Stages of Grief: A Guide to Mental Health for the Yankees Fan

I’m here to help Yankees fans.

They may not believe that; they may think I’m being sarcastic or wallowing in the new reality of their predicament, but I’m giving them a truth that few are either able or willing to dispense. Be it from willful blindness, partisanship, salesmanship, or bottom line stupidity, the fact is that there’s a profound absence of honesty regarding where the Yankees go from here with an ancient core of stars, unheard of payroll constraints, failure to develop prospects, and a dimming brand.

I’m the therapist with impartial and non-judgmental analysis of how to reconcile the glorious past with the dark future.

Let’s begin.

The Stages of Grief

Stage 1: Denial and isolation

The belief that because the Yankees have made the playoffs in 16 of the past 17 years, that the success rate will continue regardless of personnel and competition is delusional. It can be argued, I suppose, that the injuries suffered by the remaining members of the “core four” Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte were circumstantial and had nothing to do with the advanced ages of all three, but injuries become more frequent and harder to recover from as an athlete ages especially today without the aid of extra little helpers such as pills and shots that have been banned by MLB. Jeter and Rivera both had significant injuries to their lower bodies and required surgery. Pettitte had a fractured fibula due to a batted ball.

Alex Rodriguez has reached the point that if he were a horse, he’d be euthanized. CC Sabathia battled elbow problems all season and also required surgery. Mark Teixeira pulled a calf muscle.

In athlete years, these players are not just heading downhill—they’re plummeting downhill. We’ve only seen A-Rod’s performance decline significantly, but expecting these players to still carry the load with backup troops such as Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, and David Robertson who have been, at best, inconsistent is denying the inevitable.

There have been repeated references to GM Brian Cashman and his stealth “ninja” moves as if he’s a latter day assassin or spy. Except Cashman’s “ninja” move from 2012 included one brilliant and obvious deal for Hiroki Kuroda; one in which his Shuriken (or throwing star) left his hand and wound up being impaled in Michael Pineda’s shoulder. He made other lucky deals for Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, and Ichiro Suzuki.

Cashman, when asked if it was possible that Eduardo Nunez would play third base to replace A-Rod, he did his Cashman “thing” by giving the obvious answer, “No,” and following it up with an exercise in hardheadedness when, instead of saying the truth of “Nunez has a stone glove and is scatterarmed,” he clung to his “Joba Chamberlain is a starter”-type blindness and said, “I’ve looked at (Nunez) as a shortstop.”

This isn’t denial. It’s an arrogance of little-man syndrome and from working for the “I’m never wrong,” George Steinbrenner for so long that if he backs down on anything, it’s a perceived sign of weakness. He may have looked at Nunez as a shortstop like he looked at Chamberlain as a starter, but clearly he didn’t see.

The “poor us” lament is inviting the eye-rolling and laughter from other organizations that for years have suffered through the Yankees superiority complex permeating their entire being through the media and fans. Nobody wants to hear it and they’re certainly not getting any condolence calls.

Recommendation: Stop crying. The team’s old and falling apart.

Stage 2: Anger

Blame is everywhere. From the Steinbrenners for choosing to limit the payroll for 2014 to $189 million and preventing the team from doing what they did when the acquired A-Rod in the first place—piling on; to Cashman for his failed trades and inability to develop viable prospects to replace the aging stars; to field staff, trainers, and doctors; to the players themselves for daring to age like normal humans, there’s a movement to find someone to toss overboard as a means of sacrifice to end the “bad luck” that is, really, life itself reverberating back on the team that has had so many moments of serendipity since its acquisition of Babe Ruth.

Recommendation: Understand that you’re entitled to nothing and there’s no one to be mad at. It was because of fan demand that there was never a serious plan for the future regardless of reaction from the outside (and inside) forces wanting stars at every position and results now! There will be no results now!!! This is what it is. And what it is ain’t good.

Stage 3: Bargaining

Had the Mets not agreed to a contract extension for David Wright, how long before the desperate Yankees fans would push the club to make a trade for the Mets’ star? Of if the Marlins hadn’t traded Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays, would there be advocates to trade for Reyes and move Jeter to third base? How about Chase Headley? Or Evan Longoria? Or Miguel Cabrera? Or someone, anyone who would have a semblance of star power that the Yankees must have simply because they’re the Yankees?

There are already fans clamoring for Josh Hamilton as there were those a year ago pushing for Albert Pujols to replace Teixeira; or demanding the acquisition of Zack Greinke and/or Cole Hamels at the trading deadline last season because Sabathia was missing a couple of starts with his elbow trouble.

There’s no deal to be made. The Yankees have so many needs and so few prospects remaining—with Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances both having flamed out; Jesus Montero gone for Pineda—that they have very little they can afford to give up and not much after that that other teams want. You’ll get someone else’s junk/bad contract for what the Yankees have to trade.

They were said to be looking at Yunel Escobar, which is something I’d desperately love to see because Escobar has forced two teams, the Braves and Blue Jays, to get rid of him and all his talent in large part because he acts like an entitled, immature brat with no baseball or common sense. Joe Girardi would put him in a headlock and drag him down the clubhouse steps by late April.

Kevin Youkilis? Something else I’d love to see, but I cannot imagine Cashman—even in his most idiotic, “Let’s bring Javier Vazquez and Carl Pavano back because I’m just that obstinate,” moments of woodheadedness going there.

Recommendation: Forget the stars. They can’t get them. They’ll re-sign Chavez and probably a roll of the dice type player coming off an injury like Mark DeRosa; a journeyman like Greg Dobbs, or (now this would be funny), Cody Ransom!!

Stage 4: Depression

Once it sinks in that there’s no Steinbrennerean January explosion of a maneuver specifically timed to take the headlines away from the Super Bowl; that they don’t have the ability to do anything significant to get better than what they are now, the fans will look at the rest of the AL East with the young Rays; the drastically improved Blue Jays; the Red Sox in a similar predicament with the Yankees, albeit with more money to spend; and the Orioles no longer a running gag and punching bag, and realize that the odds of a championship run are nearly non-existent; a playoff run is pretty much a best-case scenario, and finishing at or under .500 a legitimate possibility.

There will be the epitome of brainless fan who equates the Yankees with an unassailable monument that must be a World Series contender and calls a Jeter/Rivera injury a “tragedy” and compares the walk back to the subway after the games in which their totems were injured to a “funeral procession.” That fan will think that there’s a conspiracy against the Yankees. The rest will just get depressed, overeat and drink.

Recommendation: Head to Cheeburger Cheeburger and gorge; then go to a bar and start drinkin’.

Stage 5: Acceptance

For a vast majority, this won’t occur until September when the season is long-since shot. Yes, in January/February there will be concern, but hope; yes, in March/April/May there will be the past to look back upon as a lifeline; by June/July when the contending teams that are buying available reinforcements for a playoff run and the Yankees are conspicuously on the sidelines or—dare I say it?—selling will the horror come to life.

Then they’ll start the process all over again expecting there to be a 2008-2009-type reaction to a disappointing season by spending a ton of money to fill the holes. Except they don’t have any money to spend due to the $189 million limit for 2014. They can backload deals, but they also have to sign Robinson Cano and replace Granderson and perhaps Rivera and Pettitte. In addition, teams are no longer leaving their players available to the big market clubs. If you think the Yankees will turn around and trade for Andrew McCutchen, well, forget it because he’s signed and committed to Pittsburgh. The Yankees will, by then, be more likely to scour the bargain bin that will get them Daniel McCutchen instead of Andrew.

Maybe some fans will be fooled.

Recommendation: It’s acceptance. So accept it. The Yankees are old, can’t spend a ton of money, and are in trouble. A lot of it.

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  1. #1 by Jeff on December 4, 2012 - 5:59 pm

    Brilliant! Now Yankees fans get to experience what it’s like to REALLY be a baseball fan. There are ups, and there are downs. Get used to it, entitled Yankees fans. Loved the recommendations here… just as funny as they are real.

    • #2 by admin on December 5, 2012 - 1:27 am

      The reactions are gonna…be….CLASSIC when they’re playing up to their capabilities—capabilities that are, um, limited.

  2. #3 by Rusty on December 4, 2012 - 11:06 pm

    Very cute article! Should we go and seek out advise from the Braves fans? They’ve had 7 years to get over the loss of a 15 year dynasty.

    I am looking forward to your Yankee post-mortem around this time next year when they loose Cano and Grady and foolishly overpay someone 20 mil a year for 7 years to please the fans for not signing either one of the two.

    I’ve been a baseball fan since 1981, so it’s not a biggie for me to see the Yanks suck again for a long period of time. It makes it more exciting as I wonder how they’ll work to solve this dilemma. I know they don’t want to do the dreaded R-word, but I really don’t think they have much choice in the matter.

    • #4 by admin on December 5, 2012 - 1:30 am

      I would not trust Cashman to steer the team out of this.

  3. #5 by Bucephallus on December 6, 2012 - 4:28 am

    Most of the anti-Yankee commentary I have read on this subject seems to suggest (gleefully) that the Yankees are at the beginning of a long period of decline. I do not believe that the facts support such a conclusion.
    The Yankees made a conscious decision to reduce payroll by 2014. Even at the reduced level, they will still have a 189 million dollar payroll, and there is certain to be some talented players on the team. Once the 2014 season is complete, the Yankees will go on a spending spree the likes of which baseball has never seen. You guys are all gonna be crying about how unfair it is that Yankees have more money than other teams.
    The Yankees farm system has greatly improved under Cashman and is especially talent rich at the AA level. It is likely that several of this group will be ready to compete at the major league level at about the same time that the payroll tax is reset.
    Sneer and gloat all you want Yankee haters. It may take a couple of years, but the Yankees will be back to stomp your team’s gourds to paste again.
    Granderson can walk. Not worth what it will take to extend him.

    • #6 by admin on December 6, 2012 - 3:59 pm

      If you truly believe that this team is going to be competitive as currently constructive, I cannot help you. If you’re going to credit Cashman for his player development when the supposed Yankees hot prospects have, for the most part, either been traded away or failed miserably, then you’ll deserve your fate as you watch the upcoming seasons and see that I wasn’t sneering nor gloating—truthfully, I don’t care about the Yankees good or bad—and was speaking a truth you plainly and simply do not want to hear.
      Where are they talent rich? Both Manny Banuelos and Jose Campos are on the disabled list; Dellin Betances was at Double A because he lost the strike zone and was awful at Triple A; and they threw Jesus Montero away on Michael Pineda, from whom you should expect nothing and be happy if he provides something.
      “Stomp your team’s gourds to paste”? Really?
      Keep looking forward to the winter of 2014-2015 because at this point, it’s all you have to cling to.

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