Friday, December 23, 2011

The Boring Yankees

Being the son of this Fan wasn't easy. Face it, every father has a ready-made list of platitudes that are drawn upon for every situation. Since being trite was always an irrational fear for this writer, those fatherly platitudes were a bit different. For example, every kid will start a sentence with some form of, "I just..." like I just wanted to see what would happen or I just wanted to see what it tasted like. Whenever this father heard the "just" word, the platitude was, "'Just' is short for justification and you are simply trying to justify your actions." Boy, he hated that one. The other equally-hated platitude came whenever he said, "I can't." Such as, "I can't make my bed, I don't have time." Or, "I can't split wood." The platitude on those occasions was, "Don't tell me you can't, just say you won't because that is what you really mean." Yeah, poor kid. How does this relate to the Yankees? The overriding story line this off season has been they can't spend money. Don't tell this Fan you can't, just say you won't.

The Yankees have gotten boring. They didn't sign C.J. Wilson. They weren't the high bidder on Yu Darvish. They didn't sign Mark Buehrle. They didn't sign...well...anybody. Brien of It's About the Money Stupid has been all over this story so this Fan isn't really breaking new ground here. Check out his posts on the subject here, here and here. Whatever the conclusions as to why the Yankees are not serious bidders, the bottom line is that after years of splash, they are the sea of tranquility.

Somewhere, George Steinbrenner has to be screaming. His team has become a non-story. Well, sure, they are one of only two teams to still face a luxury tax (the Red Sox being the other). Sure, they have All Stars all over their roster and seem poised to make another run at 90 wins at least. But remember a few years ago when they signed C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett within weeks of each other? Now that was splashy. Of course, Burnett has turned splashy into trashy, but that's another story. With a second consecutive year of rotation uncertainty, the Yankees won't make a splash. They re-signed Freddie Garcia. They hope Phil Hughes will somehow reach his potential. They are good with that it seems. It's boring.

And who's to say they are wrong? They have minor league options if the aforementioned pitchers don't work out. They can still bludgeon you to death with their line up. Jesus Montero at DH looks mighty tasty. This Fan isn't questioning their sanity, just their showmanship. Frankly, its fans are stunned and disappointed. This isn't what Yankee fans are used to. They aren't used to a team sitting and spinning while the Rangers, Angels and good golly, the Nationals make headlines. We'll have to see if this strategy works in 2012. It almost worked in 2011. Well, it did work during the regular season.

Whether it's the provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement or that the young sons of George are more interested in the bottom line than the old man or whatever, the Yankees' fat wallet has been closed for business this off season. In the long run, that might be the smartest option, who's to tell. But it sure is boring.


Thomas Slocum said...

At least a couple of times a day I check out just to see the latest baseball news headlines (and to see if the Yanks figure among them). Plenty of headlines, some of them blockbusters, but nary a word about Yankee acquisitions. However, other than C.J. Wilson signing with the Angels for MUCH less than he informed the world he would accept, I haven't been disappointed by that fact. Actually, I far more fear that Jesus Montero plus other lesser, though still highly touted, prospects will be bundled off somewhere for a one-year rental or for a player (pitcher) who can't stand the NY heat than I fear that Yankee complacency sounds the death knell for 2012. Sure, they could fall on their collectively bloated wallets next year; all it would take is regression from Nova, a typical Burnett year, no development from Hughes, and Garcia living down to last years' expectations. Then no combination of Sabathia, youngsters, or any given free agent pitcher would be enough to overcome. On the other hand, if Nova at least holds his own, Hughes returns to 2010 form, and Noesi and/or Phelps ease the burden on Garcia, that should be more than adequate to overcome 30+ starts from Burnett (for there is no valid or justifiable reason to expect A.J. to be anything other than what he has become - a 35 year old pitcher some 7-10 years past his peak whose glory days really were more promising than glorious. A.J. has avoided the injury bug, taken the mound for his regular turn without fail, and performed a valuable role as the clubhouse clown (or at least the shaving cream pie king). And if the Yanks expected even that much when they inked him to a 5 year deal, someone had spiked the punch with a hallucinogen. For A.J. has gone from being a high injury risk pitcher (missing probably 59 starts from 2003-2007) with little command but a fairly stingy H/9 rate to a dependable innings eater who pitches to contact more as his poor command has only devolved. In his three years as a Yankee (do we really have a whole two to go?!?), it's surprising to note that he has actually had 4 league leading totals in that time. The surprise diminishes when you learn what those categories are - walks, hit by pitch, and wild pitches twice. You really have to feel a little sorry for the guy - he's the personification of all the poor pitching choices made by the Yanks over the past 20 years. He's Pavano, and Wright, and Vazquez, and Andy Hawkins, Tim Leary, Melido Perez, etc. but with one important difference - he's out there in the middle of the diamond every 5th day knowing that no one in the stadium, on the field, or in the dugout expects anything other than an eventual, unless early, implosion. All hope and pray for something different each time but have come to realize that A.J.'s best, something achieved (or occasionally exceeded) a bit less than a third of the time over the past two years, is a line like 7 innings, 7 hits, 4 earned runs, 3-4 walks, and 6 K's (with maybe a wild pitch and/or HBP thrown in). And he's only likely to get worse in 2012 and 2013. The point of all this rambling? A.J. symbolizes my fear as to what can happen when the Yanks make an acquisition where they seem to count on an ability to beat the odds, almost as if their dollars not only more numerous but also greener than anyone else's. So keep your C.J. Wilsons, your Mark Buehrles, your Edwin Jacksons, and even your Trevor Cahills, Gio Gonzalez', and Mat Latos'. They cost too much, in either dollars, young talent, or both, and are oh so likely to disappoint. Recognizing a Jimmy Key, David Cone, David Wells, Roger Clemens, a C.C. Sabathia (or even a Cliff Lee) is something the Yanks have proven capable of doing. Trying to force that level of talent, maturity, and performance on others has worked only rarely.

Thomas Slocum said...

Nothing to do with this article or this team; rather is the splits I suggested I'd look into related to Toronto players Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Adam Lind, and Aaron Hill and their significant offensive declines in recent years (while playing home games in a hitter's park):

No absolutely firm conclusion can be drawn from reviewing the splits. Wells did indeed suffer the vast majority of his decline from 2006 to 2007 at home (BA down 28.5%, OPS down 32.6% with away declines, respectively, only at 8.3% and 6.6%).

Rios (2008 vs. 2009) turned those around, dipping 25.3% and 27.9% in opponents parks while suffering only a modest 3.7% BA decline and actually improving his OPS by 2.2% at his own park.

Lind's and Hill's 2010 vs. 2009 collapses were so pronounced that each spread the wealth (so to speak) a bit more evenly. With all percentages representing declines, Lind was down 20.4% and 17.9% at home but 25.8% and 29.8% on the road while Hill posted 19.9% and 14.4% home declines against road dips of 35.5% and 25.2%.

With the notable exception of Vernon Wells, all held things together somewhere between a little and quite well at home while (again, excepting Wells) all were far worse performers on the road (good year vs. following not so good year). But, as noted above, Lind and Hill stunk everywhere in 2010 vs. 2009 so cause and effect is unclear, and difficult to subscribe disproportionality to the home field.