OPUS Mag

Far from timid • Caveat Lector

The Yankees FINALLY Embrace Reality...It's About Damn Time!

The Yankees FINALLY Embrace Reality...It's About Damn Time!

I’ve been a Yankee fan since the age of 8 (1995). I cried when Ken Griffey Jr hit the game winning double to knock the Yankees out of the 95 playoffs. I share that to lead into the fact that the position the Yankees are currently in is one I’ve never experienced as fan. In the 21 seasons since I became a fan of this team, the Yankees have missed the postseason three times. They’ve won five world championships and have legitimately contended for world championships for more than half of my fandom. It’s easy to take that for granted. As a fan of two other teams who are rarely contenders (Jets/Knicks), it’s easier for me to appreciate it because being contenders and being a great team can be ripped from you at any moment. The 2010 Jets and 2013 Knicks are great examples of exactly that. There hasn’t been a single playoff appearance for both of those franchises since.

The Yankees haven’t been legitimate World Series contenders since Derek Jeter was writhing in pain on the Yankee Stadium turf in the 2012 ALCS. Even if you didn’t realize it in that moment, the window kind of closed that day. Since that, they’ve been old, pretty average and deathly boring. There’s nothing worse than an average to slightly above average baseball team with no young pieces to watch grow up; that’s exactly what the Yankees have been, aging and mediocre.

Finally the Yankees embraced the fact that they were on a fast track to nowhere and decided to sell off most of their pieces with any kind of value. A rebuild has long been overdue. Brian Cashman, who I’ve been far too hard on because of the Jacoby Ellsbury disaster, turned two relievers (Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller) and a designated hitter (Carlos Beltran) into two top-50 prospects (OF Clint Frazier and SS Gleyber Torres), a top-75 prospect (P Justus Sheffield), and P Dillon Tate who was picked fourth in last year’s draft. It’s not the end and these prospects are lottery tickets but it’s a start and I didn’t even mention guys like 1B Greg Bird, SP Luis Severino and C Gary Sanchez. The overhaul is here.  Finally the Steinbrenners gave Cashman the green light to do what needed to be done. I’m equal parts shocked and happy as hell.

It sucks to lose guys like Miller on Beltran on a “fan” level. They were both seemingly cool dudes who were good at their jobs and provided sorely needed veteran presence in the clubhouse. Miller is arguably a top three reliever in the entire sport. Chapman disgusts me on a human level but it’s entertaining to watch him throw 103 MPH fastballs. I understand why people would miss them but the idea of being against trading guys who pitch one inning at a time for a mediocre team befuddles the hell out of me. Not being against what they were traded for but saying things like “Well, why did we trade them? Did we not see the blueprint the Royals created with the great back end of the bullpen? Having a great bullpen is the way to go!”

First of all, the Royals didn’t create shit. The Royals weren’t the first team in MLB history who thought “Hmm, let’s make the seventh-eighth-ninth innings hell by getting these fireballing behemoths that happen to be good at pitching.” I don’t know who was first in line to do that but it damn sure wasn’t them so can we stop making them out to be some type of pioneers? Thanks.

Second of all, having a great back end of the bullpen is wonderful when your team is good or has aspirations to be good. When the Royals were in the WS the last two years we couldn’t stop hearing about their bullpen. Now that they’re 12 whole ass games out of first place, tell me when was the last time you heard Wade Davis’ name without “Disabled List” being the crux of the point?

When your team is good, having a great back end of your bullpen is a beautiful luxury. When your team stinks, then your great back of the bullpen is just some dudes who pitch well who we don’t see because the team isn’t good enough to warrant it.

Lastly on the bullpen point, good relievers aren’t hard to find. The Yankees have had a great back end of the bullpen for 20 damn years. Yes, Miller and Chapman are two of the three or so best relievers in baseball but it’s very possible to build a good to great bullpen without them. They aren’t necessary and if there is one thing that’s been constant for the Yankees the last two years, it’s the ability to stock up on good bullpen arms. I have no doubt that the pen will be fine by 2018 when the Yankees should be trying to work their way back to relevance.

The fact that Cashman turned two guys who mostly pitch one inning at a time into basically a remade farm system is absolutely wonderful if you’re a Yankees fan. The Yankees will be bad this year and probably will be bad next year. That is ok. They’re trying to attain sustainable success and it’s about damn time. Being bad and mediocre for the most part isn’t fun, as we all want to see our teams win (thank you, Magic Johnson). But being bad and mediocre with no plan besides “let’s collect veterans to put fans in the seats while we try and be above average is the worst place to be in. The Yankees decided to go in the opposite direction of the Knicks. Assuming these young kids get the call, going to games should be more desirable as the team should generally be more interesting.

Nothing is guaranteed with a deep farm system. We’ve seen that a countless number of times but every single good to great player in the history of any sport was once a prospect (once again, shouts to Magic Johnson). If the Yankees want to be buyers again within the next two seasons they have the type of prospects necessary to throw their hat in the ring. Maybe with a deep farm system, if the Yankees end up keeping/developing these guys, the thirst to hand out ridiculous contracts like the one Jacoby Ellsbury got will subside. Having a mediocre to bad system tends to lead to handing out those bad contracts to “compete” and that’s been an unfriendly cycle for the Yankees. They’ve handed out a bunch of contracts that were pretty bad from “Go”. Hopefully these prospects turn into something and prevent the need for that.

Memo to all New York teams: a rebuild when it’s sorely needed is OK. Yes I know New Yorkers are impatient but they will rock with you if there is a plan in place. Not everybody wants their team to be average with no real room for growth.

If you care about the long-term health of the Yankees, this last week has been great for you. If you’re a fan of a rival team not named the Red Sox (they’re loaded, my God), you probably should be upset that the Steinbrenners pulled their heads out of their asses and let Cashman do his thing. The Yankees did the right thing and now we wait to see how a now loaded farm system pans out for them. They finally faced reality and it’s an exciting time as a Yankee fan as Cashman and company are actively trying to make the Yankees great again. Buckle up.

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