Via Ed Price:
Hard to imagine Thurman Munson or Paul O’Neill with pierced nipples.
The Yankees’ new-found religion on keeping their young players is well-documented. And along with that comes a different tenor in the clubhouse.
When Johnny Damon left a Boston Red Sox group he dubbed the “Idiots” to join the Yankees, he was taken aback by the staid, all-business attitude.
This year’s room, with its loud banter, iPhones, and barely drinking-age players, is more like it.
“I know baseball, you have to be serious about it,” Damon said yesterday. “But I feel like it should be fun, though, also. And I see it. With a bunch of these young guys here, it’s great.”
Yesterday, rookie right-hander Andrew Brackman — who, along with Joba Chamberlain, sports pierced nipples — showed up with a shaved head.
“I just felt like getting a haircut,” he claimed.
The Yankees have 21 players in camp (out of 69) who will be 24 or younger on Opening Day and the same number in their 30s. In 2001, when the Yankees were coming off their last World Series title, they had 27 thirty-somethings (out of 65) and 11 players younger than 25.
I have to confess, recently, watching some old games on Yankees Classics, from years like 1996 and 1998, I found myself looking at guys like Jeter, Bernie, Mo, Posada, Tino, etc., and thinking “Man, they were so young back then. Their faces were tighter, their bodies more wiry, and they just seemed more bright-eyed and hungry back in those days…”
Then, I thought about the more recent Yankees – Mussina, Giambi, Abreu, Matsui – and even Jeter, Posada, and Mo – and how far from they were from producing anything that resonated with the image of young and hungry.
So, this infusion of young talent is a breath of fresh air, at least to this Yankees fan. But, when you consider the contracts of Posada, A-Rod, and, down the road, Jeter, you have to concede that the only place for the Yankees to use younger players (outside of Cano and Melky who are already in place) is first base (assuming Posada does not end up there), the outfield (assuming they don’t extend Abreu), and the pitching staff.
With Wang, Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain – and all the other young arms trying to get into the pen, the pitchers are covered – in terms of getting some young blood.
To me, then, in order to keep the youth pipeline pumping, the Yankees must keep spots clear for guys like Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata, and Brett Gardner in the outfield and for guys like Juan Miranda, Jesus Montero, and Bradley Suttle at first base.
This means you let Giambi, Damon, Abreu and Matsui go when their contracts are up. And, you pass on potential free agents like Mark Teixeira. I feel good about the Yankees doing the former – but I’m not sure they would do the latter.
If prospects like Jackson, Tabata, and Miranda have big seasons in the minors this year, I could see the Yankees passing on chases for guys like Teixeira next off-season. But, if they regress, then I think, even with the Yankees intentions of trying to get young, you’re going to see some not-so-young-and-hungry mercenaries still be part of the Yankees mix.
It’s something to think about – and, much easier to digest than the thought of Thurman Munson or Paul O’Neill with pierced nipples.