace Clark or Dallas Green, but some work needs to be done.

Obviously, age is a concern. Derek Jeter struggled for the better part of the year, and the other members of the Core Four all suffered injuries at some point. Mariano still appears to be the most effective closer in the game when healthy, but Jorge looks to be better suited to being a full-time (or at least 75%) DH, and Andy is always teetering on the brink of retirement, Brett Favre without the huge downturn in public image. I have no real concern that Jeter and Rivera will not be resigned. I just wonder if Father Time and large, lengthy contracts will prove bitter enemies.

Ineffectiveness plagued the Yankees in 2010, and for them to return to the promised land in 2011, that needs to be rectified. Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher are productive regular season players, but the postseason seems to be their bugaboo. Tex is locked in for 6 more years, so he isn't going anywhere, which is good, as his glove is almost as valuable as his bat, and to lose him would create two voids that wouldn't be easily filled. However, I wonder if the Yankees will try to move Swisher, as they may see him as expendable, especially for a starting pitcher. Perhaps Swisher, Romine, and Joba (another ineffective performer) would be a good starting point for Kansas City to consider trading Zack Greinke.

On the surface, it seems laughable, but consider these elements: Swisher would give Kansas City a much-needed power source for the middle of their lineup, Romine has fallen behind Montero on the Yankee catching depth chart, and Posada's presence muddies the waters and hinders both players' growth, while Joba is from nearby Nebraska, and after the constant juggling of his role, he may welcome a change of scenery, which would come with a chance to start and be closer to his family. Kansas City would get three fairly cheap players capable of producing for them immediately in a competitive division, while moving a player who will become increasingly expensive in Greinke. That also hedges the Yankees' bet if Cliff Lee's wife really hates New York after her treatment by the fans during the ALCS. However, I don't know if Greinke has the right makeup for New York. Lest we forget, he did leave the game for a year to deal with personal problems. Assuming he is up to that task, a rotation of CC, Greinke, Pettitte, Hughes, and the unmovable AJ Burnett or Ivan Nova would be quite acceptable.

Lance Berkman showed that from the left side, he can still rake, but I think that he will look for a starting first base job elsewhere, creating a vacancy at DH. Replace the Big Puma with the Big Donkey. Adam Dunn's swing, when he connects, is tailor-made for Yankees Stadium. Moving Swisher would also open the door to signing Carl Crawford, and the Yankees would then have the fastest outfield in baseball, almost without doubt. A Rays fan that I know has said that Crawford seems to take days off, but I wonder if his attitude would change in front of 45,000 a night as opposed to 18,000 at the Trop. If the lineup plays out as Crawford, Jeter, Tex, A-Rod, Dunn, Cano, Posada/Montero, Granderson, and Gardenr, that would be formidable to say the least.

Bullpen-wise, I would love to see Kerry Wood return, but the Yankees won't pick up his option, and he may look to close for another team. That would mean that David Robertson, in all likelihood, would assume the mantle of the eighth inning. Maybe the Yankees will see if Bobby Jenks is available, although physical conditioning and attitude may be issues with him, although that hasn't dissuaded them in the past.

In order for the Yankees to avoid a slide due to aging and ineffectiveness, they need to make quite a few difficult decisions for the 2011 campaign. I don't envy Brian Cashman right now.

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