Kallet: What Are The Yankees? A Fantasy Team Of Random, Aging Stars
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By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
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The dust has settled. The extravagant spending has ceased — we think (you never know for sure, of course). The massive overhaul of the Yankees’ roster is complete, and players are trickling into camp with the first full workout scheduled for Thursday.
So after an offseason full of sexy additions (looking at you, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka), significant losses (best of luck, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera), shock (you’ll eventually be missed, Derek Jeter) and drama (thank you for going away, Alex Rodriguez), we’re finally on the verge of finding out what these 2014 Bronx Bombers are all about.
Most likely, they’re winners. With the influx of star talent and the expected returns of Mark Teixeira, Jeter and Michael Pineda, this team should contend. If everyone stays healthy — New York can probably even afford to lose a couple of players to injury — this team is clearly capable of winning 90-plus games and contending for a 28th World Series title.
Opening Day is still a ways away, but it’s not hard to see that this team is flooded with talent.
As the saying goes, fans root more for the uniform than they do the players on the field. But isn’t there something to be said for having an affinity for the players on your team? Some kind of connection to the men you are cheering on? A sense of appreciation for having watched — over the years — a young, raw kid develop into an All-Star?
The Yankees are a fantasy team, a subpar All-Star team. They are a group of aging superstars who have been thrown together to win a championship. There’s no real rhyme or reason to the roster, no chemistry to speak of. How do these players complement one another? We don’t know, really. But in baseball, unlike other sports, you can get away with that and win.
Just look at the Yankees’ depth chart after the Steinbrenners spent a ridiculous $471 million in free agency this offseason. Of the starting position players, only Teixeira, Jeter and Brett Gardner have been on the Yankees for more than one season. I suppose designated hitter Alfonso Soriano is included in that category, though before being acquired by general manager Brian Cashman last season he hadn’t played in the Bronx since 2003.
Outside of CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and David Robertson, the pitching staff is full of hurlers who have only been in New York a very short time. Even the aforementioned trio hasn’t been with the organization long.
Think about it. Yankees fans disliked Beltran for years after he signed with the Mets, and he was a constant recipient of mocking from the moment he took strike three in Game 6 of the 2006 National League Championship Series up until the moment he signed his fat contract in December.
Ellsbury was despised for being one of the best players on the hated Red Sox. Heck, he was despised by Yankees Nation as recently as October.
Did Yankees fans ever even think twice about McCann during his playing days with the Braves? Did they know who Tanaka was just a few months ago? Of course not — nobody this side of the Atlantic Ocean did.
I want to make this very, very clear. Yankees fans have every right to cheer this team on, and they should enjoy cheering this team on. The Steinbrenners played by the rules and did nothing wrong by throwing all the money in the world at the top-tier free agents on the market. The organization did what it always does — do whatever is necessary to make the team better, even if that means surpassing the $189 million luxury-tax threshold.
You simply have to respect that. Any fan of any club in any sport wants their team’s owner to show commitment to winning.
But when it comes down to it, isn’t this just a bunch of random players wearing pinstripes as opposed to Yankees wearing Yankees uniforms?
Yankees diehards will celebrate if and when this team makes it to the playoffs. They’ll party if and when they win the pennant and they’ll have the time of their lives at the Canyon of Heroes parade if this team wins No. 28.
And they absolutely should.
Just don’t tell me that No. 28 with this cast of characters would be as rewarding for a fan as Nos. 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 were with the Core Four — even with this being Jeter’s swan song. It couldn’t possibly be.
Maybe in five years McCann, Tanaka, Ellsbury, Gardner and Robertson will be revered in Yankees lore, and they will help bring home a multitude of championships and begin a new dynasty.
As for the here and now, these Bombers are — for the most part — nothing more than mercenaries, hired guns. And they will fire and kill their opponents with their quick bats, speed and power.
But will it be all that special when they do?
Brad Kallet is an editor and columnist for CBSNewYork.com. He has written for TENNIS.com, MLB.com and SMASH Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet.
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