In the old westerns, when the cowboys camped for the night in Indian country, the silence enveloping them was intimidating. One guy would say, “It’s quiet.” And the next guy would say, “It’s too quiet.” Then gunfire would erupt and all kinds of wild stuff would break out.
Well, that kind of seems like the New York Yankees’ off-season. We’re in the “it’s too quiet” faze, waiting for New York to make a splash free-agent signing or a big trade. The Yankees always have the money to spend that they need and this off-season they have needs. The Yankees always, always build a roster that is capable of winning the American League East Division, that is capable of winning in the playoffs, and going all the way.
Right now that’s not how the Yankees look on paper. Actually, right now on paper the Yankees look as if they have players penciled in on the roster to play key roles that seem closer to spending eternity with the Yankee Stadium monuments. Oh, so you’re supposed to be retired before you can do that. New York has a remarkable collection of players on the roster, as always, with an All-Star practically at every position. Except that many of those guys seem readier for the 2003 All-Star game than the 2013 All-Star game.
The 2012 playoffs were abysmal for Curtis Granderson (a regular-season home run and RBI star), Robinson Cano (who had an MVP-caliber regular season) and Mark Teixeira. They were counted on to do more and now they must return to peak form, forgetting the playoffs.
Meanwhile, we can’t be sure about shortstop Derek Jeter. He turned in a fantastic season in 2012. Even if he is going to turn 38 by the next go-around Jeter re-established his greatness, but then he went out and spoiled it all by getting injured in the playoffs. He fractured his left ankle against the Detroit Tigers, transforming this off-season from vacation to mandatory attendance at rehab camp. No one really knows how he is going to be when spring training starts.
Mariano Rivera has been proclaimed the greatest relief pitcher of all-time, but he missed all but the first month of the 2012 season with a knee injury and is trying to come back for one last hurrah in 2013 at age 43.
Alex Rodriguez went out in a blaze of missed swings during last season’s playoffs, and after probing what went wrong it was determined in December that he needs hip surgery. That operation has still not taken place and once it does Rodriguez will need months of recovery time before he can play again, perhaps in mid-summer right around the time he has his 37th birthday.
Fill-in hire Kevin Youkilis, who not so long ago was an All-Star, but whose game has frayed around the edges recently, is nearly 34, and both the player and the team need some fresh magic at their positions.
These guys’ ages indicate they are practicing for slow-pitch softball, not a 162-game season. Someone has got to tell Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman that while it makes sense to let some of these hallowed Yankees play out their careers with the club he’s actually got to find some new blood that will shine in pinstripes.
What a fabulous group of guys Jeter, Rodriguez, Pettitte and Rivera have been for New York, but none of them have been healthy for a year straight and they all collect millions and millions of dollars per season. What Cashman has not done is gather up a secondary caliber group of players who will hustle, fill gaps, play key roles off the bench and can be counted on if the big guns falter in their comebacks.