We here at DRaysBay are always on top of our division rivals' shortcomings. Which is why it is especially gratifying to make fun of the New York Yankees, who are stewing in the midst of their playoff debacle at the hands of the Detroit Tigers. This one had the feel of 'there will be hell to pay' that wasn't completely evident with each of the last six playoff losses. The previous five, the Yankees' solution to a loss would be to 'spend, spend, spend' on free agents or make s trade for a star player, and while that still may occur this offseason, you had the gut feeling that someone on the present roster had to go.
<ime, and you know it won't be the last. This was, after all, the city whose tabloids screamed "Piniella to Mets" four years ago on their front pages when the Rays courted his services.<p> Still, they do seem pretty damn sure of themselves, and although one can never officially declare the Joe Torre era over, it appears that indeed it is.
My take on it is this. While I like Joe Torre, he seems to be a great man, and a great manager, like any coach, he can only be the perfect fit for the right team. And those veteran 90s Yankee teams led by Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, and the young, humble Derek Jeter were his type of squads which he could propel to success. Unselfish teams that did not really need the manager to be the focal point of the team. Teams that could guide themselves, and where the manager supplemented the roster, not dominated it. Those teams could win and do well with a facilitator-type leadinng them, a guy who pretty much let them do their own thing instead of a control freak like Buck Showalter. Those teams were the type of squads that Joe Torre could get tremendous success from.
However after the 2002 World Series, the Yankees stopped being Joe Torre's team. O'Neill and Scott Brosius retired, Tino Martinez went elsewhere, and the team re-made their roster, supposidly for the better. While the Yankees would buy out the league before this point, the signing of Jason Giambi really turned the tide on their run. No longer were the Yankees sacrficing a little bit of production to get better chemistry. They wanted production as a first, second, and third priority. They signed Giambi to a nine figure deal, and it just kept coming, every offseason, you could bet on some move like this. The next year it was Hideki Matsui, after that it was Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez, last season they splurged on Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, and Jaret Wright, and this year they brought on Johnny Damon.
No longer was this a cohesive unit of productive players that, put together, could win championships under Torre, this was a team full of pompous, old superstart players, who alone were very productive, but together, just did not make a sound team. Joe Torre did his best, but he was not the right man for this breed of team. You cannot be a facilitator when you have two roid-pushers, an insecure dramatist, and old, unproductive, overpaid pitchers all in the same clubhouse. You have to have a micro-managing control freak managing the team, you can't have a laid-back guy letting each ego go its own separate way.
Joe Torre was simply not the right man for the post-2001 Yankees. Is it his fault that they have reached one World Series in the last five seasons? Of course not. There is plenty of blame to go around. Better teams in baseball started developing sound, fundamentally sharp ballclubs that caught up to New York's star power, Brian Cashman just continued piling on salaries and blockbuster free agents, all the while failing to secure good pitching, and the players themselves screwed off when they needed to win most.
Want to know why people hate you A-Rod? Maybe because you went 1 for 14 in the four games. You can answer with all the fake, simplistic 'I sucked' and 'we got out ass kicked' comments that you like, but no one wants to hear your sorry excuses. You are an insecure brat, and next time you want to speculate on why people hate to you, turn to your performance in this series instead of non-sensical reasons like 'because I'm handsome' or 'because I'm hispanic'.
Want to know why the "vaunted Yankee offense was shut down"? Maybe it wasn't because they all choked, maybe it was because the major league leading Detroit Tiger pitching staff, with the lowest MLB ERA and most shutouts in the majors, was actually a match for the Yankee offense.
And do you want to know why the Yankees really lost? Because their pitching staff is middle of the pack, and nowhere near champiosnhip calibur. The team has not bothered in the last several years to put together a competent pitching staff, and it came back to hurt them dearly. The pitching staff has relied on the performance of old, highly paid has-beens who they think can carry them, and had it not been for Chien-Ming Wang and Mariano Rivera, the entire team would have imploded long ago.
This was just an extremely poorly-constructed squad, and for that, Brian Cashman is to blame. I'm not saying Torre shouldn't go, he probably should, but that circumstance is not his fault. Over the last four years, Torre has had the rug pulled out from under him by Cashman with this four year roster overhaul, and it is the reason he will leave this way. This is not the team he was hired to manage and had so much success with, this is an awful creation of a misguided GM. The Yankees can get to the playoffs, but the way this team is now, they will never win. And that is on Cashman.
The Yankees need to change directions. While their patience in the farm system over the last couple years has been good, and will eventually play to their advantage, they needd to pay more focus to it, and build more from within. The things that made the late 90s Yankee teams successful included strong pitching, and a team built primarily from within, with a few well-placed free agent signings to complement the roster. The team needs to return that model. The additions of Tyler Clippard and Phil Hughes in the coming years should help, but the team needs more of that, and with their savvy, no expense-barred draft strategy this year, the organization should have even more success in that regard.
However the recent decision to discontinue draft pick compensation in the next CBA makes it even more essential that New York get it right, as they will not be able to hoard up on picks and bank on a few of them succeeding, they need to get savvy.
And for christ's sake, move away from your free-spending offseason ways. A well-placed signing every year does not guarantee success, it only inflates your payroll and creates ungodly expectations that cannot be reached. Spending more does not necessarily equal a better product. The team needs to focus on pitching and building from within. Jettison the older players with huge money as cornerstones of your team. They will be paying for Cashman's free agent mistakes for years, but try to feature guys like Eric Duncan and give them chances to work their way into the offense, instead of going out and spening $12 million on an infielder.
With the Yankees on the verge of moving into a new stadium, a new direction needs to be taken within that organization. Throwing more money at the problem will not work. You must start to build now, for later. If it means one or two years without a playoff team, then so be it. If it means building a championship team later instead of just perpetually being one-and-done in the playoffs, then it will be worth it.
And while I would honestly love to snicker at the apparent hiring of Piniella, I think he may actually be a decent fit for this team, at least for the few years that the team's veterans are still intact. He is that micro-managing red ass that team needs, and his previous relationship with A-Rod may help him. I don't think he is a bad manager, I would not ever let him close to a young team, but like Torre, he can be successful with the right squad.
If he indeed does get the job, I think he will do quite well, and I wish him the best personally. But for now, I prefer to wallow in New York's failure.