The Yankees are a Terrible Team…For Now — Berkon’s Beanballs
The New York Yankees have won 27 World Championships in their storied history–5 of which coming in the past 16 years. The Yanks have also made the playoffs 16 times in the last 17 seasons, only missing out in 2008. And despite trash talk from envious onlookers, the franchise has achieved these incredible feats with mostly homegrown players at the helm.
Yet, as dominant as the Yankees have been since 1995, this coming season looks pretty grim. In fact, it would be fair to say that the Yankees will be a bad team in 2013.
Three cornerstones of the bombers offense — Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Rodriguez — will each be missing at least two-to-three months with a range of serious injuries. Derek Jeter, the team captain, is highly doubtful for the start of the season, due to the lingering effects of off-season ankle surgery. And injury aside, at age 38, Jeter’s production will be an unknown. Additionally, even though Mariano Rivera has looked himself during Spring Training (0.00 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 7.00 K/BB over 5 IP), after missing the majority of last season with a torn right ACL, the durability of a 43-year-old is suspect.
The team also had a very quiet off-season, re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Ichiro Suzuki, while only adding Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Brennan Boesch, and Vernon Wells out of pure depth necessity. Would the late George Steinbrenner ever want to trot out Hafner, Overbay, Boesch, and Wells in even short-term starting roles? Unlikely.
But perhaps the most un-Yankees-esq move this off-season was allowing catcher Russell Martin to walk, and to instead tap Chris Stewart, who owns a career .217/.281/.302 line, as the starter. Granted, Bronx fans might have been spoiled by Jorge Posada as their backstop for 14 seasons but Stewart is easily the worst starting catcher in baseball.
What makes the Martin situation particularly mystifying is that General Manager Brian Cashman balked at player’s request for a two-year contract, yet eagerly assumed $13.9 million in the Vernon Wells trade. Cashman’s financial hesitancy with Martin has proved to be either hypocritical or moronic.
The icing on the cake was Martin’s apparent willingness to ink a one-year deal with the Yankees before agreeing to a reasonable two-year, $17 million contract with the Pirates. With stud prospect Gary Sanchez at least two years away from being major league ready, using Martin as a stopgap would have been a prudent decision for both the future and the present. Yet the Yankees stood pat.
While the Yankees offense is certainly of chief concern, the team’s rotation, at least compared to other playoff-seeking organizations, is pretty weak. Aside from C.C. Sabathia and to a lesser extent, Hiroki Kuroda, the depth dwindles pretty rapidly.
The 40-year-old Andy Pettitte un-retired in 2012 after sitting out the previous season, and hurled an impressive 2.87 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 3.29 K/BB. Unfortunately, Pettitte fractured his fibula on June 27, which forced him to miss 72 games. Even though the veteran took the hill again in September, he only accumulated 75.3 innings in total during 2012. To-date, Pettitte appears to be in full-health, but without having pitched a full season since 2009 (he only pitched 129 innings in 2010), it’s unlikely the Yanks can depend on him for one in 2013.
Phil Hughes bounced back from a horrid 2011 season by posting a 4.23 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 3.59 K/BB in 2012. However, his ballpark-adjusted ERA (otherwise known as ERA+) was just 99, which is rather pedestrian. For example, Jeremy Guthrie’s ERA+ was 94 last year. Hughes’ apparent luxury of pitching in Yankee Stadium (3.74 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.27 K/BB at home last season), combined with his inability to build on his promising 2010 first-half (3.65 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 3.14 K/BB), casts doubt on whether he’ll ever live up to his former upper rotation prospectus. The pitcher will also start the season on the disabled list with a bulging disc ailment.
Ivan Nova won the hearts of Yankees fans in 2011, when he emerged, more or less out of nowhere, and won 16 games. But the young pitcher fell off a bit in 2012. Despite posting a 3.70 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 2011, Nova regressed to a 5.02 ERA and 1.46 WHIP this past season. To the 26 year-old’s credit, he did sit down more batters in 2012 (8.1 K/9) than he did in 2011 (5.3 K/9), and perhaps, was a touch unlucky with balls in play (.333 BABIP in 2012 vs. .287 career BABIP). But if David Phelps pitches well in Hughes’ absence, there’s a good chance Nova—not Hughes—will get the boot from the rotation upon Hughes’ return from the DL.
As bleak as the New York Yankees major league squad might be in 2013, the organization’s farm system is bulging with talent. As mentioned, Gary Sanchez is the Yanks catcher of the future. Sanchez could help fans forget about Posada, as the 20 year-old swatted a combined .290/.344/.485 line with 18 HR between Single-A and Advanced-A last season. In addition, the team also has two potential outfield stars in Tyler Austin and Mason Williams too. Both Austin and Williams are 21 years old, and lit up the minors in 2012, posting a .322/.400/.559 line with 17 HR and 23 SB and .298/.346/.474 line with 11 HR and 20 SB, respectively. Along with their pop and speed, the pair of outfielders also play plus defense.
And while the Yankees might not have a future ace starter in the minors, the organization is stacked with potential relief aces including Corey Black and Nicky Goody. But right-hander Mark Montgomery could be a key to the post-Mariano Rivera era. Montgomery is the most polished reliever of the bunch, as he’s already logged time in Double-A, and continues to mature. The 22 year-old hurled a combined 1.54 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 4.50 K/BB, and 15 Saves in 2012, and boasts two plus pitches in his arsenal (slider and fastball). The righty even showed improved control once he was promoted to Double-A (from 3.6 BB/9 to 2.2 BB/9). Montgomery will likely be placed in Triple-A to start 2013, but the future closer could see some time in the show if he continues to torture minor league hitters.
For the next half-decade, the Yankees will fork over about $75 million per season to just Alex Rodriguez (owed $114 million through 2017), Mark Teixeira (owed $90 million through 2016), and C.C. Sabathia ($99 million through 2016)– and possibly more depending on where they net out with the Robinson Cano’s extension. But with a promising crop of farm hands, along with the usual free-agent sprinklings in-between, there’s little reason to think the Yanks will tolerate a losing team beyond 2013.
Ben Berkon’s writing has been featured on Huffington Post, The Onion, Yahoo! Sports, Rising Apple, and Baseball News Source. He was born and raised in New York.