Good stuff today via Bob Klapisch –
It’s no stretch to say this has been a sobering offseason for the Yankees, who were 0-for-December in their pursuit of free agents, went through a contentious negotiation just to get their own captain, Derek Jeter, back in pinstripes and, for now, have been surpassed by the Red Sox as the American League’s team to beat.
Incredibly, the Yankees look like baseball’s most expensive underdogs with a $200 million payroll. GM Brian Cashman says “patience” is the new operative plan, but to a fan base that’s used to seeing the Bombers get their way, he might as well be speaking Mandarin.
Talk about culture shock: Suddenly, it’s the Sox who’ve turned into the AL’s biggest spenders, able to snare not just Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, but even a significant bit piece for the bullpen, Bobby Jenks. The Yankees’ countermove was to sign Pedro Feliciano, which has everyone wondering what happened to the can-do ethos that netted CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett practically all at once in 2008?
The Yankees believe [agent] Darek Braunecker misled them into thinking [Cliff] Lee was sufficiently interested in playing in the Bronx, enough for the Steinbrenner family to put up $148 million. The Yankees are convinced they were used, which might come back to haunt Braunecker and his other client, who just happens to be Burnett.
“(Braunecker) is going to need us more than (we) need him,” one official cautioned. That might be true in 2013, when Burnett’s contract expires. In the meantime, however, the Yankees are desperate for Burnett to make a comeback, especially if Andy Pettitte chooses to retire.
With Pettitte, the Yankees have a shot at the playoffs; they’re a 92-95 win team that figures to win the wild card. Without him, the Bombers appear to be cooked, unless Cashman can make a blockbuster deal for a starting pitcher before the July 31 trading deadline.
That’s where the “patience” edict comes into play. Cashman is asking fans to hang tight while the Yankees hopefully stay close to the Red Sox. That means rebound seasons not just from Burnett, but Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as well. By most industry estimates, Boston is about to embark on a 100-win season, which means the Yankees’ best-case scenario is to cobble together a playoff-caliber rotation that’ll support the (still) formidable offense.
You know, the Orioles played at a 96-win pace one Buck Showalter came on board. Granted, they can’t do that in 2011 over a full season. But, if they win 88 games next year, the Yankees may just have to worry more about the O’s biting on their rear than they do having to keep up with the Red Sox. The Yankees have to play the Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays and O’s around 76 times in 2011. With the Yankees current starting rotation, how many of those games can they hope to win?