By Ernie Palladino
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Joe Girardi isn’t going anywhere.
That’s not the problem. Besides, anyone who thinks he should be fired should have his head examined.
Though one could make a stronger case that Hal Steinbrenner should jettison Brian Cashman after the GM failed to make a big move at trade deadline, he’s not going anywhere.
That’s not the problem.
Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, and Carlos Beltran aren’t going anywhere, either.
THAT’S THE PROBLEM!
Not that anyone should be calling for a full-scale overhaul of the team, but a failed September and a soft entrance into their good night of an offseason after Tuesday’s wildcard embarrassment brings one major issue right to the front: Unless something drastic happens between now and spring training, the 2016 Yanks are going to look way too much like the 2015 Yanks. And that can only mean another season teetering between the postseason and no season at all.
The old, creaky Yanks who played the final part of the season with their best hitter, Teixeira, on the DL, their second-best bat, Rodriguez, completely out of gas, and other high-priced veterans playing well below their salary grades won’t look appreciably different next season. Those big contracts will keep that squad reasonably intact and probably prevent Cashman from supplementing youngster like Greg Bird, Luis Severino, and Didi Gregorious with other, faster, more durable bodies.
That means Girardi will again have to rely on the older bodies to carry his team safely into the next postseason. Problem is, how often can a team go to that well?
Certainly not for a long period, especially after what the Yanks exhibited over the final month and an offensively non-competitive, 3-0 wildcard loss to Houston. Every one of those players who showed their frailties, physical and otherwise, will grow a year older. And as seen around baseball today, as well as age may serve a team on the bench, it hurts just as much in the starting lineup.
Start with A-Rod. After carrying the offense early in the season, he all but fell off the map with one homer in his last 17 games and three RBI in his last 10. The fact that the former PED outlaw banged 33 homers to become a leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year came as a shock to even his most ardent apologists.
To think he’ll repeat those stats next year takes a leap of faith, but the Yanks have little choice but to close their eyes and jump. He’s theirs until the end of 2017, all $42 million worth.
Teixeira? As much as he added to the lineup — 31 homers, 79 RBI in 111 games — his body grows more frail by the year. Before, it was his wrist. This time, a freak foul ball that caused a break that doctors couldn’t find for weeks. That alone makes him unmarketable, and that doesn’t count the no-trade clause or the $23 million he gets paid next year.
Sabathia, who struggled to a career-worst 6-10 mark, has become more liability than asset, and it has nothing at all to do with his battle with alcoholism. The balky right knee that forced him to change his style the first half of the season won’t improve. He’ll make $25 million next year, before the Yanks can buy him out of his final season for $5 million.
Beltran will be 39, Stephen Drew is a waste, and Ellsbury has started to look as fragile as Teixeira. They’ve got Ellsbury for the next six years at $21 million apiece.
The contract numbers are going to keep a lot of the old, fragile Yanks around and prohibit them from infusing new, revitalizing blood.
The result, if nothing changes, will mean another ho-hum season ending in another wild-card game.