• Cashman: “I Understand The Risk That Comes With Older Players”

    Posted by on March 21st, 2010 · Comments (18)

    Via Bob Klapisch yesterday –

    Just how risky is the Bombers’ reliance on their aging core players?

    GM Brian Cashman admits, “I do worry” about the possibility that Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera could get hurt – or suffer an insidious drop-off in production. The sport’s actuaries say Jeter & Co. should already be in a decline phase, although Cashman says the Yankees are too far along in the current business plan to change it now.

    “I realize Jeter is 35, but does that mean I’m out looking for a 23-year-old shortstop to replace him? Absolutely not,” Cashman said. “I understand the risk that comes with older players, but there’s a risk in every aspect of the game. This is one we can live with.”

    It’s a tightrope philosophy – the Yankees have no reliable alternatives for the quartet. And, remember, the absence of a Plan B is what ruined the Mets when their front-line players went down in 2009. The difference, of course, is that the Bombers have plenty of secondary firepower throughout the roster.

    That’s why Cashman is ready to run the table on the older fraternity. But make no mistake, the Yankees’ fingers are crossed. In 2009, Jeter was the oldest shortstop on a championship team since Pee Wee Reese played for the 1955 Dodgers. And only two starting pitchers have ever been older than Pettitte, 37, when they won a World Series clincher: Burleigh Grimes in 1931 and Eddie Plank in 1913, both at age 38.

    Or how about a simple drop-off in production. PECOTA, the somewhat imperfect baseball prognosticating apparatus, calls for the Yankees to go 90-71, and miss the playoffs for the second time in three years.

    That’s an incomprehensible outcome for a reigning champion with a $200 million payroll. But PECOTA sees Jeter losing 31 points off his batting average this year. Posada will fall from 85 RBIin 2009 to just 58 (with an 80-point drop in his slugging percentage), while Pettitte is predicted to win only 10 games.

    Granted, these are all guesses, albeit math-based. But when you lean on players who are pushing 40, only the most naïve executive would dismiss the possibility of age-related problems.

    Dr. Stuart Hershon, the former Yankees’ physician who serves are the team’s medical consultant, said, “A 35-year-old athlete has less stamina and reflex speed than a 25-year-old athlete. Nothing can change that. You become tired more easily, the body needs more time to recover. It’s why you don’t see many football or basketball players in their 40s.

    “Even concentration becomes more difficult, which is why golfers don’t win championships in their 50s.”

    “Nothing can change that”? You mean they don’t have a pill, lotion, or shot to help offset the effects of aging? Yes, I’m just busting chops here…

    As “Klap” also noted in his column, this all just may mean that it’s muy importante for CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to have typical seasons in 2010 – if the Yankees are going to make another run at a ring. Of those three, Teixeira concerns me the least. But, A-Rod has his hip and maybe the feds to deal with this season. And, CC is coming off two seasons in a row of, pardon the pun, heavy usage.

    Don’t get me wrong here…I’m not saying that the 2010 Yankees are going to be a mirror image of the 1965 Yankees. But, I think anyone who doesn’t realize that there’s some serious risk associated to this roster, and its cadre of players, has their head in the sand.

    Comments on Cashman: “I Understand The Risk That Comes With Older Players”

    1. Corey Italiano
      March 21st, 2010 | 10:37 am

      But, I think anyone who doesn’t realize that there’s some serious risk associated to this roster, and its cadre of players, has their head in the sand.
      ============
      That’s fine and fair, but also, which team doesn’t have serious risk? Or, even better, which team has less risk than the Yanks? I can’t think of any.

    2. Rich
      March 21st, 2010 | 12:12 pm

      They could use a young high ceiling SS/3B to spell Alex and Jeter within the next year or two, which could prolong their ability to stay healthy play at a high level.

      Hechavarria may have been an ideal candidate, but there will be others. If they remain healthy, the young player could hold down an OF job until one of them needs to be moved to another position.

    3. Raf
      March 21st, 2010 | 12:16 pm

      Dr. Stuart Hershon wrote:

      “A 35-year-old athlete has less stamina and reflex speed than a 25-year-old athlete. Nothing can change that. You become tired more easily, the body needs more time to recover. It’s why you don’t see many football or basketball players in their 40s.

      “Even concentration becomes more difficult, which is why golfers don’t win championships in their 50s.”

      I’m not particularly crazy about the line of reasoning he uses.

    4. March 21st, 2010 | 1:11 pm

      Corey Italiano wrote:

      That’s fine and fair, but also, which team doesn’t have serious risk? Or, even better, which team has less risk than the Yanks? I can’t think of any.

      I think the point is that a team with a $200 million payroll should not have the same level of risk as a team with a $80 million payroll.

    5. pete
      March 21st, 2010 | 3:49 pm

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      That’s oversimplifying the issue. CI asked which team has less risk than the yankees, and I, for one, can’t think of one. The payroll disparity is misleading in terms of risk, because the risk of a $200 million investment to a team with the revenue stability of the Yanks is not the same as the same figure would be to a different team.

      People need to realize that there can never be a linear correlation between payroll and success. There will always be a normalization curve here, but that doesn’t mean that the yankees shouldn’t spend $200 million if they can afford to do it, because doing so does EXACTLY what you’re claiming it doesn’t. By spending, the team is able to decrease its total performance risk, provided it makes good roster construction decisions, because it is able to generate production from a wider breadth of sources.

      For example, the aforementioned injury/decline risk of Jeter and Posada is balanced out by the fact that the team has two legitimate MVP candidates in A-Rod and Teixeira, a top-5 offensive 2B, a quality all-around OF, and a catcher in the minors who, while suspect defensively, could potentially provide a lot of offense as well if needed this year. So while a scenario in which Jeter goes down or performs at a significantly lower level is obviously not ideal, it would not put the team in an insurmountable hole – they could likely replace him with a far superior defensive SS (presupposing a somewhat dramatic defensive decline in 2010) while still maintaining a high quality offense. Would the team be worse? Sure. But would it still be an excellent team, and arguably still the best (on paper) in baseball? Probably.

      With Pettitte and Rivera, you’re talking about the (presumably) 4th starter in a rotation that has two excellent SP prospects competing for the 5th spot, as well as a couple quality swingman types, and the closer in a bullpen that, were he to continue his dominance, would be fine without Joba or Hughes in it, both of whom have shown the ability to be dominant relief pitchers. So if Mo went down and the ‘pen really needed a lockdown arm, they could just call upon Hughes or Joba to close.

      As for Sabathia, his workload raises a red flag for sure, but on the other hand, you could make the argument that he is actually at a lower risk of injury than most pitchers. Pitching has an enormous amount of inherent injury risk, and Sabathia’s career thus far could as easily suggest that he is simply better equipped to handle the task of pitching (which few would argue) and therefore at less risk than most pitchers (which many would argue) as it could that he is “due” for an injury.

      The point is, no matter how much money you spend, there will be tons of risk on your team. But I can guarantee you that the yankees, largely due to their heavier spending, face less overall risk than any other team out there in 2010. Sure their advantage is probably only marginal, but in a sport where one win over the course of 162 games can mean the difference between making the playoffs and not, marginal advantages are hardly insignificant.

    6. pete
      March 21st, 2010 | 3:54 pm

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      or, to put it more simply, what team with an $80 million payroll has as little risk as the yankees?

      people get wrapped up in decline and injury risk because people are generally much more loathe towards seeing something disappear than they are towards never having it in the first place. But let me ask you this – would you rather have Derek Jeter starting at SS for you this year, considering his risk of decline or injury, or the utter lack of upside coming from that position up in Toronto or out in SF or in Cleveland (all of which are, i believe, right around $80 million on their payrolls).

    7. March 21st, 2010 | 6:25 pm

      pete wrote:

      By spending, the team is able to decrease its total performance risk, provided it makes good roster construction decisions, because it is able to generate production from a wider breadth of sources.

      Still doesn’t mean you have to spend $200 million. You should be able to accomplish that with a payroll of $114 million or so today.

    8. pete
      March 21st, 2010 | 6:42 pm

      “You should be able to accomplish that with a payroll of $114 million or so today.”

      -what do you base that figure on, exactly?

      The Yankees are a franchise like any other, and the best model for sustained success is through sustained excellence in product. Thus if the Yankees can afford to spend $200 million each year, they should do it. Not for the sake of spending $200 million, of course, but spending an “extra” $86 million towards marginally improving your team, if you have that money to spend, makes a lot more sense to me than trying to unnecessarily constrain your payroll towards an arbitrary figure for the sake of saving money.

      But honestly, where is that excess $86 million being spent right now? And how would you suggest they shed it? Over the last couple of years, the yankees have been very smart about only spending heavily for the absolute best, and very smart and efficient in their construction of the remainder of the roster. Cash has had his mistakes in the past, but over the past two years or so, I’d say he’s been about as good as any other exec out there.

    9. pete
      March 21st, 2010 | 6:45 pm

      @ pete:
      the teams that are successful with middle-of-the-road or lower payrolls are typically teams that have been very poor in years past, or are lucky enough to find themselves in very weak divisions. You really think that a team that hasn’t had a top 25 draft pick in over a decade could win with a $114 million payroll in the AL East?

    10. 77yankees
      March 21st, 2010 | 7:03 pm

      That’s funny – the Yankees have five players under 30 in their lineup while the Red Sox entire lineup is players over 30 in with the exception of Ellsbury & Pedroia:

      Yet where are the proverbial “yellow trickle” columns about the Red Sox? Just file this under the typical “The Sky is Falling” output from the media.

    11. pete
      March 21st, 2010 | 7:21 pm

      @ 77yankees:
      this isn’t a post about the red sox, it’s a discussion of legitimate concerns with the yankees roster. it is wholly necessary, however, if one intends to remain sane, to keep an even perspective of other teams and their problems as well, so as to realize that simply having concerns/issues does not necessarily dethrone you as favorites. The yankees roster, age-related/other risks included, is still the strongest in baseball. Their issues are not ones that can be solved right now. They’ve wisely beefed up the rest of their roster to better prepare themselves for an inevitable bout with bad luck. Should you be concerned about injuries? Sure. Should you be worried that the yankees face more risks this year than other teams? Absolutely not.

    12. Raf
      March 21st, 2010 | 9:00 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Still doesn’t mean you have to spend $200 million. You should be able to accomplish that with a payroll of $114 million or so today.

      It can be done, the organization chooses not to.

      Mike Lowell was ready to take over 3b, they chose to re-sign Scott Brosius
      Nick Johnson was ready to take over 1b, they chose to sign Jason Giambi.
      The emergence of Melky Cabrera (I know, I know, humor me) made Matsui, Damon or Sheffield expendable. They decided to keep all 4 players
      Sheffield offered to move to 3b, but Mike Lamb and Tyler Houston were going to compete for the 3b spot. Instead, the Yanks traded for Alex Rodriguez.

      So on and so forth.

    13. March 21st, 2010 | 9:34 pm

      pete wrote:

      what do you base that figure on, exactly?

      The 2009 Dodgers. I think they set a record, or tied one, for having the most players with 16+ Win Shares each in a season. (Or something like that.) Basically, they were very well rounded and did it for $114 million.

    14. pete
      March 22nd, 2010 | 6:25 pm

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      do you honestly believe that the 09 dodgers would have been anything more than (maybe) a .500 club in the AL east last year? and if so…really?

    15. March 22nd, 2010 | 7:04 pm

      I’m pretty sure that Win Shares are league and division independent.

    16. Evan3457
      March 22nd, 2010 | 7:42 pm

      Not really, Steve.

      They don’t take into account differences in level of competition. They are awarded to each team’s players according the number of wins a team actually gets. In fact, they’re heavily adjusted for context.

      The upshot of Win Shares is that the total of number of Win Shares for a team that wins 87 and loses 75 is the same if its done in Dodger Stadium in the 1960′s as it is if it’s done in Coors Field in the 1990′s, but each such team gets 261 Win Shares to divide amongst its players.

      That also means that if your team’s talent level is static, but the quality of your opposition improves, you win fewer games, and your team’s players divide up fewer Win Shares.

    17. Evan3457
      March 22nd, 2010 | 7:57 pm

      As to the matter at hand….

      Lookit, the Yankees under the Steinbrenners have adopted and maintained a philosophy that they are not going to risk wins and revenue on young, unproven players

      1) Unless they look like lock-to-the-skies talents who succeed right away, and
      2) If they can find a “proven” solution elsewhere.

      This is not the most efficient way to run a team, but the organization does not care about efficiency. The organization looks to eliminate risk, and this causes overpay in both talent going out (prospects) and money (payroll).

      Whether people like it or not, that’s the price of insisting on contending for/winning the title every year, as opposed to taking a year or two fallow to rebuild after a long run of winning.

      To put it another way, if you’re happy with a normal well-constructed home, you’ll pay market price for it.

      However, if you want to eliminate all risk to your home and person: your own generator and supply of fuel to run it in case of power cutoffs, personal home security and guards, 100% fireproof, 100% watertight to flooding, able to withstand a Richter-scale level 9 earthquake, a F5 tornado, a category 5 hurricane, and able to come off its foundation and ride out a tsunami, bomb-blast resistant, equipped with long-range nuclear missiles to blast incoming asteroids out of the sky, your own personal strategic missile defense to knock down incoming nuclear missiles, your own nuclear bomb shelter with multi-year food and water supply and air cleaners, with all your electronic devices hardened against an EMP nuke, reverse osmosis air and water filters with negative pressure to keep out all biological and chemical toxins, organisms, whether natural or man-made, and on and on and on….

      …well, you’re going to pay a lot more than normal market value for a home like that.

    18. BOHAN
      March 22nd, 2010 | 11:19 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      pete wrote:what do you base that figure on, exactly? The 2009 Dodgers. I think they set a record, or tied one, for having the most players with 16+ Win Shares each in a season. (Or something like that.) Basically, they were very well rounded and did it for $114 million.

      did they win a WS? and theres not a shot in hell they could compete in AL east.

      Whats so wrong with a organiztion doing everything they can to try to win? Today’s athletes arent like the athletes of old where they hit a certain age and completely fall off. With the way these guys train these days they dont have the normal body of a 35+ yr old guy. Yes theres risk that one of the older guys gets hurt but theres also risk to anyone else on the team gettin hurt. hell anyone can get hurt at any time even when theyre not on the field. freak accidents happen all the time. people have been sayin Mo was going to break down for the past 5 yrs he proved everyone wrong. alot of people thought posada was done 4 yrs ago hes abviously not. jeter just had arguably his best season of his career last year.

      Dr. Stuart Hershon wrote:“A 35-year-old athlete has less stamina and reflex speed than a 25-year-old athlete. Nothing can change that. You become tired more easily, the body needs more time to recover. It’s why you don’t see many football or basketball players in their 40s.“Even concentration becomes more difficult, which is why golfers don’t win championships in their 50s.”I’m not particularly crazy about the line of reasoning he uses.

      the reason you dont see football or basketball players play into their 40′s is because they play a much more physical game then baseball. not the best analogy ever

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