By Steve Silverman
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This one really hurts.
It’s one thing for the Yankees not to earn a spot in the playoffs; it’s quite another to watch the hirsute Boston Red Sox take home the big prize.
A little over a year ago, the Red Sox were a stinking mess, thanks in large part to the underprepared managing of Bobby Valentine and a bloated payroll that included Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.
Not only were the Red Sox in last place, but it seemed that there was little that general manager Ben Cherington could do to change the course.
It was obvious that Bobby V was horrible and would be fired the day after the 2012 season ended, but who thought that a new manager could right the ship?
No, the Red Sox needed help, and they got it from the Los Angeles Dodgers when they took the bloated contracts of the trio mentioned above.
That gave the Red Sox a little breathing room, but it was still going to take some brilliance to get the team going in the right direction. Not to the top of the heap, mind you — just in the right direction.
But Cherington decided he was going to make a run at it by bringing new blood into the organization. The first was hiring John Farrell as manager away from the Blue Jays. Farrell didn’t want to be in Toronto and the team didn’t want him. It was an easy deal.
Farrell knew pitching and he knew Red Sox pitching. That alone made him a huge improvement over Valentine, but he also knew how to get along with and motivate players. That’s what made Farrell special.
Then Cherington started bringing in free agents. The biggest name was former Texas Ranger Mike Napoli, and that deal almost snagged because a medical exam showed that the big right-handed slugger had a degenerative condition with his hips.
Instead of signing a multi-year deal, Napoli agreed to a one-year contract. Then came Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Koji Uehara, Ryan Dempster and Stephen Drew.
These were not superstars, just players with a fairly high level of talent who could make the Red Sox better.
There’s no way that Cherington or Farrell could have been thinking about a World Series championship, but that’s just what they got.
Now the Yankees go into a critical offseason. With free agency days away, they have re-signed Derek Jeter to a one-year, $12 million contract, and that means there’s one headache that’s out of the way.
But the Yankees have the little matter of deciding what to do with Robinson Cano.
They must keep him.
They have to let him go to the marketplace because 10 years and $300 million is just a ludicrous idea. But they can’t let anyone else take the initiative. Brian Cashman has to be in Cano’s neighborhood every minute.
Then, once Cano gets signed, the Yankees can look at free agents. No, not the high-priced variety, but the working-parts variety like the Red Sox signed last year.
The Yankees need hard-working, healthy bodies; players who can get on base, field their positions and run the bases.
That’s what it will take to get this team back in contention, along with help on the pitching front.
Much will be up to Cashman and much will be up to Hal Steinbrenner to show that he is open to wise spending.
The Jeter signing is important because it means that there will be no controversy between the organization and its biggest name.
Much more is needed, and the Yankees could take a lesson from the Red Sox on the kind of players needed to get back to the playoffs … and beyond.
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