By Jason Keidel
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I was called all manner of moron after I recently wrote that the Yankees’ season was over, and it was time to place the postmortems in order. Since the starting staff was a walking triage, the offense was an easy pinata and there was simply a dearth of decent talent, we could bang Brian Cashman.
So the cloaked critics in cyberspace said that Cashman had done a great job, and it was a miracle that the Yanks were in contention for a Wild Card spot, a testament to their pinstriped temerity.
Well, maybe the pinstriped apologist sees things a little differently on Thursday. Especially after the Baltimore Orioles just swept the Bronx Bombers and pushed them farther from contention.
Sure, they’re still just 3 1/2 games behind the Tigers and Mariners for the final playoff spot in the American League, but the Yankees must also leapfrog the Blue Jays to keep it intimate with Detroit and Seattle.
And if you need more proof that the Yankees’ ship is tanking, a Steinbrenner spouted off on Wednesday. Well, to the extent that the way more laconic Hal does these days. Suffice it to say that Hal possesses just a fraction of his father’s vitriol, and doesn’t share King George’s fondness for media.
But he was pithy and poignant on Wednesday while addressing — or undressing — the Yankees’ lineup. And Hal was quite cryptic about Cashman’s future, saying he needed until October to assess the GM’s job.
It’s hard for this slice of cyberspace to see what Cashman has done to assure his job security. Indeed, look at the players he’s added to this team. Carlos Beltran hasn’t been his typically productive self. And, at his age, his brittle bones are just giving out. Brian McCann has been woeful, at least for his age and wage.
Even if the starting rotation returns to full health next season, CC Sabathia has lost most of his arsenal. Hiroki Kuroda is fast approaching 40, and it’s unlikely he’ll return. Michael Pineda is perpetually hurt. And who can say with certainty that Masahiro Tanaka will remain a beast after potentially undergoing Tommy John surgery?
With an infertile farm system, the Yankees don’t even have some young buck to bring up to the big leagues to get us drooling or daydreaming a little about the future. If the Yankees want their fan base engaged, they will have to grab a few logs from the hot-stove season and do a lot better than they did this past offseason.
The Yankees can’t hit or pitch particularly well. The GM’s job is almost up for grabs. Regional sports networks are sprouting up all over the land — giving teams a much better shot at keeping their Mike Trouts and Clayton Kershaws — while YES Network’s ratings are down. And this will be the fifth straight year they will see a drop in home attendance.
Hal is so quietly desperate that he even hinted at A-Rod’s return, saying he would welcome the disgraced third baseman back into camp. He has to say that, of course, with the Yanks owing the decaying slugger $61 million over the next three years.
But if A-Rod is the blueprint back into October form, the Yankees have a lot more to worry about than Hal’s occasional heartburn. The only emotional moments we can expect in September are the final farewells from Derek Jeter, which is hardly a moment to embrace.
Indeed, with his departure, No. 2 reminds us that the Yankees are no longer No. 1.
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