Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Party's Over...

In case any of you missed it, the Yankees were embarrassed by the Detroit Tigers in four games and ousted from the playoffs last night. Since then, I have received countelss e-mails and messages from friends and co-workers, all bandying about what the Yankees will do between now and next year. As such, I figured I offer up my two cents...

I am all for a total rebuild around the obvious nucleus. I wanted this team to rebuild 3, 4 years ago. If they'd done that - instead of putting new coats of nasty paint on the same old problems - the team would be just about ready to contend right about now.

Why rebuild? Obviously, the methodology of tired, old free agents on the downside of their prime is NOT working - especially in the pitching area. If the team can unload some of the older talent to hungry teams that would be willing to part with some high-level AAA or young talent, do it. Let them cultivate and mature here. They either end up playing for the Yankees or go in trades for needed talent (something under 40 from now in, please).

Rebuilding makes sense. Do it now, and you will have a team ready to contend just as Yankee Stadium III is ready to open. The downside is you MIGHT miss the playoffs for a couple of years (even that is not a given - look at the Tigers). OR - keep doing things the way they are done now - keep trying to win THIS YEAR - and make the playoffs, but win NOTHING again.

I'd rather not make the playoffs and work to another Dynasty than keep putting the same Rust-O-Leum on the rusting hull that we've been doing since 2002..

There are obvious things that need taking care of:

The Pitching Staff

Michael Kay said it best on the Game 4 post-game show: aging free-agents have not been working. Look at the teams that have been advancing: young, hard throwing guys that are not afraid of the strike zone. Cash a Co. need to look at what's out there and start dangling the dispensable parts.

Mussina needs to go. He's done nothing to alter that rep he has of being "just good enough to lose". When you want to know why he's never won 20 games in his career, look no further than Game 2. His inability to hold a 2-run lead was the turning point in the ALDS. It caused the offense to press and put tons of pressure on the other pitchers.

Randy Johnson needs to go, but with a no-trade clause, we're probably stuck with him. A best-case scenario would be RJ retiring, but that is not likely to happen. Wright was never meant to be anything other than a #5 starter - but at this stage of his career can only get worse. Should go.

The young pitchers did not embarrass themselves this year. Give Karstens, Beam, Rasner and others a chance to fight for a spot (or two) in Spring Training. They certainly can't do any worse than what we have now.

Everything Else

More than anything, this team needs a REAL first baseman. If Giambi sticks around, he needs to be the full-time DH as his fielding is atrocious. Phillips has not shown he's 100-plus-game starting material. A problem that needs to be seriously addressed in the off-season.

Melky Cabrera showed himself to be for real by staying consistent until regulated to the bench. Although there is risk to doing this, I'd like to see him be the starting left fielder next season. We have way too many OF/DHs on this team, so let's use some to get younger. Sheff plays hard but is a liability in many ways. I would say "thanks for the monster shots" and bid Sheff farewell. Matsui is a solid player, but his lack of an arm and propensity to be streaky - and getting older - means I would NOT turn down any deal that brings his name up. Abreu fit in well, he should be a keeper. Damon is a solid CF despite having an arm made out of fusilli. Lost the sparkle in his eye when the post-season started - can't let that happen again.

Jeter and Cano are here to stay. Cano needed more pressure-seasoning, but another year under his belt should help. Jete is Jete - never stopped playing hard throughout. That leaves A-rod.

Love him? Hate him? Indifferent? Regardless of what you think, he needs to go somewhere else. Some marriages, no matter how good the courtship or the honeymoon, just don't last. This needs to be written off as another Brad and Jen...Burt and Dolly...whatever. It just didn't work out.

As much as Alex says he wants to stay, does ANYONE want to be there on Opening Day 2007 when his name is read during starting lineups? It will be pretty ugly. I for one do not call out other fans for booing. Booing has been part of the game since Day One. All new players get booed until they win over the fans. Happened to Tino, even Reggie. A-rod just seems to make his own mess worse, and I do not ever see any time when it will get better. So it would probably benefit all parties to start divvying up the living room furniture and part the closest of friends.

Last but not least, I think it is now the appropriate time to bring an end to the Joe Torre era. Joe was definitely the right guy at the start of the Yankees’ turnaround – a calming force in a place that had been filled with chaos. However, all things must come to an end. Even the great Casey Stengel eventually was shown the door as the stagnation of his managing style crept into the players’ psyche.

I’d always been non-committal about whether or not Joe should stay, even after the disaster of 2004. That all changed during Game 3 of the ALDS. When Joe didn’t even flinch when that horrific ‘safe’ call was made at third base – no argument, no yelling, not even a swear word – I knew it was his time to go. When asked by a reporter if he planned to speak with the team following the embarrassment of Game 3, Joe replied, “My guys know what they have to do”. Maybe not, Joe – or they would have been doing it. There’s laid back…and then there’s comatose. Joe’s behavior in this ALDS bordered on mummified, and perhaps after 10 years, that’s not what this team needs anymore.

So there you have it – my analysis on what needs to be done before Pitchers and Catchers hit camp in February. Let the games begin!

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Today's The Day

Some good advice from the legendary Ray Stevens.