By Neil Keefe
» More Columns
On Monday it was in the 50s and on Friday it’s going to be almost 60. That Punxsutawney Phil is a badass. But Tuesday was cold once again and a prime example of life after the Super Bowl and before Opening Day.
Unless you’re crushing $1 beers at the Green Rock in Hoboken, the only other thing to do on a Tuesday night when neither the Rangers or Knicks are playing is to enjoy the syndicated episodes of The Office on TV and remember the good days when the show was dominant and try to forget where it’s at today and where it will be without Steve Carell as Michael Scott in just a few months.
The TV gods already took Coach Taylor and Friday Night Lights away from me last Wednesday night and without Michael Scott, The Office will never be the same … if the show even continues. And once Curb Your Enthusiasm calls it quits and Leon is out of my life, I think I might just retire from TV shows altogether.
I have been trying to imagine The Office without Michael Scott for some time now. And, it got me thinking, “Who would be the most devastating Yankee to lose during the 2011 season?” I know it’s not exactly something good to think about just two days into spring training in which the position players haven’t even reported yet, but it’s a serious question. And after the Murphy’s Law offseason and now the actual season that I’m calling “The Parlay” because of all the things that need to go right for the Yankees to win the World Series, I can’t help but think about the possibility of this season turning into a five-alarm gongshow and my summer nights being spent crying myself to sleep while the Red Sox run away and hide with the division.
So, I decided to create some power rankings to answer my question of “Who would be the most devastating Yankee to lose during the 2011 season?” 14 Yankees listed from least important to most important like a David Letterman Top 10. Why only 14? Because after the 14th player, I couldn’t justify putting anyone else on this list, and the other 11 roster spots don’t matter as much. Sure they matter, but not enough to crack this list, and if it’s devastating that Pedro Feliciano, a left-handed specialist, misses time, then this season is more screwed than I initially thought. So if you’re Ivan Nova or Andruw Jones or Sergio Mitre or even Joba Chamberlain, no need to take a look up and down the list like Rudy before the final game of the season because you’re not on it.
The day that Cliff Lee ruined the offseason, the holiday season and possibly the 2011 regular season (no, I’m not over it and probably won’t ever be), I turned to Michael Scott to help. And today, I once again turn to Michael Scott to describe what it would be like if any of these 14 players had to miss significant time or performed so badly in 2011 that it was like they were missing time. (The players are divided into groups based on their importance).
The “No, I’m not going to tell them about the downsizing. As a doctor, you wouldn’t tell a patient that they had cancer” Group
Number 20, Jorge Posada, Number 20
At his breakfast, Brian Cashman, made it sound like he was nervous about telling Posada that he would no longer be catching. He didn’t want Joe Girardi to do it for reasons unknown, though they are pretty much known since there is certainly conflict with the Girardi-Posada relationship, and you could hear the nervousness in Cashman’s voice when he talked about the day he had to break the news to Posada.
There was a time when Posada would have been near the top of this list, and it wasn’t too long ago. Prior to 2008, the last time the Yankees missed the playoffs was 1993, and 2008 happened to be the year in which Posada was lost for most of the season. His true value to the team was displayed that year, and with Jose Molina and Ivan Rodriguez struggling to put the ball in play let alone get hits, the 2008 Yankees were doomed as soon as it was made known Posada would miss the rest of the season.
After the Yankees lost to the Rangers, I divided up the blame on the Yankees for losing in the ALCS and said the following about Posada:
“Posada is like the aging family dog that just wanders around aimlessly and goes to the bathroom all over the place and just lies around and sleeps all day. You try to pretend like the end isn’t near and you try to remember the good times to get through the bad times, and once in a while the dog will do something to remind you of what it used to be, but it’s just momentary tease.”
I expect a lot of these “momentary tease” moments from Posada in 2011. There will be times when he gets on a hot streak and people start saying he should be the starting catcher and playing every day. Then there will be days where you wish the Yankees would just put his career to sleep. But if he’s good he can come back in 2012 on a one-year deal and if he’s awful, well, his contract ends at the end of the season. Either way, Cashman will probably tell him to “Eff off.”
The “ I tried to live the dream. I tried to have a job, a girlfriend, another job, and I failed. But the good thing about the American Dream is that you can just… go to sleep. And try it all again the next night” Group
Number 11, Brett Gardner, Number 11
Some guys need just one season to prove they belong and don’t have to worry about job security. Gardner has had to prove it his whole career and will have to again this year.
Number 55, Russell Martin, Number 55
This could be Jesus Montero too, but since we don’t know who the starting catcher will be, I’m going to go with Russell Martin since that’s what Brian Cashman told us at the breakfast and that’s what he’s sticking by. If it’s Jesus Montero, it’s Jesus Montero because he absolutely raked during spring training and made it a unanimous decision that he is ready to produce in the majors.
Either way you never want to lose your starting catcher. Luckily the Yankees are deep at this position.
The “I would love to live in New York some day. It’s a big dream of mine. Work corporate with Jan. It would be awesome. Go to Broadway shows, eat hotdogs. Scranton is great, but New York is like Scranton on Acid. No, on Speed. Noo, on Steroids” Group
Number 33, Nick Swisher, Number 33
I think the only person you can’t say negative things about on Twitter aside from Brian Cashman is Nick Swisher. After Swisher’s second straight superb postseason, I said I was done with him. Part of me was joking, but part of me was serious. I can forget the fact that he plays right field like he’s a combination of drunk and blind at times and the fact that the Bleacher Creatures love him and he loves them back. Because when it comes down to it, if the Yankees are good enough to get back to October, I don’t know if I can sit through another postseason of his. I’d rather sit through Funny People again.
Number 29, Rafael Soriano, Number 29
If Mariano Rivera ever decides to pitch like his age, then Rafael Soriano is going to play a big part on this team. Well, he is going to play a big part on this team anyway because with the starting rotation a craps game every three of five games, the bullpen is going to need to be on lockdown mode every night.
Like Sweeny told me, Soriano is “really only going to be the story on the days that he blows the lead in the eighth inning.” So, let’s hope he is never the story.
I still don’t know about Soriano. But I have to believe. There’s no time to do anything other than believe.
Number 14, Curtis Granderson, Number 14
I still wonder about what the Austin Jackson era in the Bronx would have been like after following his career in the minors and waiting for the call-up the way I wonder what Jason Street would have been like in college and the NFL if not for that unfortunate accident. Would the Panthers still have won State in 2006? Would they have won it easier? What would have become of Matt Saracen?
The “It takes a big man to admit his mistakes, and I am that big man” Group
That will likely be what Brian Cashman tells himself if A.J. Burnett is awful again and the Yankees miss the playoffs and he has to explain himself to the Steinbrenners for a new contract.
Number 34, A.J. Burnett, Number 34
The reason Burnett is not more important because no one knows what to expect out of him. It’s pretty remarkable that no one knows what we’re going to get out of a pitcher making $16.5 million per year. It’s more remarkable that no one is expecting anything but failure. Brian Cashman!
It’s never a dull moment when there are some microphones in front of Burnett’ face. Here are some gems from Tuesday with my commentary on each quote in parentheses.
“I don’t need to be fixed.” (Umm…)
“I realized how important I was for the first time in my whole career.” (According to Baseball Reference, Burnett has made $71,271,500 to date in his career. I wonder if the Marlins and Jays are happy to hear he didn’t know he was important, or if Brian Cashman is happy to know that the guy he gave $82.5 million to didn’t think he was important before signing on the dotted line.)
“I wasn’t really a factor and I’m here to be a factor.” (To say you weren’t a factor is put it mildly. To say you’re here to be a factor doesn’t mean anything unless you perform.)
The season hinges on Burnett. That is a line I have used a lot already and will use until the Yankees look like they are postseason bound or until the season falls apart like a Jenga game.
The “I am dead inside” Group
Number 42, Mariano Rivera, Number 42
What’s life like without Mariano Rivera? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Whatever it is, it can’t be good.
Number 2, Derek Jeter, Number 2
If I didn’t care about being fair or accurate I would have put Jeter at the top of the list (in this case the bottom since we are working our way to the top). But I just couldn’t do it as much as I wanted to.
When Jeter got hurt on Opening Day in 2003 in Toronto, I was devastated. And since that day I have been scared to ever feel that way again if No. 2 were forced out of the lineup for an extended period of time.
The “When I was in charge, this place was like Dave & Busters. People just hanging out, having fun, eating apps. I dunno, it’s like Dave died or something” Group
Number 13, Alex Rodriguez, Number 13
Remember when A-Rod admitted to steroid use then needed hip surgery and was going to miss the beginning of the year and no one thought it was that big of a deal because his career with the Yankees had been such a disappointment postseason-wise? Then Cody Ransom was forced to play every day and we all found out why Cody Ransom never had success in the majors before because at-bats are supposed to go longer than three pitches (all strikes) every time.
A-Rod needs to be A-Rod this year. The 30-home run, 100-RBI streak is nice, but how about some consistency in 2011?
Number 24, Robinson Cano, Number 24
The only reason Cano isn’t atop this group is because he plays second base and the No. 1 person plays first base. And we don’t need Jorge Posada or Nick Swisher trying to scoop balls at first base for an extended period of time.
Cano was the best hitter on the Yankees last year. There’s no reason he can’t be the same in 2010. And now that he has Scott Boras representing him, I’m sure he can taste his next contract. He’s going to want to continue to stack his resume.
Number 25, Mark Teixeira, Number 25
I’m sure Mark Teixeira was happy to read about a certain FOX baseball reporter with a monotonous voice’s stolen trade proposal that would send Tex to the Cardinals for Albert Pujols – a trade proposal that nearly shut down Twitter on Tuesday.
When Tex got hurt in the ALCS I wasn’t devastated. That’s a problem. You should ALWAYS be devastated when your No. 3 hitter will miss the rest of the ALCS and the postseason. But Tex was so bad, even worse than he was in the ’09 postseason, that I don’t want to say I was happy because you should never be happy about a player getting injured, but yeah, I guess I was happy.
Tex is such an important piece of the Yankees, both offensively and defensively (maybe even more so defensively) that missing him for an extended period of time would be miserable. Well, as long as he sees a few changeups that he doesn’t like this season.
The “What is wrong with these people? They have no willpower. I once went 28 years without having sex… and then again for seven years” Group
I thought that Michael Scott line fit perfectly here because I once went 10 years (1986-95) without seeing the Yankees win a World Series and then again for eight years (2001-08). I’m not prepared to start up another slump, and if either of these pitchers goes down, we will be at two years in a row without a title. Greedy? I know.
Number 65, Phil Hughes, Number 65
World Series Phil Hughes should be lucky to be in the elite category. If the Yankees had signed Cliff Lee or if Andy Pettitte hadn’t decided to finally watch Nicolas Cage’s The Family Man during the holidays, then Hughes would be in the second tier.
I feel like Hughes and CC are Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer running down the street after the bank heist in Heat. Everyone is just going down around them and they are the last two standing and expected to complete the mission
A year ago Hughes was the fifth starter. Today he is the No. 2 starter and essential to the 2011 Yankees. Let’s hope we see a lot of what we saw out of him at the beginning of 2010 and not a lot of what we saw out of him in his two starts against the Rangers in the playoffs.
Number 52, CC Sabathia, Number 52
If CC Sabathia doesn’t take the ball every fifth day for the Yankees (and sometimes maybe on short rest), well like Mike Francesa says, “You can pack up the bats and balls.” CC knows how crucial he is to the 2011 Yankees and he knows that there’s a pot of gold waiting for him at the end of the year if he can duplicate 2010 in 2011 and opt out and make the Steinbrenners take out a second mortgage on their house to make sure that he’s a Yankee next year.
I love how people are already saying that they wouldn’t overpay for CC or give him extra years at his age and his size. They would probably rather pay Mark Buehrle. At this point anyone that says things like that is just out of their mind. The same people are probably the people that didn’t want to see Cliff Lee a Yankee at seven years and the same people that wanted to nickel and dime Derek Jeter and let Mariano Rivera talk to the Red Sox. It’s not your money!
43 days until Opening Day. Almost there.
Follow Neil on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NeilKeefe