10/25/2004: Here's an interesting analysis...
that can give us Yankee Haters some hope for the future: There's Always Next Year: The Coming Yankee Meltdown. Basically, we're seeing that not only can't Steinbrenner buy his way to a World Series Championship, that strategy is coming back to bite him in the ass, big time:
For years the Yankees had such a strong pipeline of top prospects coming through their system that not only were they able to plug players such as Jeter into the lineup as rookies, they were seldom outbid by other teams in trade packages -- often giving up ďcanít-miss prospectsĒ the likes of Ricky Ledee, Ruben Rivera, Ed Yarnall, and Homer Bush for veteran help. Rivera was the poster child for being a Yankee "top prospect" who was traded and turned to nothing, before he was the poster child for stealing Jeter's glove and trying to sell it.
But in the last two or three years, the teamís minor-league infrastructure appears to have whittled down to the nothing, to the point where the Yankees were unable to pull off a trade for Randy Johnson in July when no other serious bidders were even in the hunt -- a turn of events that wouldíve been unimaginable in any other year. And donít forget, the last Yankee farmhand to become a regular for the big club was Alfonso Soriano in 2001.
So, about next year ...
The Yankees will need to address their pitching, and also, as usual, appraise the best-available-players list to see if they can bring one or more of them in. But they canít make trades, because they have no prospects to trade, nor can they fill in holes with rookies because there arenít any of those on the way, either. We also wonít be seeing any more of the next-best-thing -- the Soriano-for-A-Rod/Weaver-for-Brown ďcheap veteran for expensive veteranĒ trades -- because they also donít have any cheap veterans left.
Therefore, with nearly every player under contract at prices that no other team wants to pay, the teamís only remaining option for making over the roster is free agency. George doesnít mind, Iím sure. And with Carlos Beltran available after a postseason performance of historic proportions with Houston, heís a safe bet for pinstripes. Whither Bernie Wiliams? Heíd DH, with Jason Giambi becoming a full-time first baseman. Yikes.
Then thereís the rotation. Theyíll probably make another play for Randy Johnson, but they still donít have prospects to satisfy Arizona, or any other team wanting to facilitate a three- or four-way deal. And letís not forget that Johnson is 40. A front-line of Johnson, Brown, and Mussina would clock in at a combined age of 113. Pedro Martinez? Itís a nightmare scenario for Red Sox fans, but donít forget that the entire team, the entire fan base, and even the mayor all hate his guts, making a move to the Bronx unlikely. Matt Morris? A possibility, but heís not quite a #1 starter anymore. Iím guessing theyíll throw way too much money at Eric Milton, to atone for having once traded him for Knoblauch.
So assuming Beltran signs for around $100 million, thatíll be five players on the team (A-Rod, Jeter, Giambi, Brown, and Beltran) in the nine-figure club. With Sheffield, Mussina, Williams and Rivera all in the $10-15 million a year range, and Posada, Matsui, and Vazquez not far behind, thatís a lot of big contracts on one team. What if they start feuding? What if one or more of them goes off a cliff, Roberto Alomar-style, and suddenly ceases to be a superstar? (Some would say Giambi already has.) And worst of all, how long until the inevitable Jeter/A-Rod feud finally rears its head?
In other words, what if this All-Star team in the Bronx turns out to be dramatically less than the sum of its parts? After all, thereís a precedent in recent sports history for a team losing despite having exponentially more talent than their opponents. It was in Athens last summer, and they called it ďTeam USA.Ē And thereís another right in the Yankeesí hometown -- the New York Rangers, who have done nothing in the past half-decade except sign over-the-hill big names -- and havenít sniffed the playoffs in years.
Len on 10.25.04 @ 08:36 AM CST