Thursday, October 25, 2007

Damn Yankees

To briefly summarize the relevant information:

Joe Torre, manager of the Yankees, is offered a 1-year contract with a pay cut that has incentives based on reaching/winning the World Series. He declines.

About a week later, Yankee ownership says that whoever the new manager will be taking over a "team in transition," and will not be expected to win the World Series every year.

Sportswriters and the general fan population cry foul, saying that by the Yankees offering the type of contract they offered Torre, they illustrated their sentiments and expectations. Additionally, because their payroll outweighs everyone else's in baseball, any manager for the Yankees should be and will be expected to win big right away.

Alright, so now you're caught up. And I, of course, disagree with the sportswriters and general fan population mentioned above.

Expectations will always be high for the Yankees; I don't debate that point. But wasn't there a little bit of disdain for George Steinbrenner when he said if the Yankees didn't go to the World Series, Torre would lose his job? Wasn't that disdain from exactly the belief that it's stupid to expect to win the World Series every year? Maybe the new management team actually has some baseball sense. You can't be offended when one guy says something, and then be offended again when the new guy says he disagrees with the old guy.

Secondly, why can't Joe Torre be held to a different standard than some new manager? Joe Girardi, Don Mattingly, and Tony Pena have a combined 4+ years of managerial experience, with Pena as the only one with more than a year. Joe Torre has 26 years under his belt as a manager, and 11 first place finishes. Even if the roster stays essentially the same, the team will be "in transition" because they'll have a relative neophyte at the helm. If you keep expecting managers to win in their first year with the club, you're going to be going through a lot of first-year-managers.

Finally, the roster may in fact look quite different. The following players from the Yankees' 25-man roster have either expiring contracts or some kind of option (player or team): Bobby Abreu, Roger Clemens, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jose Molina, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Luis Vizcaino. It's a safe bet that at least 4 of those players won't be back, and potentially up to 8 (Abreu has a team option which I imagine they'll pick up). That means you could have new starting third baseman, catcher, right field, closer, and 2 new starting pitchers. And you'd be replacing Hall of Famers at at least 3 of those spots (A-Rod, Clemens, Rivera).

I'm not saying it's wrong to expect the Yankees to be a playoff team. Even if they lose all of those players, they'll sign new guys who can play ball, without question. But this is the first time in 34 years that Yankees higher-ups have demonstrated some ability to evaluate Major League Baseball with some logic, some temperament. We should not be castrating the new guys for not being as crazy as The Boss.

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