By Jason Keidel
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Time to toss those Darth Vader masks in the recycle bin.
The Yanks have devolved from stalkers to prey, from the monetary monoliths to members of the mediocrity.
General managers used to shiver by the hot stove, waiting for the Bronx buzzards to circle their prized young players. But instead of poaching other players, the Yankees can’t even keep their closer, David Robertson.
WFAN host Mike Francesa chanted the accepted mantra that the Yankees would drop a fortune to steal a stud from another team, but are suddenly frugal when protecting their own. He points to Robinson Cano as the latest example of corporate myopia.
And there’s some truth to that. The Yanks have always been overly obdurate when it comes to the incomes of current players, waiting until the last nanosecond before making it rain on their regal personnel. But that didn’t stop them from re-signing Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada or Mariano Rivera.
What about Andy Pettitte? History actually has that all wrong. It’s lost somewhere in the archives, but George Steinbrenner actually offered Pettitte more money than the Houston Astros did. Pettitte just didn’t like how long it took to receive said offer, so he bolted to the warmer climes and closer proximity to his family.
But when it came to the Core Four or other prized possessions, the Yanks were generally proactive and generous with salaries.
Not anymore. There’s no way Robertson would have been allowed to leave for Chicago under the stone fist of Steinbrenner. King George, that is. His offspring have stamped their corporate coda on the franchise, a newfound frugality that fans find appalling. If the team still charges two grand for ringside seats, you have every right to expect a commensurate club on the field,
Call it karma, progress or the nouveaux reality of local wealth around the league, with mushrooming cable deals sprouting up like weeds across the nation. But now all teams have Bronx bank. Even the wretchedly cheap Marlins found $300 million for Giancarlo Stanton. This is the same team that detonated two World Series champions under the guise of poverty.
With neurotic pitch counts and increasing concession to sabermetricians, there’s an unprecedented premium on relief pitching. Yet when faced with the chance to build their best bullpen since 1996, the Yankees folded.
Now they’re looking at a creaky starting staff led by a pitcher fresh off Tommy John surgery (Nova), two tantalizingly talented pitchers who can’t stay healthy for two months (Pineda and Tanaka), a former ace who hasn’t thrown a good fastball in two years (Sabathia) and a geriatric (Kuroda).
All of which made signing Robertson essential. Now they’ll make some mind-numbing offer to Max Scherzer or another ace when they could have had the final three innings a fait accompli for the next two years for $100 million less than their next offer to a free-agent starter.
And forget the Bronx Bombers living up to their eternal handle. They traded for a .240-hitting stick figure to replace Jeter, they have a first basemen who’s falling apart and they hope their third baseman — a geriatric juicer returning from a yearlong suspension — will provide the pop he hasn’t produced in years.
The 12-point buck they bagged behind home plate (Brian McCann), hit a whopping .232 last year, with a .286 on-base percentage. And they will have to hire a phalanx of physicians just to keep Carlos Beltran healthy for 100 games.
The Yankees, as we once cheered and cherished, are gone. If this club, as currently constructed, win 85 games, you should be elated. Not even Rod Serling could summon a scenario where a parade up Canyon of Heroes is plausible, or even possible. Sad for us to say, but the Mets have a much more glowing future, especially if Matt Harvey is healthy.
For two decades the Yankees have been the bedrock beacon in a town with nine teams, eight of which have been a crapshoot, at our optimistic best. The Giants have been the only team that has given you a reason to root beyond the regular season.
By dint of their epic will and wallet, the Yanks have been a reason to take pride in the city that never sleeps. Now the five boroughs are in a deep, haunting hibernation. The Bronx Bombers are now being bombed by a sport and a nation that is all too tired of their elitist fans and finances. Start spreading the (bad) news.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel.
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