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.