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Rational Dose of Medicine For The Yankee Fan's Sickness



After the devastating night of the New York Yankees elimination occurred, I decided to give myself a few days to mope around, to wallow in this hurt, and most importantly, to allow the usual end of the season "retain or release" column to be filled with sensible decisions rather than ones of sheer fandum emotion. 

What I found and heard the days following that disappointing Thursday was a fan base that had absolutely lost it's marbles. A fan base that flooded blogs, forums, and of course, sports radio with the type of thinking I wanted no part of. A thinking that is destructive and downright irrational. 

It was the type of thinking that quite honestly, yours truly found very embarrassing to be a Yankee fan.

Some of the thoughts inclduded the following: 

"Just release A-Rod

"Girardi should have played Nunez and Chavez over A-Rod"

"Trade Teixeira!"

"Sign Pujols or Fielder in the Off-Season, and use Tex in right field"

"Girardi's six-man rotation is to blame for the loss"

"They should teach Montero how to play rightfield and get rid of Swisher"

"A-Rod does nothing, ever, for us. Cashman needs to find a way to get rid of him"

"Sabathia failed. We need a new front-line starter to go with Nova"

"Girardi needs to be replaced. He switches and micromanages so much it messes with our guys"

And the ideas go on and on, and on. 

Some make sense. Few have merit. All are absurd. 

Prior to completing the traditional retain or release column, I feel it is necessary to address this sudden panic in the Yankee Universe for the front running fans, the casual fans, and even the diehard fans. Lets be honest, every Yankee fan has somehow become spoiled over the last decade or so. Yet, recently, Yankee fans have become the type of brats often seen by teenagers on Sweet 16. Never grateful. Never satisfied. And of course, always clamoring for the next big toy while judging the others on a strict what-have-you-done-for-me-lately ideal.

I understand the need and want for a title-win every year. Heck, the passion is what makes me love the Yankee fan base and this city so darn much. However, following Thursday, it seemed we lost track of ourselves, our ideals, and most of all, our rational thinking. 

With that said, I'm going to map out a quick, and yes, rational, blueprint for the New York Yankees off-season. 

Re-Sign Brian Cashman

Before anything can be done, we need the architect back on board. And while some fans like to give Cashman flack for various moves, the guy has done his best job as GM since having more autonomy and less interference from ownership. We all scoffed at first, but his bargain basement pickups of Eric Chavez, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia saved the Yankee season. Not to mention his dedication and commitment to the blue chippers such as Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez, Austin Romine, Andrew Brackman, George Kontos, Dellin Batances, and Manny Banuelos, some of whom were pulled back in mega deals for the likes of Cliff Lee. Cashmam has a plan in place, and while sometimes he endures an override (Rafael Soriano, anyone?) he has the Yankees set-up for the future. If done, expect a team built around Robinson Cano, a prospect six years ago Cashman claimed would be one of the best players in all of baseball.

Re-Sign C.C. Sabathia (But not at all cost)

Sabathia is the player personnel priority for the Yankees this off-season. It is no secret that Sabathia has an opt-out clause which he will exercise. We also know that it is very unlikely that Sabathia goes elsewhere to play at this point in his career. Therefore, the goal for the Yankees become how many years are they willing to tack on to the already four remaining? The Yanks must avoid another A-Rod-like contract in extending Sabathia for another three years on his current four year deal. Such a deal would put Sabathia at the age of 38 at the end of his deal, and as we know, no pitcher sustains top quality stuff into his late thirties. 

The Yankees must be diligent and wary not to end up with what is looking like a collection of older bodies making $20M-plus. Sabathia is no different. At most, a two year extension is worth dealing with the devil of a past-his-prime Sabathia, in exchange for four years of ace-like numbers. 

Rebuild Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira

Some may believe rebuilding the staff is the second priority behind re-signing Sabathia, however, in my honest opinion, the resurrection of these two superstars is drasticaly important to the future of the franchise. 

First, let's get Alex Rodriguez out of the way. The guy remains the single most polarizing athlete I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Yet, he is in no doubt super talented. For those fans that placed the sole blame of the ALDS loss on Rodriguez's shoulders should realize the Yankees as a team were 11 for 47 with runners in scoring position for the series. Not entirely is fault. And for those that claim he always strikes out in key situations, well, you've obviously forgotten the Alex Rodriguez that carried the offense to a World Series victory in 2009. 

Nonetheless, no matter your viewpoint on Rodriguez, the truth is, he is stuck with this fan base for six (yes, six!) more years, and likewise, us with him. Rodriguez endured his worst season as a professional this year, mostly due to injuries. Whether be it due to circumstance, happenstance, or ahem, steroid-stance, A-Rod's body is breaking down. However, as crazy as this may seem, much like believing Jeter will return to old form this year, I believe a guy that works tirelessly like Rodriguez, will have a monster season next year. He was surely embarrassed by his performance, and has vowed to comeback next year with a "vengeance". 

I'm sure A-Rod is not the dynamic competitor for the "best player in baseball" title he once was, but I believe in 2012 he will give you his usual 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. And let's not forget, a superb effort at third base which somehow went unnoticed in the ALDS against the Tigers.

Yes, Mark, that porch is very inviting...fight the urge!

As for Mark Teixeira, what the heck happened to this guy? It seems the last two seasons has increased the likely comparisons to Dave Kingman more than ever. Tex's power and run producing numbers remain constant, yet, somehow, he has seen his average drop to the .240's. Tex's playoff numbers have also been ugly since joining the Bombers. I'm not sure if he is enticed by the short porch as his swing seems to have gotten longer with more of an uppercut from the left side (.302 vs. Lefties and .223 vs. Righties in 2011) or if Teixeira is just no longer the career .280 hitter the back of his baseball card says he is. Hopefully, hitting coach guru, Kevin Long, can straighten him out, as similar to A-Rod, we're stuck with Tex for the next few years.

Rounding Out The Rotation

After C.C. Sabathia, who else is there? That was a common question heading into the 2011 season, and somehow, Cashman gave us answers in Bartolo "Christmas Miracle" Colon (as coined by Mike Lupica), Freddy Garcia, and of course, super-stud, Ivan Nova. Heading into the 2012 Season, it is safe to say that Sabathia (pending smooth negotiations) and Nova are penciled in for the rotation. But what about the rest?

Banuelos and Betances, although surprising and impressive all year, are just not there as of yet. Both have shown the sutff, but lack the command needed to be successful at the Major League level. Though, a debut during the 2012 level is not out of the question, I see them as full-time rotation members for the 2013 season. 

Unfortunately, I don't see the Yankees bringing back Bartolo Colon. Although they received much more than they ever thought out of him this year, it's time to look in another direction. As for Freddy Garcia, I wouldn't mind extending another incentive-based contract to him for 2012 depending on the situation. 

Phil Hughes needs to recommit himself for the 2012 season. He needs to drop a few pounds and continue to develop his new curve ball which has produced more strikeouts than the foul tips leader he became with the spike curveball.

As for A.J. Burnett, well, he can't be worse than he was last year, right? Albeit, I said that last season as well.  Somehow, Burnett has to realize he is no longer a power pitcher. Living 92-94mph in the zone is speed limit. Quite frankly, fastballs in the middle of the plate are primed for a cause of  constant and severe whiplash. Effectively working in his ever evolving change-up in 2012 is going to be vital towards his success.

Bronx Bound in 2012?
And finally, C.J. Wilson should be courted. Despite giving the Yankees a cool three-man tandem in the rotation with initials (C.C., A.J., & C.J), Wilson will give the Yankees another playoff-proven lefty in the starting rotation. For calling Yankee Stadium and its 314ft right field porch it's home, the Yankees have only had three reliable lefties in the past three years - Sabathia, Boone Logan, and Andy Pettitte, with the latter now retired.

[Blog Side Note: No need to go after Yu Darvish, as I'm sure the Yankees have had their share of buyers remorse on the Japanese pitching  market (Kei Igawa and Hideki Irabu?), not to mention the posting fees it will take to acquire him]

Wilson who has pitched to a sub 4.00 ERA with a decreasing WHIP over the past three years would be a servicable #2 or #3 starter for the Yankees. A three year deal should be the goal in signing the 30 year old pitcher. 

Of course, all of this is depending on if Seattle attempts to keep Felix Hernandez. If King Felix is on the market, scrap this plan, and offer up the farm.

Right Field Swish, or Switch? 

Nick Swisher's $10M option for the 2012 season is one that is very intriguing. Swisher, a fan favorite, brought so many intangibles to a Yankee clubhouse that needed some light hearted gesture in the worst way. Amongst all the egos, the drama, and the politics, Cashman acquired an on-base machine (and product of the famed money ball management) to bring a different dynamic to the Yankees. 

And despite adding a new element to the clubhouse, which also helped bring a championship home to the Bronx, here is what Swisher has done in his three years as a Yankee: 

2009 - .249 AVG, 29 HR, 82 RBI, .371 OBP, .869 OPS
2010 - .288 AVG, 29 HR, 89 RBI, .359 OBP, .870 OPS, *2010 All-Star
2011 - .260 AVG, 23 HR, 85 RBI, .374 OBP, .822 OPS

However, here are the numbers for Swisher in his three post-seasons as a Yankee: 

2009 - .122 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI, .230 OBP, .469 OPS
2010 - .212 AVG, 2 HR, 2 RBI, .292 OBP, .804 OPS
2011 - .211 AVG, 1 HR, 1 RBI, .250 OBP, .618 OPS

Clearly, a huge decrease in production when the stage is brighter, and  the pitching is better. Shockingly poor numbers. Especially given the case of multiple rounds in 2009 (3) and 2010 (2). Therefore, the intangibles that Swisher brings to the table is not irreplaceable, especially when his on-the-field production can be substituted by another cheaper, possibly, more athletic option. Swisher does present the ability to play first base if needed, but with Montero (more on this in a bit) on board, such a "luxury" isn't necessary. 

Other options on the market are Michael Cuddyer, a serviceable outfielder that has impressive RISP numbers and post-season production, or better-late-than-never, Carlos Beltran, who could possibly give the Yankees more production, and a possible three hitter in the lineup. 

One last option I hope the Yankees do not overlook is the possibility of Eduardo Nunez. Nunez played four games in the outfield and scouts have already stated his athletic abilities are best suited there than the infield, where he unfortunately racked up a total of twenty errors (16 at SS, 4 at 3B). Nunez's speed brings a dynamic to the Yankees lineup that can create havoc and dare I say, help produce the small runs they were so inefficient in doing the past two years. 

The options are on the table. 

Bullpen Help

The bullpen was a strength for the Yankees this year. With Soriano and David Robertson as a bridge to Mariano Rivera, securing tight games were that much easier. Of course, adding another lefty to go along side Boone Logan is highly necessary for the future. Whether that be Raul Valdez or Damaso Marte from within, or someone else on the market, some help for Boony is necessary.

Do Not Trade Jesus Montero*

I'll repeat, do not trade Jesus Montero. In the past years the Yankees have given away too many prospects that I have seen comeback to hurt them - Jay Buhner and Mike Lowell to name a couple. However, in a very short time, Montero has shown an ability to hit to the opposite field for power, as well as the potential to be a high average guy.

The name scouts keep mentioning is Miguel Cabrera, and if that is the ceiling for Montero, then it is time for the Yankees to begin finding atleast 400 at-bats for Montero next year, whether it be behind the dish, at first base to spell Teixeira here and there, or primarily at the DH position. 

*Of course, if Felix Hernandez is on the block, then, well, Montero wouldn't look all that terrible in Mariner teal. 

and finally...

Girardi Vote of Confidence

I'll just admit this out of the shoot, I am a supporter of Girardi. I do believe, despite not having the social managing skills that Joe Torre had, that he is indeed a better manager than Torre. What?! Yes, Girardi is a better manager than Torre. Girardi's ability to build a bullpen over the past four seasons has been miraculous, and he seems to have a hand on the pulse of rotating guys in and out of the lineup to keep them fresh and productive. I often say, if Joe Torre had a guy like David Robertson, Robertson might be sharing stories with Scott Proctor on learning how to say, "No skip, I just can't take the ball today". 

Nonetheless, Girardi has dealt with much of the media and some fans who don't like his micro-managing for the sake of them not understanding the numbers or the situation at hand. He has also dealt with the issue of believing in Jeter when everything else said it was time to move him down in the lineup. And in one of his most classiest works yet, he correctly handled the situation of keeping Jorge Posada on the team for the sake of not embarrassing the long-time Yankee in his final year of pinstripes.

As we move forward, we are seeing Girardi begin to manage less of the players he played with, and more of the youth that he is able to mold and shape, which was one of his key attributes and reasons he won the National League manager of the year with the Florida Marlins.

It is time we all quit blaming Girardi, and start getting on board with what he does. For years Francona was considered a better manager than Girardi, and somehow, only one of them has a job as of this moment. 

With that said, much of the opinions and wishes by many Yankee fans need to be toned down, and their imaginations ought to return to earth. I understand the reaction to the disappointing loss, however, to expect wholesale changes to a ball club that just won 97 games is rather ridiculous. Don't expect this team to have too many changes, especially on the offensive end. However, the key changes will include some infusion of youth, and possibly a couple of new faces in the rotation and the bullpen. Whether we believe it or not, the Yankees are in a transitional period away from the Core Four and the home run bashers of yesteryear, into an era led by Robinson Cano and athletic ballplayers such as Curtis Granderson.

So let's stop demanding the trading of players, the easy "blame it on the manager" routine, and the easiest of them all, support of "signing the best free agents" campaign. This off-season, like last year, is about preserving what we already have, acknowledging what we need to build around moving forward, and progressing what will be tomorrow, today. 

Smart moves and logical thoughts are needed on the chase for 28. 

Let's leave the illogical, irrational, and incompetent banter behind.

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