Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Grinch Out East

One of the most amusing quotes I came across when recently reading Hammerin' Hank, George Almighty and the Say Hey Kid, John Rosengren's engrossing portrayal of the 1973 baseball season, was this one from then-newcomer George Steinbrenner: "I am dead set against free agency. It can ruin baseball."

I'm tickled by the irony of that statement, particularly in light of yesterday's announcement that the Yankees have inked Mark Teixeira to a staggering eight-year, $180 million contract. Between Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the Yanks have now committed 20 years and $423.5 million to three premium free agents, handing out massive contracts that few other teams could even consider offering. Ol' George is no longer in charge, but the free-spending philosophies that watermarked his tenure clearly persist. Through a sheer ability to outspend everybody else, the Yankees have made themselves favorites for the AL pennant, nearly ensuring that they'll return to the playoffs in 2009 after seeing their 13-year streak come to an end in '08. Is it any wonder so many people dislike the Yankees?

Perhaps I'm being melodramatic. Anything can happen, of course, but it's awfully hard to see a lineup anchored by Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez miss the playoffs when hitting for a rotation highlighted by Sabathia, Burnett and Joba Chamberlain. The Rays have a good young team that seems poised to return as a strong force next year, but the Yankees' purchase of all these top free agents certainly stacks the odds against any small-market team forced to rely on internal development to succeed.

Of course, it's been a much quieter offseason for the Twins, who've made no moves outside of re-signing Nick Punto. Fortunately, the Twins aren't burdened with the great misfortune of playing in the same division as the Yankees, so an offseason of little movement doesn't spell doom for our hometown club.

This will probably be my only post this week. I'd like to wish everybody a wonderful holiday, and I'm sure I'll have something for next week as we review the 2008 year that was and look ahead to another great year in 2009.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

4 comments:

sploorp said...

The Yankees did spend an obscene amount of money this year, but I wouldn't write them in as champs just yet.

While I do feel that the three players they signed are upgrades at their positions, I'm just not quite sure how big of an upgrade they are overall.

Their pitching staff was pretty decent last year. At the very least, Pettitte and Mussina put up fairly similar numbers to AJ and CC. AJ was also healthy all last year and I have my doubts he'll do that two years in a row. It seems to me the only real gain here is youth. AJ and CC should be able to do it longer than the players they are replacing.

Tex is a definite upgrade over Giambi, though I wouldn't exactly call Giambi a slouch.

Another thing, after spending all that money, they have done very little to upgrade a defense that ranked 25th in the majors. I do realize Tex is a two time gold glove winner, but I'm not sure how much of an upgrade that actually is. I mean, what exactly can he do defensively that Giambi can't (or any other 1st baseman for that matter)? I must admit, I've always been a little mystified by the distinction between the great defensive 1st baseman and the not so great. 1st base has always struck me as the position you put a big lefty bat that lacks the range and fielding skills to play any of the other infield spots.

Up the middle they still have Posada, Jeter, Cano and Cabrera. Posada is pretty much done for. Jeter? Even in his prime, I always thought Jeter was highly overrated defensively and at 35, his best years are also probably behind him as well. Cano and Cabrera are average.

The so called "trimming of 88.5 million" off the Yankee payroll means that there are still holes that need to be filled as well.

If they stick with what they have, they'll have to fill those holes with lesser players than what they had last year. As is, I don't think the Yankees are even as good as they were last year, much less, good enough to take the East.

In my mind, they almost have to dip into the free agent pool some more if they want any real hope of winning their division this year. Whether it's re-signing their own free agents or someone else's, anybody they would get would either be past their prime or close to it. In other words, it would be more big overpriced names. It would also mean they would probably surpass last year's payroll as well.

In my mind, Hanky Panky seems like he's spending a lot of money to put together a team destined to underachieve. And the way he likes to lock players up into long term contracts, his teams will likely underachieve for many years to come.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with sploorp. The Yankees seem to be set up to underachieve. Their starters should be very good, but it is hard to believe that Burnett and Sabathia are likely to be healthy for the duration of their contracts. Sabathia has logged a lot of innings already in his career and has never appeared to be in the greatest of condition, not a combination that leads to a long productive career. Burnett has already had health issues.

I don't know enough to judge their farm system but I doubt that it strong enough to replace multiple injuries or underperformance. So we will see. I wouldn't automatically seed them into the postseason at this point. In fact even without the Twins making any real off season moves, I would give them at least as good a chance as the Yankees to make the postseason.

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