State of the Yankees

It’s the third day without baseball. Only 180 to go. And the worst part about the 180 days between today and Opening Day 2014 isn’t that there isn’t a real baseball game that counts that I care about, it’s the endless cycle of nonsense that begins because there aren’t any real games to talk about. What nonsense? This type of nonsense:

Will the Yankees go over the $189 million threshold? Do they need to in order to sign Robinson Cano? How much will they sign him for? What if Cano signs elsewhere? Who will become the face of the franchise when Derek Jeter retires? Will Derek Jeter ever be Derek Jeter again? Will he play the full season in 2014? How many more years will he play for? What happens with him after 2014? If Cano is gone, where will they get their power from? Will they re-sign Curtis Granderson? Will they re-sign Mark Reynolds? Is CC Sabathia going to be CC Sabathia in 2014? Who will fill out the rotation after CC and Ivan Nova? Will they re-sign Hiroki Kuroda? Is Phil Hughes really , truly, finally gone? And Joba too? Will Michael Pineda be given a rotation spot or will he have to earn one?

And let’s not forget about the highest-paid player in baseball history, who wakes up each morning to attend an appeal hearing for his 211-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use. But that nonsense will never end because whether A-Rod’s suspension is upheld or vetoed or shortened, there will be a story to follow the story and every day will continue to be a circus led by the New York Daily News until the last game A-Rod ever plays.

Do you know how to avoid having the nonsense start on Oct. 1? Make the playoffs, that’s how. But the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs for the second time since 1993 and so the nonsense schedule got pushed up to the beginning of October instead of the beginning of November as did Brian Cashman’s annual State of the Yankees. Cashman gave his end-of-the-year press conference on Tuesday and addressed just about everything there is to address when the Yankees win just 85 games.

On the season as a whole.

“It was a tough one. We didn’t get to where we wanted to be. Obviously it was a struggle all year; a lot of disappointment whether it’s injuries, reoccurring injuries, underperformance, unexpected poor performance. We didn’t get where we needed to be and there were a lot of reasons for it. We obviously fought to the end. I appreciated the effort that our guys provided on a daily basis. Everybody that was healthy or even the guys that weren’t healthy that tried to get healthy and even those who failed in their efforts to return or their returns were brief. There was always effort. For that, I never saw that being an issue. We weren’t good enough, period. We are where we belong, which is on the outside looking in.”

After saying, “It was a tough one. We didn’t get to where we wanted to be,” I wish Cashman would have just read his part about “injuries, reoccurring injuries, underperformance and unexpected poor performances” in list form like this:

Injuries: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Francisco Cervelli, Eduardo Nunez, Brett Gardner, Jayson Nix Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain (and also Corban Joseph, Luis Cruz and Zoilo Almonte)

Reoccuring injuries: Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira

Underperformance: Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis

Unexpected poor performance: CC Sabathia, Ichiro Suzuki, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Hiroki Kuroda’s last eight starts and everything about the catchers

Why sugarcoat the 2013 season and give a paragraph answer when a simple list of names would do?

On A-Rod and his appeal.

“I operate on the assumption that I have him until they tell me otherwise. I’m not really in a position to talk about the Alex stuff. We’re not a party to it. I know from the media reports it was supposed to start yesterday and for a while there, until I looked on Twitter and saw certain things about people coming and going I wasn’t even sure if it had started or not. Because that’s how out of the loop I am on it. There’s not much to say on it. At this stage I’m not a participant in any way.”

If you don’t think Brian Cashman has been searching the backyard of his Darien home for four-leaf clovers or sleeping with a necklace of rabbit’s feet around his neck and pulling out every possible stop to hope for his wish of A-Rod suspensions coming true, so the team doesn’t have to pay him, then you’re lost.

I like Cashman’s whole “I know from media reports it was supposed to start yesterday” and his “I wasn’t even sure if it had started or not” thing like he hasn’t been following it the way I would follow weather reports hoping for a snow day from elementary school through high school. And even if he was telling the truth here about not knowing the details of the appeal, then he’s saying he doesn’t care to know about the situation of his highest-paid player facing a 211-game suspension. No one’s saying you are participating, Cash, but you might want to be in the loop on it a little bit. It only greatly impacts every decision you make this offseason. No big deal.

On staying under the $189 million threshold.

“It’s certainly a goal. It’s not a mandate. It’s a goal that we have and if it’s possible, there’s a lot of benefits to staying under that, but it’s not a mandate if it’s at the expense of a championship. It just depends on what the opportunities are before us, and the costs associated with it and if the feelings are if we don’t do something it will prevent us from taking a run, then I think his commentary that he’s already made at the owners’ meetings as well as spring training is that it’s a goal, not a mandate, Every option, every opportunity that comes my way whether by trade or free agency, I will always present to my owner and team president for evaluation. We will provide recommendations, they will provide their thoughts on what we should do and the final call on whatever is going to be done. So it’s a goal, not a mandate.”

“It’s certainly a goal. It’s not a mandate,” to me sounds like, “Do you remember what happened the last time we missed the postseason?” And the answer to that is Mark Teixeira got $180 million, CC Sabathia got $161 million and A.J. Burnett got $82.5 million. The only problem with that is that this free-agent class isn’t as good as the one from five years ago. The best free-agent class since the post-2008 class isn’t until next year, but by then it might not be as strong with teams extending players over the next year.

On re-signing Robinson Cano.

“We’d love to have Robbie back. There’s not much more for me to say about that, but our intention is to have him back, if we can. He’ll receive without question, or has received, a significant offer to stay, so he’ll have something legitimately to ponder. We’ll have to again, play that one out as well, see where it takes us. He’s been a great Yankee. I think if he stays he’ll have a legitimate chance to experience what you just saw, for instance, for Mariano. Maybe he has the chance to be the first Dominican-born player in Monument Park. A home-grown Yankee. But at the same time. It’s a business.”

So far Cano has reportedly receivers offers of eight years, $138 million and six years, $144 million, neither of which the Yankees could have possibly thought he would sign. And then a report comes out that Cano is looking for $305 million, which was reported by Buster Olney and not The Onion.

Cano isn’t going to get $305 million, but he’s probably going to get $200 million and even that’s ridiculous when you consider that Dustin Pedroia signed an eight-year, $110 million extension and is 10 months younger than Cano.

I like Cashman using his answer to include a sales pitch to Cano about being the first Dominican-born player in Monument Park and being a home-grown Yankee as if a player reportedly looking for $305 million cares about his Number 24 going beyond the center-field wall. It seems like Cano is going wherever the biggest offer comes from and if it’s not the Yankees, the seats between the bases (the moat seats) are going to look a lot emptier than they have in any of the first five seasons of the new Stadium.

On the lack of home runs and power this season.

“It was definitely significantly affected by injuries. We knew were going to lose Alex, we signed Youkilis to replace Alex to give us coverage while Alex came back, then Youkilis went down, Teixeira unexpectedly went down, Granderson unexpectedly went down twice; that’s a lot of home runs to be losing from your lineup. And no matter how many waiver claims or trades we could come up with, it was all just trying to cushion the blow. It’s not easy to find power out there, especially at that time of year. Then Hafner obviously went down. Injuries took a significant portion of our power out.”

You mean the Makeshift Yankees couldn’t provide the missing power from the New York Yankees? I wonder if all the genius fans from the 2012 season who complained about the Yankees hitting too many home runs and relying too much on home runs rather than stringing together singles and playing small ball enjoy not watching the Yankees play in October?

On if the Yankees will sign power hitters for 2014.

“Players I like to gravitate to, clearly, are on base percentage. I was taught by Gene Michael, as the guys who take – they’re are selective at the plate and can beat you with their bat.The long ball. I love the big long ball. Stick always believed in the old Earl Weaver way. That’s what I was taught and raised in. so the players I typically gravitate to are those type of guys. And it was certainly hard to find those type of guys on the run, as the roster choices, as we went from March on, trying to cushion blows, it’s not easy to find power guys, as much as maybe as in years past, certainly it wasn’t easy for us to plug the holes. I wasn’t able to do that. I failed in my efforts to get that done. Power is a big piece of this franchise, and something I believe in.”

I’m glad Cashman isn’t part of the Too Many Home Runs Club. But it’s telling when he says “It’s not easy to find power guys, as much as maybe in years past,” which clearly shows how the landscape of valuing players has changed and there are less and less potential big-name free agents hitting the market or available late in spring. It’s hard to fault him for Mark Teixeira injuring his wrist during the World Baseball Classic (and generally being Mark Teixeira) or for Curtis Granderson getting hit by two pitches that ruined his season. But was Travis Hafner as a power option really going to be relied on for a full season after only playing more than 94 games once since 2007? And was Kevin Youkilis, who missed 40 games in 2012, 42 games in 2011 and 60 games in 2010 (and missing 134 games this year) suddenly going to stop getting hurt like an aging player as he aged?

On CC Sabathia.

“Based on the year he just had velocity-wise, if that didn’t come back this year, I don’t know why it would start to come back next year. So I’m going to assume he’s going to be pitching at the current velocity that he kind of settled into this year in the second half. Obviously the home run ball was a big problem for him this year; that historically I know can be fluky. That’s something that can be and we certainly hope is an aberration. His strikeouts per 9, his walks per 9 are right where he was in ‘09 and 2010. Despite the lack of velocity, that shows his pitchability whether it’s the high-octane 97 versus what he’s sitting at now, the pitchability is still there. He had the ability to swing and miss and command the strike zone and pound it. So avoiding the home run ball or eliminating that should take care of all his issues.”

Home runs are fluky like batting average is about being lucky, right? Derek Jeter has just been the luckiest guy in the league since 1996 and CC Sabathia was the unluckiest pitcher in the league this year. Or Sabathia was a guy, who to his own admission, said this about his problems: “It’s me being stubborn, too, and not wanting to change and thinking that I’ve got stuff figured out.”

I’m not sure why Sabathia’s velocity is talked about as much as it is. No, he isn’t throwing 96-97 anymore, but he hasn’t thrown that hard consistently in a while, not just in 2013. He was still in the mid-90s with his fastball and with his repertoire of pitches, 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA is unacceptable. There are plenty of lefties around the league who do a lot more (and did a lot more this season) with a lot less than Sabathia and would probably trade a year of their careers to be able to obtain the velocity that Sabathia does still have.

And whether home runs are fluky or not, giving up 28 of them (and leading the league in earned runs) as he did as the supposed “ace” of the staff making $23 million per year isn’t something worthy of excuses.

On whether or not the bench needs to be more experienced for 2014.

“I don’t know if it’s more experienced; I just want quality ones. You would love to have as much young as you could possibly have, if it’s good. If it’s not, that’s what you’ve seen us do in the past, the (Eric) Chavezes and things of that nature. If you have a right-handed hitting power third baseman, you’d love to have an alternative left-handed hitting option so you pick and choose when you want to rest a player like an Alex. You can run the alternative out there more for matchup purposes and stuff like that. Typically the bench is a veteran situation because younger players aren’t used to sitting around and knowing what they need to do to be prepared. That’s always an adjustment and a growth period that takes place over time, with playing. Bottom line is the bench typically is experienced. You’d want to have a good quality strong bench without a doubt. That’s always been an effort.”

Eric Chavez signed with the Diamondbacks for $3 million.

Raul Ibanez signed with the Mariners for $2.75 million.

Cashman gave $12 million to Youkilis, $2 million to Hafner and $11.5 million this season and $2.4 million next season in the trade for Vernon Wells once Granderson went down. Give me a minute while I collect myself and get some tissues to wipe away these tears.

On Michael Pineda.

“We shut him down as a healthy player in the end. He’ll compete for a job in spring training. He’s got options and I don’t think it’s healthy for anybody to guarantee anything so I’m not going to sit here just because he’s Michael Pineda and we have high hopes to say hey we can pencil him into our rotation. He’s got to obviously show that he can stay healthy and that he’s effective while he’s pitching. We certainly hope that’s going to be the case, but I’m not going to sit here and guarantee anything on that either. But it certainly would go a long way towards solving some problems, if that was the case.”

With Pineda having thrown zero pitches for the Yankees over the last two seasons and with Jesus Montero hitting .252/.293/.327 for the Mariners over the last two seasons and then being suspended 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs, I would say that trade has been a wash so far.

But when I think back to Pineda’s 2011 season and his 8-6, 3.03 first half that got him on the All-Star team as a rookie and his 9.1 K/9 and his 2.9 BB/9, it’s hard to think of him as a front-end starter for the Yankees in 2014.

On the Yankees’ struggles with the farm system and draft.

“In terms of changes, we’re always looking at that kind of stuff, and if there are any changes to be made, well make them. We have struggled out of the draft here the last number of years; some of it signability, whether it was a Gerrit Cole, some of it was injuries, like last year’s No. 1 pick Ty Hensley having double hip surgery. Some of our picks haven’t panned out. I think this last year we did really well, but in fairness, you always feel that when you make the selections, so were evaluating that as well. … We haven’t had as fruitful results from the draft here recently as we had hoped and anticipated.”

Hey, remember the time the Yankees draft Gerrit Cole with the 28th pick in the 2010 draft and then his family told the Yankees they didn’t have a chance? Cole’s dad said he told the Yankees, “We said, ‘We appreciate the opportunity, but if we were to entertain a discussion of finances, it would give you the impression you had a shot.’”And remember when Cole was then drafted by the Pirates with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft and made his MLB debut in 2013 going 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA while the Yankees’ highly-touted first-round pick from 2004 named Phil Hughes was losing 13 games for an 85-win team? I’m going to need a minute to collect myself again.

On Derek Jeter.

“I certainly hope to get Derek back to the Derek that we’re all used to. He’s one of those guys that did everything in his power to fight through something that turned out to be pretty significant. And so now he’ll have some time to back off, get some rest, some more flexibility back, and get every aspect of that ankle in line, as far as the kinetic chain. So it’ll put him in position to have the typical training regimen he’s used to, as he prepares for the season. He’ll be able to do that. The expectation is that when that happens, and does occur, he can put significant distance between what we saw and all lived through with him, the last year, where obviously it was something that was really limiting him to being the player he’s capable of being again.”

I’m not going to comment on Derek Jeter or Cashman’s answer because Derek Jeter is going to return to being Derek Jeter again in 2014 and I won’t believe otherwise. Instead I will just refer to Eli from The Girl Next Door and his answer to being a little young to skip film school: “Shut the eff up! Next question.”

On the upcoming offseason.

“We’ve got a lot of problems that we need to attack. Starting rotation is an area that is one we need to look at. There are questions on the left side of the infield; three of the four spots of the infield, actually, because of the free agency of Cano. We’ll see. Those obviously stand out. … There are a lot of areas to focus on this winter more than previous winters.” about 17 hours ago

180 days to go. Let the nonsense begin.

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