Keidel: Yankees Need More Nukes in Arms Race

By Jason Keidel
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My pal writes a popular baseball blog. Well, pal is relative, as he’s a Red Sox fan. As you know, if you really fly your team’s colors in all endeavors, you can’t love the Yankees and have a dear friend who resides in Red Sox Nation. So let’s say the friendship is more professional than personal, and it must stay that way.

He declares without a hint of regret that he rooted for Arizona in 2001, and I retort by huffing that I’d root for Fidel’s Cuba (with Castro managing) over his sacred Sox. But, while interviewing me for his Web site this week, the man asked a fair question and it deserved an honest answer.

Do the Yankees have enough pitching to win the World Series?


Sure, with enough fight and fate any result is possible. But the San Francisco Giants, who had the worst lineup of any World Series winner I’ve ever seen, didn’t suffer from a dearth of dominant pitching. They had more strong arms than an octopus. It’s universally accepted that defense in football and basketball and pitching in baseball win championships. Is there anything in or around the Yankees that argues for arm supremacy?

The Yankees have an authentic ace in CC Sabathia, and that’s where the clarity ends and parity begins. Picture the marquee pulsing from the limestone façade: “CC and the Four Variables”

Has a nice ring to it, until you remove the needle from the record and realize the quartet doesn’t play an instrument but is instrumental in this pennant race.

And what if, heaven forbid, Sabathia stinks for an October night? You expect the erratic Burnett, A.K.A. A.J. Burnout, to save the day? Hughes, blessed with a lovely right arm, has yet to prove his playoff merit, and hasn’t won a road playoff game.

“Look at Colon!” you shriek, “And Garcia!”

I’m looking. Trust me. And I nestled into the Bartolo bandwagon a few months ago. But we’re talking geriatrics by any athletic standard.  Sure, my timing is terrible, as each pitcher pitched beautifully this week, surrendering one earned run in a combined 13 innings. But that doesn’t alter the cold calculus of time, which works against both men.

Oddly, both men had their finest hours in 2005, when Garcia (who turns 35 in two months) pitched the Chicago White Sox to their first World Series title in an eon and Colon, 38, won the Cy Young award.

But this isn’t 2005, and it’s my job to remember that. Do we really expect Colon to waddle his way out to a frigid mound and throw a vivid eight innings? Trust me, I’m not hating (you’d know if I were) but Mike Francesa leads a host of hosts who accurately assert that the Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney of pitchers can pound out a great show or two but probably aren’t a safe bet to go on a six-month tour, which is precisely what is being asked of the back-end of the Yankees’ rotation. Simply, we’ve gotten more from both than we would reasonably expect

Each hurler could collapse under the heat of summer and drumbeat of age while they wage a playoff war. I’m not even knocking the bullpen, which has two gaping holes in the losses of Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano. (How are those Joba rules going for ya?) Brian Cashman declared that Hughes is back after one solid start. With all due respect, this is the same GM who brought the Bombers Kevin Brown, Kei Igawa, Jaret Wright, and Kyle Farnsworth, among many bombs. Cashman has made some lovely free agent acquisitions, but, Sabathia aside, almost none of them were pitchers.

Like most of you, I bristle at the Yankees forfeiting every fruit in their farm system for Ubaldo Jimenez, the talented but tainted 27-year-old pitcher who comes with more warning labels than a pack of cigarettes. If the Yankees can’t get a fair deal in the next nine days, I say make no deal, and sweat and suffer with CC’s chorus.

Only in the Bronx is the ALCS a failure. About two years ago, I interviewed Joe Torre for another publication and he retold the tale of that spring training game in 2002, when a fan handed Torre a pen to pen some memorabilia, and he said to the skipper, “You’ll get ‘em next year, Joe,” implying that losing Game 7 of the World Series reflected a rancid season. It didn’t keep Torre from managing another five years, or cashing those titanic, pinstriped checks, but it did italicize a common cadence among the pampered masses who call themselves Yankees fans.

But when you charge $2,500 for ringside seats for regular season games, you are open to the surgical splicing of your franchise. It is why, as they say, you get paid the big bucks, to bask in New York’s glow without burning in its glare. We’ve seen many a man thrive west of the Hudson only to find himself escorted out on the symbolic stretcher, unable to cope with the cacophonous cry for title No. 25, 26, or 27.

And this is why you hate the Yankees and their fans: we whine all the time, parsing between rich and wealthy, when all notions are abstract to nearly all others, in baseball and life. This fan can’t blame you. We are insufferable, spoiled, with that historical hubris at our backs. “Got Rings?” is our normal, infantile response to a reasonable question.

Do the Yankees have the pitching mandate for 28? I’m afraid not. But don’t quote me on that until August 1, the day after the deadline.

Feel free to email me:

What do you think? Can the Yankees win it all with the staff they have? What caliber pitcher will take them over the top?

  • Robert R

    You hit he mark. Pitching, pitching, pitching wins championships. I’m a life long die hard Yankee but i will say that #27 was a lot of the baseball gods smiling on the Yanks and that 3 man rotation. I agree that for all the hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the current 3 man rotation won’t get us out the first round.

  • bean thrower

    No bats at work= no playoff’s. They fell asleep last year as well.
    Go Phillies????

    • JK

      I dig what you’re saying, bean, but doesn’t that emphasize the need for pitching even more? You expect bats to sleep in October because you’re facing a great density of dominant pitching. The Yankees couldn’t match Texas pitch for pitch.

  • Jonas Altman-Kurosaki

    Also, Jason – as much as you and other educated fans may bristle at the thought of trading the creams of a not-widely praised prospect crop for Ubaldo Jimenez, how likely do you think it is that the Yanks pull it off?

    • JK

      I think it’s very unlikely, Jonas, primarily because of Jiminez, not the prospects, as paradoxical as it sounds. The Yanks would gleefully give up Montero or Romine or a “Killer B” if they thought Ubaldo was of sound mind. Clearly there’s a problem when you consider his age and wage and no one is frothing for him. He’s in his prime, vastly underpaid, and very talented. Doesn’t something stink about this? The Yanks have no issue with paying a guy, so what’s the deal?

  • Kurt Spitzner


    • JK

      What about pitching, Kurt? ;)

    • JK

      What do you think about pitching, bud? Heh.

      • Kurt Spitzner

        If you don’t have it you are going nowhere in the post season,IF you even make it that far.I wouldn’t give up the farm for that one guy,but I am sure there is someone to be had somewhere before or after the deadline as the Yankees usually get their man!

      • JK

        Well, other than King Felix, Kurt, I wouldn’t surrender the farm for any arm. And we don’t even know if Hernandez is on the trading block.

  • Jonas Altman-Kurosaki

    It doesn’t matter, the Yankees have Jeter and he always comes through in big spots, even if the pitching isn’t that great he can still get that hit to start a rally or hit a home run when you need him to.

    • JK

      Heh. Now why are you starting a fight already, Jonas? Let’s at least get some love here first. You’re too much, dude!

      • Jonas Altman-Kurosaki

        A great article as usual. As I mentioned on Twitter, the Yanks right now are like the ’06 Mets were but with the comfort of an ace. It’s undeniable that the Mets’ offense had everything in the world going right for it. But their starting rotation in the NLCS was John Maine (rookie), Tom Glavine (mostly good but never 100% reliable since joining the Mets in ’03), Steve Trachsel (consistent but not great) and Oliver Perez (great stuff at the time, erratic as ever, but still earned that “Big Game Ollie” nickname). The rotation was devoid of its “ace” Pedro Martinez as well as his geriatric replacement-ace rotation mate Orlando Hernandez. At least El Duque had been a consistent contributor after coming to NY, but look what happened down the stretch – his age caught up with him and he hasn’t been healthy since the day before he was set to start Game 1 of the NLDS.

    • Kurt Spitzner

      I hope you are being sarcastic!

  • JK

    Agreed, as usual, Paul. Last year I pined for Pettitte to pitch Game 2 in Texas instead of Hughes. I was called an idiot, of course, and then Hughes got blasted off the mound. I wasn’t an avid Andy devotee, but he is this generation’s Whitey Ford in the playoffs. As you say, he’s the only one who got it done.

  • Paul D

    Don’t have it. They need a guy like Petite that can be counted on in the big spot. For all the Andy detractors out there, he’s been a post season wonder more times than not. In last year’s joke of a championship series, he’s the only one that stepped up. And that includes Sabathia. They all fell apart and it was embarrassing. It’s funny how you really do appreciate what you had when it’s gone.

    • Jonas Altman-Kurosaki

      Well said, sir.

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