Last Sunday the Yankees season changed dynamically, or so many thought. Ryan Dempster became the newest villain in what many consider the greatest rivalry in sports, Yankees/Red Sox. Like TNT, Dempster knows drama because that is what he infused into Sunday Night baseball becoming as hated as Pedro was for throwing Don Zimmer or John Rocker for hating New Yorkers and the eclectic individuals on the 7. This Sunday with the Rays happily looking to sweep the Yankees under the turf at the Trop the Bombers came through with a win. Since the last game of 2011 the Rays are 11-8 against the Yankees. It might not seem like much, but when considering the fact that New York has a payroll that is three and a half times that of Tampa. No wonder Hal Steinbrenner called a meeting to express his disappointment regarding player development. Maybe one of his points of contention was who had the bright idea of taking Andrew Brackman coming off Tommy John surgery instead of Jordan Zimmerman. Or hey, better yet who followed that up by letting Gerrit Cole slip to UCLA in 2008?
Zimmerman and Cole are just two examples of how the scouting department has failed the Bombers of late. Though they did win on Sunday due to their player development. Soriano came up with a big steal to set up the winning run, Cano provided the offense, and Nova provided the team with the kind of start they need to consistently get in order to reach the postseason. It is also the kind of pitching they will need from 2014 and beyond. While Kuroda has been Cy Young-like this year he will probably not be around next year at thirty-nine years of age. Meanwhile Pettitte has started to turn his season around, but how much longer can they keep depending on someone who is the same age as some of the guys who play in the Old Timer’s Day game? Then there is Phil Hughes. My mom says he reminds him of Tim Robbins in “The Shawshank Redemption,” seemingly calm on the outside, but counting the minutes until he leaves the Yankees during each of his starts. One of these days it would not be surprising if the front office finds out that he dug his way out of the Stadium to one of the pitchers parks in the National League West. The real issue in this equation is CC, Saturday night’s starter against the Rays. He is having the worst season of his career, and the real problem for the Yankees is that it looks like the beginning of a steep decline. You think I am being dramatic? Two words for you: Barry Zito. Another lefty with a big contract who lost velocity off his fastball and became the caveat for long term deals.
So to recap the front office has doled out long term contracts to A-Rod, CC, and Mark Teixiera. Not to mention the big money they are paying Derek Jeter. -What do you know the Yankees are single handedly trying to solve the unemployment problems facing the country. Yeah, Jeter may just be the greatest Yankee of this generation, but does that mean they have to pay him to play shortstop until he is fifty? If that is the case then why not pay Yogi Berra to catch? No offense to Chris Stewart, but Yogi Berra can hit better than Stewart. The point is that the team is saddled with contracts for players whose best days are behind them, and chances are Robinson Cano will also join the aforementioned. Yes, Cano is supremely talented, but paying him beyond four or five years is not a sound business decision. Look at our friends out west in Anaheim who are wishing they would not have treated player contracts the way a fat child treats food at the Hometown Buffet just piling it on.
So thank you Ivan Nova for showing up this weekend and giving this and coming seasons some hope. The same Ivan Nova who came through the Yankees farm system. Please do not misunderstand and think I am foolish enough to think that the Yankees should not use free agency. Of course they should supplement the talent they have as much as possible through free agency and trades, but the player development side really is what will keep the Yankees from becoming the New York Jets of baseball: a blustering back page loving coach, Rex Ryan, sprinkled in with head shaking plays like the butt fumble. Actually, that is kind of what the Yankees were in the eighties. Remember the manager carousel? Steinbrenner loving the back page of the Post and the Daily News? Or what about Steinbrenner warring with Don Mattingly over his hair being too long? This led fans to start the “I’m a Yankees fan and I am mad as hell” bumper sticker movement before Steinbrenner was banned.
Gene Michael brought the franchise back with wise player scouting and development, but I have my doubts that current player development reps can follow suit. Especially now that their backs are against the wall just like this 2013 team which has to win at all costs just to have a fighting chance at the post season, and let us be honest they need to make a run now because 2014 does not look all that bright. The rotation will have CC, Nova, and maybe Phelps, even though he seems to excel in the long man/spot starter role. Of course, they will have Michael Pineda back. Please stop laughing. He is not Kei Igawa…or is he?
Well, off to Toronto, and thank God for the Blue Jays…and by God, I mean Zeus.