Yoan Moncada Proves the Yankees Are No Longer the Yankees

Yoan Moncada

This is not good. This. Is. Not. Good.

I was thinking of sending in the lyrics to Pearl Jam’s “Black” instead of writing this since I am holding back tears and shaking, but I wasn’t sure if turning in Eddie Vedder’s work as my own counts as plagiarism since it’s a song.

Just over four years and two months ago, I started a column that same way. That column came after Cliff Lee chose the Phillies over the Yankees. Five months after Lee didn’t end up on the Yankees and cost them a trip to the 2010 World Series, the Yankees couldn’t get him again. For weeks, Yankees fans were told Lee would be a Yankee. The Yankees would offer the most money, the Yankees gave him the best chance at winning and his supposed best friend was CC Sabathia, who was a Yankee. But somehow Lee ended up in Philadelphia.

Last week I wrote, “Get Me Yoan Moncada on the Yankees“, which now is nothing more than a waste of 1,490 words explaining why the Yankees desperately need to sign the 19-year-old Cuban. This morning, I received a text from my girlfriend that said,”Moncada to the Red Sox” and my heart sank. It was the same feeling I had in December 2010 when Jon Heyman started reporting about a “mystery team” entering the Cliff Lee sweepstakes before it was leaked to be the Phillies.

Yoan Moncada on the Red Sox? I’m sure Eddie wouldn’t have minded if I just posted his lyrics to “Black” instead of taking the time to write this depressing column.

I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life, I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky, but why? Why? why?
Can’t it be, can’t it be mine
We, we, we, we, we belong together! Together!

It’s time to look back at how I felt that day when Lee chose the Phillies and compare it today with the Yankees choosing not to sign Moncada. And like that day, quotes from Michael Scott of The Office will take us through the decision because right now that is the person who most resembles our trusty GM and ownership.

Here we go. (Now playing: “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.)

“But I always thought that the day that Steve Martin died would be the worst day of my life. I was wrong. It’s this.”

I didn’t think I would feel the same way I did on the day that Lee chose the Phillies over the Yankees, but I do. Actually, I feel worse. Moncada didn’t choose the Red Sox over the Yankees, the Yankees just didn’t choose him and that’s what hurts more. If the Yankees upped their offer, he would be a Yankee. He was going to go to the highest bidder and they were outbid. They didn’t have to do anything other than give him more money. But nowadays, the Yankees apparently don’t have money. It’s time to change the team’s marketing campaign from “Our history. Your tradition.” to “Our history. Your tradition. We’re poor.” (Now playing: “All Out Of Love” by Air Supply.)

“How do I feel about losing the sale? It’s like if Michael Phelps, came out of retirement, jumped in the pool, belly-flopped and drowned.”

In the movie Heavy Weights, at the demolished go-kart track at Camp Hope, Gerry has this exchange with Pat.

Gerry: “Did this place always stink this much?”

Pat: “No, Gerry. This place used to stink very little. In fact … it didn’t stink at all.”

Gerry: “Well, it does now.”

There was a time when a player of Moncada’s potential meant that reports that other teams like the Dodgers, Red Sox, Padres and Brewers being involved in talks for him were just noise. No one would have believed that any team other than the Yankees would land a player like Moncada. That’s no longer the case. The Yankees have become Camp Hope under Tony Perkis.

(Now playing: “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness” by The Smashing Pumpkins.)

“My whole life, I believed that America was No. 1. That was the saying. Not, ‘America is No. 2.’ England is No. 2, and China should be like 8.”

The Red Sox have never signed a free agent the Yankees truly wanted until now. Yes, the Yankees wanted Curt Schilling back in the winter of 2003, but they didn’t really pursue him. They just figured they would get him and Schilling figured he would be a Yankee until the Red Sox front office flew to Schilling’s for Thanksgiving and changed his mind. This is the first time the Red Sox have gotten a free agent the Yankees wanted and it could have been avoided for a few million more dollars. The same kind of millions they wasted on Kei Igawa or Jaret Wright or A.J. Burnett or A.J. Burnett to pitch for the Pirates or any one of a number of bust free agents past their prime.

The Red Sox greatly (and thankfully) overpaid for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was supposed to come to the majors with an unhittable “gyroball” that was going to mimick Roy Halladay’s “palmball” in EA Sports’ MVP Baseball 2005. J.D. Drew? The Yankees didn’t want him or have a need for him. Carl Crawford? Aside from a dinner with Brian Cashman, the Yankees were never really interested. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval? The Yankees were never in on them. Whenever the Yankees have gone head-to-head in free agency with the Red Sox, they have won. Until now. (Now playing: “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.)

“Here’s the sitch. Two weeks ago, I was in the worst relationship of my life. She treated me poorly, we didn’t connect, I was miserable. Now, I am in the best relationship of my life, with the same woman. Love is a mystery.”

When spring training starts, I start to worry about the Yankees. But near the end of spring training and as Opening Day gets closer, I start to feel overconfident about the Yankees. I think it will be a great year, even if it won’t be, and I talk myself into believing they will win the World Series.

Over the last couple of weeks as I started to think about this season and how it hinges on the health of Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda and how at any moment I can look at Twitter and read that one of them is hurt and POOF! the season is gone, and I’m left sitting on my thumb trying to find something else to do this summer. But then with the signing of Moncada appearing imminent and with the Yankees holding private workouts twice in the last few days, I started to gain hope that the Yankees would have the Next Big Thing in baseball and a potential superstar. Now I’m sitting here again waiting to hear that Tanaka has elbow discomfort or that Pineda has one of any of a long list of injuries he has had or could endure and the summer will be ruined. (Now playing: “With Or Without You” by U2.)

“You know what? I had fun at prom. [pause] And no one said yes to that either.”

George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973. In the 37 ½ years of his life that he ran the team (I know that number depends on when he technically stopped being in charge and you also have take away the years he was banned), no one except Greg Maddux turned down the Yankees, until Cliff Lee. Again, Yoan Moncada didn’t turn down the Yankees, the Yankees turned him down, but this is another example of life during the Hal (and maybe Hank?) Steinbrenner era.

The Yankees let the Mariners outbid them for homegrown start Robinson Cano. They didn’t care to pay to bring back their homegrown closer in his prime in David Robertson and he went to the White Sox. They let the Dodgers sign Brandon McCarthy and didn’t want to spend to enhance their rotation. They never even tried to get Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields. That’s right, the Yankees never tried to get any of the three best starting pitchers in a give free-agency year.

Sure, last year they went out and spent when they said they wouldn’t. But they got Masahiro Tanaka, who was Cy Young-worthy, but also whose right elbow is a ticking time bomb, overpaid for Jacoby Ellsbury, signed Carlons Beltran 10 years later than they should originally have and gave Brian McCann a five-year deal just in time to endure the catcher’s worst season of his career. (Now playing: “How’s It Going To Be” by Third Eye Blind.)

“You know what Toby, when the son of the deposed king of Nigeria e-mails you directly, asking for help, you help! His father ran the freaking country! OK?”

The only way I won’t feel like my dog got run over every time Moncada steps to the plate against the Yankees is if he becomes the Cuban position player version of Jose Contreras or if he is somehow lying about his age and is actually in his mid-20s right now. It was Theo Epstein in December 2002 who was trashing his hotel room after finding out Contreras had signed with the Yankees for four years, $32 million, so maybe this one will go the Yankees’ way? Or maybe Yoan Moncada is actually 29 years old?

1. Everyone who has ever seen a baseball seems to agree that Moncada is the real deal and could potentially be the best Cuban player to reach the majors yet.

2. The Yankees’ overspending in the international market means that they will not be allowed to offer an international free agent more than $300,000 for the next two years.

When you know about these two things, how do you NOT sign Moncada? If his agent tells you, the Red Sox offered $31 million, you answer back that you’re going to $35 million just to be safe. And if he tells you another team went to $35 million. You go to $40 million. That is, unless you have another potential future face of the franchise/middle-of-the-order hitter in the system, who would easily be the No. 1 pick if he were eligible for the draft. There’s a better chance A-Rod gets a standing ovation on Opening Day than there is that a player of that caliber is currently in the organization. And even if the Yankees believe they have a player like that, they also believed Eduardo Nunez would be the heir to Derek Jeter’s shortstop and were never willing to trade him in a deal for Cliff Lee or others. He ended up getting traded for a minor-leaguer because career minor-leaguer Yangerivs Solarte took his spot. (Now playing: “The Heart Of The Matter” by Don Henley.)

“There are ten rules of business that you need to learn. Number one: You need to play to win. But, you also have to … win, to play.”

I have no idea what the Yankees’ strategy is the for the future. Wait until A-Rod, Teixeira and Sabathia come off the books and then spend wildly again? In a few years when that happens, Moncada will be in the majors and hitting third for the Red Sox, and the Yankees will be trying to find a player like Moncada. If your strategy is to spend and spend and spend then you can’t take years off from spending. Especially when you’re the Yankees. Especially when you sold part of YES to FOX for an amount that could put every senior in high school in New York City through college. Especially when you’re charging $12 for watered-down Coors Lights in plastic cup. Especially when ticket prices keep going up and it costs roughly $19,000 to sit between the bases for a regular-season game on a Thursday night against the Astros.

The Yankees are like the guy at the blackjack table that stays with a 16 with the dealer showing a 7, but only sometimes. If you’re going to do something like that, then do it consistently. Don’t sign Kei Igawa because of Daisuke Matsuzaka and then not be in on Yu Darvish because Matsuzaka and Igawa sucked. Don’t say you’re not going to spend money because of the $189 million luxury tax threshold and then spend nearly $500 million on four free agents (Tanaka, Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran) because you missed the playoffs and the Red Sox won the World Series. Don’t not go out and try to get the best free agents (Lester, Scherzer, Shields, Moncada) at areas of need (starting pitching, good young talent) because the free agents you signed the year before had bad years.

That’s how small-market teams operate. They can’t afford to throw money around and have it not work out because then they don’t have any more money to throw. The Yankees aren’t a small-market team with financial restraints. They are the effing New York Yankees. It’s time they started to act like it again. (Now playing: “Un-break My Heart” by Toni Braxton.)

“I miss the feeling of knowing you did a good job because someone gives you proof of it. ‘Sir, you’re awesome, let me give you a plaque! What? A whole year has gone by? You need more proof? Here is a certificate.’ They stopped making plaques that year.”

The five-year grace period for the Yankees is over. The five years following a championship is over. If you believe in the grace period, then this year you are free to act accordingly if the Yankees don’t win the World Series.

The Yankees have won one World Series in the last 14 seasons. That one World Series is because of A-Rod. The same person that some Yankees fans seemingly hate and want to boo and the same person the Yankees are so upset with for taking performance-enhancing drugs. They are mad that he put illegal substances and likely some with unknown short-term and long-term side effects to try to stay healthy and play baseball better. Without A-Rod, the Yankees lose Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS and maybe Game 3 too. They lose Game 2 of the 2009 ALCS and maybe don’t come back in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series and trail that series 2-1.

Luckily for the Yankees, A-Rod is still a Yankee. Because this week when he is at spring training, all of the lazy media members can give their attention to him and ask questions to the Yankees about A-Rod rather than ask why they are suddenly poor and operating the way that they are. (Now playing: “The Flame” by Cheap Trick.)

“Andy Bernard. Pros: he’s classy. He gets me. He went to Cornell. I trust him. Cons: I don’t really trust him.”

I’m supposed to like Brian Cashman, but I don’t. It’s not because of this or that he told No. 2 to test the market if he didn’t like the Yankees’ offer, but they are just the icing on the cake of a mountain of problems in the last decade. I have no idea what Brian Cashman is going to do now. No one does. I don’t even know if Brian Cashman knows what he’s going to do.

I wrote that in the Cliff Lee column. Maybe this decision is on Cashman or on ownership or a combination of both, but it now applies to the entire untrustworthy front office.

There are Yankees fans that like to use the “If George were still alive …” rhetoric when things don’t go way they might have in different time, and those who don’t use that rhetoric make fun of those who do. But today, there’s nothing to make fun of. When George Steinbrenner was alive, the Yankees got the players they wanted. They didn’t always work out, but he was willing to pay to find out if they would. He was willing to make exuberant and at times reckless financial decisions to get the possible players for his team to give the Yankees the best possible chance to win. If a player or pitcher didn’t perform or live up to expectations, it didn’t deter him from investing in future players. He made sure the Yankees were the Yankees and every free agent and every team knew it. Now under his son (or sons), the Yankees are just another team.

If Moncada had signed with the Dodgers, it would have sucked, but at least he would be out of the league, out of the division, out of the rivalry and out of my life. But no, he signed in Boston. He signed with the one team he couldn’t sign and now if he is the player every scout and team seems to think he will be, I will be reminded of this day every time the Yankees play the Red Sox.

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