The following was originally posted by me at http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com
Today’s beauty comes via
Mike Lupica of the Daily News.
The other teams in baseball want to win. The ones with a realistic chance to win, and that means win it all, do the best they can to put themselves in the best position to do that. The Yankees are different. The Yankees have to win, and that never just means the American League East with them. The Yankees are operated in a way, even when they have the best record in baseball, that makes you think that if they don’t keep adding players and spending money, they are going to somehow turn into sports dummies like the Dolans.
Only fools think like that. Maybe it’s because I’m not actually a fan of any team owned by the Dolans (I like my Prokhorovs, Johnsons and who owns the Devils, anyway?), but I don’t think that if the Yankees make one bad move or one bad signing that all Hell is going to break loose. I mean, didn’t this team just win a World Series last year? Don’t they have the best record in baseball right now? They could have traded Jesus Montero for Matt Capps and I would have yelled and screamed and thrown things, but they still wouldn’t be the Baltimore Orioles, or even the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hell, last year, when the Yankees won everything, they traded for Eric Hinske (who’s got this weird karma thing going on and it’s no wonder Atlanta’s in first place), Jerry Hairston Jr. and Chad Gaudin. That’s hardly moving mountains.
So now they bring in Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns as this year’s difference-makers at the trade deadline, even though guys like that are nothing more than sidebars to Roy Oswalt, at least at this point.
Oswalt is kinda sorta overrated. At least when you consider his salary, and that he’d have to move from the NL to the AL.
While Cliff Lee would have been
overkill nice, the fact is that the Yankees’ weakness is not in their starting rotation, and thus it might actually be the last thing that they needed to improve. CC Sabathia is an ace (even if he’s the only starter that lost in Cleveland, go figure), AJ Burnett is…well, AJ, a healthy Andy Pettitte (he threw off a mound today, so he is making quite excellent progress) is pitching like it’s 1996, Javy Vazquez has been the Yankees’ best starter since mid-May, and Phil Hughes is proving quite competent in his role. There are at least 28 other baseball teams that wish they had this rotation.
And what is interesting about these moves, a few weeks after the Yankees don’t pull off the trade for Cliff Lee, is that the Yankees continue to be general-managed, in an almost twitchy way, as if there’s something missing. As if the Rays, a team spending nearly $140 million less than Brian Cashman gets to spend on baseball players, scare them more than the bogey man.
What’s so twitchy about the philosophy that if the team has weak spots, and you can improve them, that you go and improve them?
Let me remind you that Brian Cashman parted with none of these: Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances, Manuel Banuelos, Adam Warren, Hector Noesi, Eduardo Nuñez, or Slade Heathcott.
Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood cost the Yankees cash (sort of), and Mark Melancon.
That’s like getting a PS3 for your Atari. And don’t play the vintage card, you know I’m right.
So they go hard after Lee even before Andy Pettitte went down with a groin injury. They think they have Lee locked down good before they get too cute and the story on Lee gets out prematurely. Now Berkman, who somehow has gone from hitting over 40 home runs in the big leagues to 13 this season, is supposed to make up for the fact that Nick Johnson, the great pitch-taker, never really showed up this season.
Kearns? He is supposed to make up for the fact that Curtis Granderson can’t hit lefthanded pitching here any better than he did in Detroit.
Why not go after Lee if he’s available? He’s the best friggin’ pitcher in the AL, and the Yankees had the prospects to get it done, minus David Adams’ ankle. Yes, it’s overkill, but it’s hella fun overkill.
They didn’t trade for Berkman to hit home runs, and if you think that that is what matters, you need to go back to 1998. They traded Berkman to do what Nick Johnson does, which is get on base, and while Berkman had an o-fer yesterday, can you blame him? Dude probably hasn’t slept in 24 or 48 hours. Even Yankee fans will give him a day or two before starting to scream BUST BUST. And he won’t be a bust. We hope.
What’s so bad about trying to get someone that can hit lefties better than Granderson and isn’t the apocalypse in the field like Thames? I don’t get it.
And maybe both of them are supposed to supply enough home-run stick down the stretch to make up for the fact that Alex Rodriguez, who was on his way to hitting 54 home runs in a season exactly three years ago, now has 16 home runs as we begin the month of August.
The Yankees have more runs than anyone else in baseball.
You get runs in a variety of ways. Such as walking, stealing a base, and then scoring on a single. Or hitting a double, going to third on a ground out and scoring on a sacrifice fly. No, it’s not shiny like a home run is shiny, but they all count the same in the score.
Home runs are way overrated, and have been since, well, at least since I’ve been following baseball. It’s like what’s the difference between Luis Vitton luggage and the carry on I bought from ebagz? One is shiny, but the other works just fine.
The Yankees have to win.
They have to win and that doesn’t just mean No. 27. Hal Steinbrenner let Cashman spend more than $400 million on CC Sabathia, A.J. (Whoops, I slipped) Burnett and Mark Teixeira last year, and he didn’t let Cashman lay out that kind of cash to win just one World Series.
And Cashman is the one who thought the Yankees could win with Granderson and Johnson instead of Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. So now Berkman, whose home run totals really have dropped like an anchor over the side of a boat, is the DH that Matsui could have been for one more year at the Stadium, and Kearns becomes another outfielder.
The Yankees can still win the World Series without Johnny Damon (.281/.373/.432, 7 HR, 32 RBI) and Hideki Matsui (.251/.331/.418, 14 HR, 55 RBI).
Need I remind you that Brett Gardner (.296/.396/.398, 5 HR, 36 RBI) is having a better year than either of the dearly departeds? I guess, given that you think that the Yankees traded for Berkman to hit home runs, that since Gardner doesn’t have as many home runs as Damon or Matsui, that the Yankees are strongly lacking.
At any rate, here I would argue that Cashman did a quite excellent job. He let Damon and Matsui go at exactly the right time instead of signing them for sentimental reasons. Nick Johnson is Nick Johnson, but when he was in the line up, he still managed to get on base at an over .400 clip. No, Granderson is not great against lefties, but he plays a fine defensive center field and more than once has come up with the big extra-inning or late-inning hit.
Berkman is 13 homers, 49 RBI, a .245 batting average. Matsui? He is 14 and 55 and .251 with the Angels, and you can only imagine what his numbers would look like with the kind of boppers the Yankees would have put around him again. Damon is .281 for the Tigers, seven homers, 32 RBI, not up to his Yankee standards. But you think those numbers aren’t better hitting behind Jeter and ahead of Teixeira, and the right-field wall beckoning at the Stadium?
Using home runs, RBI and batting average without the benefit of on base percentage alone makes you lose your statistical argument. Not to mention that Berkman has improved every month, which is what you hope to see when coming off of knee surgery.
Given the year that Derek Jeter is having, I’m not entirely sure Damon’s numbers would be any better, not to mention that I want no part of Matsui’s knees. None. Zero. Zip. Hideki, I love you and you were a most excellent Yankee, but I still don’t love your knees.
Again, what is it with the home runs?!
Seriously, if you’re a Yankee fan, you want to go to war with Matsui and Damon, or with this year’s trade-deadline saviors?
Given that the Yankees have the BEST. RECORD. IN. BASEBALL, I think I’ll stick with this year’s team.
This isn’t just about Yankee money, even though you’d think the Yankees, at $210 million (what happened to the “budget”?), would be more fully-formed at this point in the season. This is about the weird insecurity around a team that is loaded with All-Stars and legends and came into Saturday with a record of 65-37 and seems to be well on its way to another 100-win season.
What insecurity? They’re a good team trying to get better. Even the 114 win Yankees had weaknesses (can you imagine what we’d be saying about their left field situation today? Or about Hideki Irabu?). There’s nothing wrong with that.
In fact, the worst thing the Yankees could do would be complacent–it’s one thing if no deals materialize, entirely another if you never bother to look.
But the Rays are only two games behind despite Saturday’s loss to the Yanks. The Rays are young and exciting, you saw that after Friday night’s win. The Rays don’t add former All-Stars at the trade deadline and don’t add more payroll to the $76 million payroll they’ve got – with the Yankees, $76 million means first base, third base, shortstop – and seem willing to take their chances down the stretch with what they’ve got.
They’re willing because they have to be. The Yankees have the benefit of being the Yankees and a very generous budget, but you can’t tell me that if the Rays had a shot at Cliff Lee, that they wouldn’t have taken it. They’re young and exciting, yes, and they’ve built their team wisely, but they are far from perfect, and have had the rough stretches to prove it.
The Yankees, on the other hand, have yet to be swept in a three game series this year.
Will the Yankees beat them out of first place in the East in the end? That’s the way to bet. And that’s not the real question here.
The question goes something like this:
Why do the Yankees seem to be so worried that they can’t?
Actually, Mike, no.
The real question is, since both the Yankees and the Rays will probably make the playoffs, unless one team drastically starts sucking, who cares if the Yankees win the East or not?
All you have to do is get in.
(But the Yankees are winning the East, anyway).
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