The Party’s Over
Yankee fans have few illusions for 2013.

Mariano Rivera greets teammates on opening day, April 1, 2013.


Hating the Yankees is as American as pizza pie, unwed mothers, and cheating on your income tax. 

— Legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko

Because their roster looked incomplete even before injuries began decimating its ranks, and because their solutions thus far have been half-baked, the Yankees will fail to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since the 1994 players’ strike.

— Sports Illustrated columnist Jay Jaffe

Happy days may be here again, fellow Yankee-haters. The Bronx Bombers won 95 games last season and played in the American League Championship Series, but there is far less enthusiasm among baseball scribes about the club’s chances of returning to the postseason this year let alone winning their division. One projection system has the team finishing in third place with 84 wins; another places the team in fourth with 83.

Does the obnoxious passionate fan base share this view? For astute insights, two Sundays ago I chatted with three political experts familiar to NR readers who cheer for the club when they’re not breaking the latest sequester scoop: Guy Benson, Town Hall’s political editor; Robert George, associate editorial-page editor of the New York Post; and Rick Klein, political director at ABC News.

Below are extended excerpts from our e-mail conversation:

jason EPSTEIN: First question: The Yankees’ Opening Day lineup might make even a Met fan cringe. How did the now–No. 2 payroll in the bigs get to this point?

Rick KLEIN: I guess we have to blame it on the sons? Clearly this is being driven by the luxury tax and the Steinbrenner family’s newfound desire to make loads of money instead of mere gobs. They’re still spending big money, of course, but they’re not plugging gaps the way they used to. This is not George’s team anymore, and we have to adjust to that fact. I guess I’m more disappointed not to see some of the heralded prospects get a crack; if they were what we’ve been told to expect, we might be seeing some of them instead of going after Vernon Wells.

EPSTEIN: On that note, hold the presses: It appears as though the Yanks are indeed about to get Wells.

Robert GEORGE: All’s Wells that ends Wells? Um, not quite.

On the other hand, the team is working to shore up its pitching — by testing out Chien-Ming Wang in the minors! . . .

I’m not sure I would automatically blame the sons for how dreadful the lineup looks.

A lot of blame has to be placed at the feet of Brian “Mr. Lover Man” Cashman. Maybe he couldn’t have anticipated A-Rod and Mark Teixeira going down, but everyone knew the Jeter situation was serious. So, why not be more serious about keeping Russell Martin, who was a home-run threat and clutch RBI guy? Instead, Yanks let him go without a serious offer. And now we’re dependent on Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart at the catcher position?!?

That’s all on Cashman. Who also traded away Jesus Montero for an overrated pitcher with “issues” [Michael Pineda].

KLEIN: I have already weighed in in agreement. Their problem will be producing runs. The kind you get when a runner crosses, you know, home plate and stuff.

Guy BENSON: Oh, goodie. Another past-his-prime addition to the lineup. Wells averaged .222 at the plate over his two seasons in Anaheim.

EPSTEIN: The Brennan Boesch signing notwithstanding, Cashman keeps turning to over-the-hill players — heck, the Yankees reportedly even tried to convince Chipper Jones and Derrek Lee to come out of retirement – to replace those who are injured. What’s the rationale behind such efforts?

KLEIN: You mean that’s not the Yankee way? Again, it makes me wonder about the farm system. And the Cashman system, for that matter. What’s been lacking in the recent rounds of moves is any sense of strategy. They’ve been plugging holes with stale gum for a while.

BENSON: I always worry about pitching, but for the first time in memory, I’m concerned about the Yankees’ ability to score runs.

Overpaying for long-in-the-tooth former stars has become the Yankee way, but it seems like it’s getting worse. The strength of the Yankees’ World Series runs in the late ’90s and 2000s ran straight up the middle of the field: Posada, Jeter, Bernie — with guys like Pettitte and Mo [Rivera] anchoring the pitching staff. These guys were/are homegrown talent. With that generation retired or getting there, who’s next? Where’s that next core?

The Derrek Lee revelation is particularly bizarre. Here’s a guy who was rock-solid for the Cubs . . . in 2005, when he won the NL batting title. I was a sophomore in college in Chicago then. Now it’s eight (!) years later, and the Yanks are begging to pay him to come out of retirement? He batted .246 for Baltimore over 85 games in 2011, performed better for a short stretch in Pittsburgh after that, then left the game. Something is wrong if Derrek Lee figures into the Yankees’ front-office plans for the future. I don’t want to blow the Lee story too far out of proportion, but I think it’s symbolic of the larger problem.

GEorge: This sadly reminds me of the end of the late-’70s mini-dynasty. With no real strategy, management plugged holes with over-the-hill players — often trading away great talent off the farm system for damaged goods/past-prime players (à la the aforementioned Jesus Montero).

That, of course, was the height of Boss Mania — leading to an 18-year World Series drought.

Recall too that the drought ended only because George was suspended and Gene Michael had free hand to rebuild the farm system (Bernie, Jeter, Pettitte, Mo, etc.).


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