Many of you are well aware of my opinions about the philosophy of our Yankees organization - to attempt catching lightning in a bottle with veterans on the downsides of their careers. Frankly, I feel that it’s a strategy pointing the club in the direction of mediocrity, and the results tend to give validity to that argument.
During Brian Cashman’s “regime”, the Yankees have managed just one title over the past 14 seasons. Clearly his mentality as GM is very different from that of former GM Gene Michael and the team’s success reflects it.
Our run of championships prior to 2009 was the result of taking chances with prospects working their way through our farm system. Bernie Williams had 142 major league games under his belt by age 24, Jorge Posada’s first full season was at age 26, Mariano Rivera was throwing his darts from the mound in the Bronx at age 26.
The Big Texan, Andy Pettitte was just 23 when he started 26 games in 1995, and The Captain, Derek Jeter was just 22, and coming off a minor league season that saw him commit 29 errors at Columbus when he took his storied spot in the field at shortstop.
They were all gambles that paid off, and certainly for each one of them, there probably were 10 others that did not. As the saying goes “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. Unfortunately it is clear those days are distant memories.
Today, manager Joe Girardi announced that veteran Stephen Drew would be the team’s starting second baseman when the season opened. Saying “We signed him to be our second baseman. Our plan for it is to be Stephen.", Girardi effectively snuffed out the hopes of either Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder in competing for the spot. In addition, it assures that at least one of them will start the season at Triple A Scranton.
Girardi’s statement goes much deeper than just a decision about a position in the field. It signifies that he has little or no say as to what team he brings north for Opening Day. While he and his binder might be able to make in-game decisions, when it comes to personnel he has about as much influence as the Queen of England does in matters of State.
Cashman all but named Drew the starting second baseman in January when he signed him. At the time, I wondered if that decision shouldn’t be left to the manager who could better evaluate the players during Spring Training.
To date, Drew has been outplayed in the field and at the plate by both Refsnyder and Pirela – by a wide margin – yet Girardi’s statement indicates that simply because the team signed Drew, he would be the starting second baseman. Nowhere does Girardi mention the quality of play or who has played best at second.
So, here we are, with no lessons learned. Aging veteran Brian Roberts was our starter at the position to open 2014 and 90 games later was relieved of his duties after hitting .237 - 87 points higher than Drew hit with the Yankees after Roberts left.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have nothing against Stephen Drew personally. He’s just not Yankee material – at least not the Yankee material I’ve experienced through my lifetime. He represents the stale play that has brought us seasons that end in September .
Many say “well, what if Refsnyder or Pirela started and failed, where’s the safety net?”. There was a day when we didn’t ask that question, instead we said “let’s see where this guy takes us and we’ll deal with it if he stumbles”. The whole mentality of the Yankees organization has changed to a “glass is half empty” outlook under Cashman (I wrote what I think Cashman’s problem is in February. You can read it here).
What’s the point of a “safety net” if it represents the worst hitter in Major League Baseball (in 2014)? Drew admittedly is still learning second base (though he played 39 games there last season and had the entire off season to work more), and he said so after making an error (took the wrong angle on a ground ball) during the first opponent’s at-bat of the spring.
If I’m Adam Warren, I am very concerned regarding Girardi’s “Drew is starting” statement. Warren is supposedly competing for the fifth spot in the rotation- and has looked very good so far. Unfortunately, Brian Cashman deemed Chris Capuano the fifth starter when he signed him in December.
How long before “Her Majesty” declares “Chris Capuano is our fifth starter. We signed him to be a starter. Our plan is for it to be Chris.”?
I truly fear for our team. We have a GM and Manager both gutless in their jobs. Our GM doesn’t trust the players he drafted enough to give them a chance, and buckles to the promotional campaigns of Jon Heyman and Scott Boras. Our binder-bound manager lacks the spine to stand up for the more deserving players and prefers the “good soldier” role in appeasing the GM.
Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Luis Severino and Tyler Austin take notice. Chances are that you’ll either be traded for, or supplanted with a 30-something veteran who last played well in 2010 and signed for $5 million.We have a “Prime Minister” GM who calls the shots and a manager more than willing to be nothing more than a figurehead. This team needs an organizational revolution before its relevance fades into history.