• Yankees Troubled?

    Posted by on February 22nd, 2013 · Comments (21)

    Interesting words from Jon Heyman today -

    This could be a dicey year indeed for the Yankees, who have won at least 87 games a remarkable (and record) 17 consecutive seasons, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently pointed out. This team could test that incredible run of consistency, if only a thing or two (or three) goes wrong.

    Beyond the obvious health questions surrounding all-time greats Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter and all-time publicity gatherer and would-be great Alex Rodriguez, plus the unanswered questions at catcher and designated hitter, the organization isn’t nearly as deep as usual. It’s not deep on the roster, and it certainly isn’t deep at the upper levels of the minor leagues, where recent injuries and underperformance have left the franchise almost bereft of upper-tier prospects at the upper levels.

    Word out of the Yankees clubhouse is almost universally optimistic, as usual. But it’s based on all the old reasons. Outsiders, though, see the old players. And they wonder.

    Even if career miracle men Rivera and Jeter do their thing despite age and health questions (and who should ever doubt them?) there are enough issues with the good and great players on the team who are mere mortals to wonder if their run of almost unbroken success could soon come to a close.

    “I don’t think they are a playoff team,” one competing GM said, flat out.

    Another GM wondered why the Yankees behaved somewhat like the small-market, low-revenue Rays this winter, when they brought back many of their own but let other fine players leave (most notably Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano and Russell Martin) while adding only one high-salaried new player — their old Red Sox nemesis Kevin Youkilis.

    Those two rival GMs are far from the only ones who believe there’s a real possibility the Yankees could be October outsiders for the second time since Buck Showalter’s second season, 20 years back, when the turnaround began in earnest with smart trades and newfound patience. Now, they could finally be ripe for a downturn.

    “They are a little long in the tooth,” one rival owner observed of the Yankees.

    Yankees teams are typically a little older than most everyone else, but this one is especially ancient (at least by baseball standards).

    The roster retains surely possesses plenty of name recognition. But that doesn’t keep folks from wondering when the jig will be up.

    The first rival GM pointed out three main areas of concern — age, injuries and lack of depth in the upper minor leagues. He also wondered about the ability of Jeter, Pettitte and Kuroda to repeat their excellent performance from a year ago. Then, he got even more pointed.

    “I think they are weak at third base and in the outfield,” the GM said. “Ichiro may not repeat. Granderson brings a low batting average and tons of strikeouts. Gardner is hurt a lot, and not all that productive when healthy.”

    What do you think? Agree or disagree – and why?

    Comments on Yankees Troubled?

    1. Evan3457
      February 22nd, 2013 | 8:28 pm

      How to write a story about the Yankees that gets read?

      Well, they make the playoffs every season.
      They’re a good team every season.
      But they’ve won it all only once in 12 seasons.

      So writing “the dynasty continues story” draws no readers.
      They made no obvious improvements in the off-season, so the “this is the year to take the big step forward” story is no good.

      The old guys are older. They were all hurt last year. The Jays are better. The Red Sox are better.

      Hey! I got it. Let’s write the “Yanks are finally gonna fall” story! That always works. People want that to happen. They’ll read that.

      (You’ve be writing that story for at least 5 years?)

      Shhhh….don’t tell ‘em. They might remember and not read it again…

    2. Scout
      February 23rd, 2013 | 8:23 am

      The article hits all the concerns I have. At this point, of course, we’re only considering possibilities. As I read it, the negative view of the 2013 Yankees suggests only that it is more likely this year than previously that the team will not be able to compensate for key injuries and more likely that there will be a perfomance fall-off among aging players. Put this way, the negative position makes a lot of sense, though it is still only a statement about probabilities.

      For those who feel otherwise and rightly point out that we’ve heard this before, I pose a simple question: are the Yankees stronger today than they were a year ago or weaker?

    3. February 23rd, 2013 | 8:39 am

      Scout wrote:

      For those who feel otherwise and rightly point out that we’ve heard this before, I pose a simple question: are the Yankees stronger today than they were a year ago or weaker?

      Related, how have the Rays, Orioles, Red Sox and Jays changed, are they stronger or weaker this year?

    4. Raf
      February 23rd, 2013 | 9:28 am

      Steve L. wrote:

      Scout wrote:
      For those who feel otherwise and rightly point out that we’ve heard this before, I pose a simple question: are the Yankees stronger today than they were a year ago or weaker?
      Related, how have the Rays, Orioles, Red Sox and Jays changed, are they stronger or weaker this year?

      http://nesn.com/2011/01/2011-red-sox-will-challenge-1927-yankees-for-title-of-greatest-team-in-major-league-history/

      http://www.ussmariner.com/2012/10/29/a-championship-offseason/

      You never know with these things.

    5. Scout
      February 23rd, 2013 | 9:58 am

      Raf wrote:

      You never know with these things

      …which is why I speak only in terms of probabilities.

      And the question remains out there: at this point do the Yankees appear stronger or weaker than the team that ended 2012?

    6. Evan3457
      February 23rd, 2013 | 10:22 am

      Scout wrote:

      Raf wrote:
      You never know with these things
      …which is why I speak only in terms of probabilities.
      And the question remains out there: at this point do the Yankees appear stronger or weaker than the team that ended 2012?

      Slightly weaker, I should think. The offensive dropoff looks liks 50 runs to me, maybe 60. It should be offset by a defensive improvement of about 30 runs, all told.

      They were a 95-67 team last year. They look more like a 90-92 win team this year.

    7. Greg H.
      February 23rd, 2013 | 11:54 am

      Raf wrote:

      You never know with these things.

      Which is why I’m firmly in “show-me” mode with the Jays. You could easily substitute Blue Jays for Red Sox in this 2011 nesn article. The fact that they took the exact nucleus of Marlins that couldn’t compete in the NL East last year and moved them all to this team is less concerning than if they had pieced a solid group together. Likewise, I do not expect the Dodgers to win the NL West.

      I agree with the statement the Yanks are a little weaker. But the O’s should come back to earth, the Sox are full of “let’s see if” players, the Jays are improved on paper, but I’m not buying them until they show me. The Rays are the team I would be concerned about, and the Yanks. I still have those two finishing at the top of the division.

    8. Greg H.
      February 23rd, 2013 | 11:55 am

      Evan3457 wrote:

      Hey! I got it. Let’s write the “Yanks are finally gonna fall” story! That always works. People want that to happen. They’ll read that.

      How true.
      And like the broken clock that tells the correct time twice a day, one year when someone writes this, it’ll turn out to be true. What a prophecy.

    9. Scout
      February 23rd, 2013 | 1:18 pm

      Evan3457 wrote:

      They were a 95-67 team last year. They look more like a 90-92 win team this year.

      I’d sign on for 90-92 wins from this team in a heartbeat. To me, the more realistic number is 87-88 wins, which seems the common projection. That might still be enough for them to make Bud Selig’s watered-down play-offs.

    10. February 23rd, 2013 | 4:11 pm

      Scout wrote:

      To me, the more realistic number is 87-88 wins, which seems the common projection.

      Ditto.

    11. February 24th, 2013 | 12:01 am

      This could be an interesting year, this is a very flawed team with potentially very good pitching, and a team with good pitching can always be dangerous.

      The problem here is the team is a house of cards. That’s the point of Heyman’s comments. The team that collapsed in the midsixties didn’t collapse overnight. There were warning signs, people just didn’t know what to look for. There are serious age issues, and dark disturbing doubts about the players in minor league. One small thing that bothers me is that idiot GM’s position on Nunez. This kid (and he will be 26 in May) cannot play the infield. The Yanks should try to convert him to the outfield, where I think he can contribute. He may even become a better than average defender. Cashman stated this winter that his value to the Yankees is at short. Great, but if he can’t play the position…

    12. Evan3457
      February 24th, 2013 | 2:10 am

      Joseph Maloney wrote:

      This could be an interesting year, this is a very flawed team with potentially very good pitching, and a team with good pitching can always be dangerous.
      The problem here is the team is a house of cards. That’s the point of Heyman’s comments. The team that collapsed in the midsixties didn’t collapse overnight. There were warning signs, people just didn’t know what to look for. There are serious age issues, and dark disturbing doubts about the players in minor league. One small thing that bothers me is that idiot GM’s position on Nunez. This kid (and he will be 26 in May) cannot play the infield. The Yanks should try to convert him to the outfield, where I think he can contribute. He may even become a better than average defender. Cashman stated this winter that his value to the Yankees is at short. Great, but if he can’t play the position…

      George Weiss called it to the year (“The Yankees have 5 more years at most under the new management”, he said, after they fired him after the 1960 Series. The 5th of those 5 years was 1965. In 1964, the Old Dynasty won its last pennant, and came within one game of winning it all one last time. The next year they finished 6th in a 10-team league, and under .500 for the first time in 47 seasons.

      There may have been warning signs, but the collapse of the Old Dynasty was literally overnight. The opened spring training as the reigning pennant winners, and under the management of the man who had just beaten them in the Series. I’ll bet virtually no one predicted that collapse, except, possibly, Weiss, who by then was running the Mets, along with Stengel.

      As for Nunez:
      1) He can’t play the outfield, either.
      2) It would cost him another lost season in AAA to teach him.
      3) The only position where the Yanks have multiple top prospects is outfield.
      4) His bat won’t carry a flank field position. He has the raw power, but it doesn’t translate often enough in games. He doesn’t control the K zone. He’s not a .300 hitter. He’d be below replacement value as a flank outfielder, even if he could play the position adequately.

      The far more intelligent thing to do is to work his defense at short, and work it and work it until his legs and arms fall off, because his bat CAN carry the shortstop position. In fact, if he became even an average fielder, his bat and legs would make him a 2-3 WAR player at shortstop, and then there’d be no need to trade Williams for Andrus.

    13. Evan3457
      February 24th, 2013 | 2:49 am

      Actually, the best thing the Yanks can do with Nunez is build his value, and then trade him to a 2nd division team desperate for a shortstop, possibly getting a halfway decent prospect for him.

    14. February 24th, 2013 | 3:53 am

      Evan3457 wrote:

      Joseph Maloney wrote:
      This could be an interesting year, this is a very flawed team with potentially very good pitching, and a team with good pitching can always be dangerous.
      The problem here is the team is a house of cards. That’s the point of Heyman’s comments. The team that collapsed in the midsixties didn’t collapse overnight. There were warning signs, people just didn’t know what to look for. There are serious age issues, and dark disturbing doubts about the players in minor league. One small thing that bothers me is that idiot GM’s position on Nunez. This kid (and he will be 26 in May) cannot play the infield. The Yanks should try to convert him to the outfield, where I think he can contribute. He may even become a better than average defender. Cashman stated this winter that his value to the Yankees is at short. Great, but if he can’t play the position…
      George Weiss called it to the year (“The Yankees have 5 more years at most under the new management”, he said, after they fired him after the 1960 Series. The 5th of those 5 years was 1965. In 1964, the Old Dynasty won its last pennant, and came within one game of winning it all one last time. The next year they finished 6th in a 10-team league, and under .500 for the first time in 47 seasons.
      There may have been warning signs, but the collapse of the Old Dynasty was literally overnight. The opened spring training as the reigning pennant winners, and under the management of the man who had just beaten them in the Series. I’ll bet virtually no one predicted that collapse, except, possibly, Weiss, who by then was running the Mets, along with Stengel.
      As for Nunez:
      1) He can’t play the outfield, either.
      2) It would cost him another lost season in AAA to teach him.
      3) The only position where the Yanks have multiple top prospects is outfield.
      4) His bat won’t carry a flank field position. He has the raw power, but it doesn’t translate often enough in games. He doesn’t control the K zone. He’s not a .300 hitter. He’d be below replacement value as a flank outfielder, even if he could play the position adequately.
      The far more intelligent thing to do is to work his defense at short, and work it and work it until his legs and arms fall off, because his bat CAN carry the shortstop position. In fact, if he became even an average fielder, his bat and legs would make him a 2-3 WAR player at shortstop, and then there’d be no need to trade Williams for Andrus.

      Evan, Bill James discussed this point in one of his Abstracts many years ago with respect to a player named John Lowenstein. James made the point that Earl Weaver unlike most baseball people focused on what a player could do and then used him in that role, this is what made Lowenstein’s stay in Baltimore a successful one. Nunez can’t play the position, keeping at that position will lead nowhere. He should have been playing the outfield in the minor leagues he didn’t and that is the failure of Cashman and the organization.

      With respect to the Yankee team of the mid sixties, I would recommend two books, October 64, and A book by Jack Mann, The Decline and Fall of The New York Yankees. The handwriting was on the wall only no one was reading walls in those days.

    15. Scout
      February 24th, 2013 | 7:41 am

      Actually, the best thing the Yanks can do with Nunez is build his value, and then trade him to a 2nd division team desperate for a shortstop, possibly getting a halfway decent prospect for him

      That ship has sailed. Other teams know what Nunez cannot do — field at an acceptable major league level. Only a team in dire need of a shortstop would offer any value in return.

    16. February 24th, 2013 | 7:46 am

      Eduardo Nunez is a right-handed batting version of Jose Offerman. Yankees should move him to 2B once Cano walks and see if he can have a few good seasons before he falls apart in his early 30′s.

    17. Evan3457
      February 24th, 2013 | 3:38 pm

      Joseph Maloney wrote:

      Evan, Bill James discussed this point in one of his Abstracts many years ago with respect to a player named John Lowenstein. James made the point that Earl Weaver unlike most baseball people focused on what a player could do and then used him in that role, this is what made Lowenstein’s stay in Baltimore a successful one. Nunez can’t play the position, keeping at that position will lead nowhere. He should have been playing the outfield in the minor leagues he didn’t and that is the failure of Cashman and the organization.
      With respect to the Yankee team of the mid sixties, I would recommend two books, October 64, and A book by Jack Mann, The Decline and Fall of The New York Yankees. The handwriting was on the wall only no one was reading walls in those days.

      There’s no evidence, to this point, in Nunez’ record which indicates he has Lowenstein-type explosive growth potential. He’s not going to be a platoon player, as Lowenstein was, because if he was going to become a platoon player, he’d be playing against lefties only, and that’s a 1/3 time job. He doesn’t have Lowenstein’s patience. He’s not a dead pull hitter, and if he became one, it would be a disadvantage at Yankee Stadium.

      What are the things Nunez can do? He’s a good hitter, relative to regular shortstops. He can run fast and is a good basestealer. He tries hard. He has a strong, but erratic arm.

      He’s a terrible shortstop, and even if the Yanks converted him successfully to flank outfielder, he still wouldn’t hit enough to hold that job (he’s a bad hitter relative to regular flank outfielders).

      Moving him to the outfield might improve his “relative defense” to “tolerable”, but at the expense of causing his “relative offense” decline to “very poor”. The only hope of getting value from him is to keep working him at short, and hoping he can improve to “tolerable” there. Even moving him to 2nd requires vast improvement in his footwork, and Heaven help Tex trying to corral his throws turning the pivot on the DP.

    18. Evan3457
      February 24th, 2013 | 3:43 pm

      Joseph Maloney wrote:

      With respect to the Yankee team of the mid sixties, I would recommend two books, October 64, and A book by Jack Mann, The Decline and Fall of The New York Yankees. The handwriting was on the wall only no one was reading walls in those days.

      I read the Mann book awhile ago. The point I was making was that no one was predicting, in the spring of 1965, the depth and length of the collapse to come. I’ll bet most were predicting they’d win the pennant again in 1965.

    19. Raf
      February 24th, 2013 | 3:59 pm

      Evan3457 wrote:

      The far more intelligent thing to do is to work his defense at short, and work it and work it until his legs and arms fall off, because his bat CAN carry the shortstop position. In fact, if he became even an average fielder, his bat and legs would make him a 2-3 WAR player at shortstop, and then there’d be no need to trade Williams for Andrus.

      Yep.

    20. Raf
      February 24th, 2013 | 4:01 pm

      Evan3457 wrote:

      The point I was making was that no one was predicting, in the spring of 1965, the depth and length of the collapse to come. I’ll bet most were predicting they’d win the pennant again in 1965.

      And unlike 1965, it’s a lot easier to go from worst to first.

    21. Evan3457
      February 24th, 2013 | 5:59 pm

      Scout wrote:

      Actually, the best thing the Yanks can do with Nunez is build his value, and then trade him to a 2nd division team desperate for a shortstop, possibly getting a halfway decent prospect for him
      That ship has sailed. Other teams know what Nunez cannot do — field at an acceptable major league level. Only a team in dire need of a shortstop would offer any value in return.

      Yes, absolutely right, right now.

      My point was that his defense may still be open to improvement. And if he can improve it, that would substantially increase his value, not only to the Yankees, but also as a trading chip if the Yanks do decide to go a different way at shortstop next season.

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