The Youkilis And Ichiro Signings Fit The 2013 Yankees—And That’s The Problem

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Gone are the days when the Yankees acted decisively, swiftly and, if need be, expensively to fill all their gaping or perceived holes that cost them a World Series the year before. In 2009, when they did win their lone World Series over the past decade, they were still looking for ways in improve by making bold changes in letting World Series MVP Hideki Matsui depart as a free agent, trading away another post-season hero Melky Cabrera, reacquiring Javier Vazquez, and acquiring Curtis Granderson.

Some worked, some wound up being a wash, some were disastrous, but at least they were doing something for the short and long terms and at least they were done in the Yankee fashion of money being no object in the interests of getting better.

The new Yankee template has nothing to do with getting better. It has to do with getting cheaper; spackling over holes because they’re too expensive to repair correctly; dropping nuggets into the media to keep them relevant or provide cover stories (the Josh Hamilton talk and GM Brian Cashman not being allowed to spend money at the winter meetings); and signing players not based on what they can do, but to placate the fans. They created this dynamic with the image of a first class organization and budgetless wheelbarrows full of cash from the Steinbrenners and the World Series or bust concept that anything less than a championship was deemed a failure. Now they’re facing the consequences of that business model and the desire/need to get the payroll down to $189 million by 2014.

Two more short-term signings have been made to fill a hole (Kevin Youkilis) and to make the fans happy (Ichiro Suzuki). Youkilis agreed to a 1-year, $12 million contract and the details of a contract with Ichiro are reportedly being finalized, but he’s returning.

The Youkilis signing makes plenty of sense and fills the chasm created by Alex Rodriguez’s hip surgery and apparent absence until the summer. The Ichiro signing, if it’s done in the interests of him playing regularly, is a bad one. In years past, the Yankees would’ve thanked Ichiro for his help from August onward and moved along with someone younger and better. But they can’t afford anyone better. They can’t trade for a young third baseman like Chase Headley because they no longer have the prospects, so they had to sign Youkilis. They can’t dive into the free agent market for a Hamilton. Agents and players aren’t going straight to the Yankees safe in the knowledge that if the Yankees want the player or are desperate enough, the money will be a secondary issue because it’s plainly and simply there as a matter of course. That world doesn’t exist anymore.

They’re left with this: signing a useful player like Youkilis who doesn’t fit in with the Yankees clubhouse but, as a short-term fill-in, was the best option for their shockingly limited resources. There’s a possibility that Youkilis will either be a toned down version of himself or be advised how to act like a “Yankee” and not a “Red Sox.” This might affect his play on the field moving forward. Bear in mind that Youkilis isn’t the player he was in his Red Sox heyday.

Ichiro on the other hand, became a fan favorite because of his solid play after being acquired from the Mariners in late July. He played his usual solid defense, was a part of the landscape rather than the diva he’d become with the Mariners, and seemed rejuvenated by playing on a contender. None of that means he should’ve been re-signed or that he would’ve been re-signed as a regular contributor if prior Yankees’ incarnations were still the order of the day.

Here are the facts about Ichiro: he’s a declining 39-year-old player who batted .322 with a .340 on-base percentage and a .337 BAbip in 240 plate appearances as a Yankee. Even at the height of his powers, the split between his batting average and OBP has always been quite low because he doesn’t walk. He looked good for the Yankees because the balls he was hitting were finding a spot between the fielders, but in reality he wasn’t much better for the Yankees on the field than he’s been for the Mariners in the past two seasons. He’ll steal a few bases, show good glove work, and maybe have what looks like a good year with the bat. Good doesn’t necessarily mean productive. That’s the player they’re getting and if he’s asked to contribute for 400 at bats, it’s abundantly clear how far the Yankees have fallen in the hot stove competition and are destined to fall when the real competition begins in April of 2013.

They’re trying to save money as an end unto itself expecting the pinstripes and Yankees lore to be enough of an attraction to bring fans to the park no matter the state of the team. The implication of damaging the brand is not without merit. The on-field product will be cheaper, no doubt, but they’ll also be bringing in less money because of a lack of interest. They’re signing veterans past their sell-by date and hoping they have a small spring of baseball life left to “experience” their way into the playoffs. It’s a hard sell and it shows—not in a good way.

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A-Rod, “Reporting” and Journalistic Ineptitude

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We can only speculate as to the look on Michael Kay’s face as he sat down to his customary breakfast of a chicken parm smoothie and a hot, percolating pot of Postum and received the news that Alex Rodriguez had another hip injury and would miss a chunk of the 2013 season. It would be understandable if Kay spat out his Postum and chicken parm in one gloppy, colorful, repulsive mess when reading that A-Rod had again torn the same hip that was surgically repaired in 2009. This exercise in professional reporting and journalistic excellence was exemplified by Joel Sherman as he said the following on Twitter:

Hear exclusively Alex Rodriguez was playing with re-tear in surgically repaired hip Likely going for another surgery ‪#Yankees

Rodriguez was dealing with hip re-tear during playoffs, tried to play thru. Explains why really couldn’t use lower half in swing ‪#Yankees

“Exclusively.” Exclusively wrong maybe.

Then the re-tweets began by the reporters who were jumping on a story clearly before it had been verified as Jon Heyman, Jack Curry, Ken Davidoff and the rest of the experts put forth the inaccurate report that A-Rod re-tore the same hip (his right). The stories haven’t even been spiritually correct as you can see in this Yahoo posting as Ken Rosenthal is quoted as saying:

A-Rod’s injury occurred during the postseason and that he was experiencing pain so severe that he spent a night in the emergency room following one of the ALDS games.

It’s the left hip now and no one knew about it until last month when it was diagnosed. A-Rod did complain about a twinge in the surgically repaired right hip in the playoffs, went to the hospital and had an MRI which revealed nothing. The story is fluid which, to translate, means nobody knows anything. They’re reporting information as it comes in and relying on sources that don’t know what’s going on either.

They could try to cover their own behinds by saying that when they said, “re-tear,” they were referring to another tear and didn’t mean that he’d torn the same hip, but of course that would be an outright lie. You can read the tweets and re-tweets of Sherman here. It’s a who’s who of ineptitude and crying wolf.

I have no idea who Sherman was quoting and whether he misheard and misunderstood what they said; if they told him the wrong thing and he ran with it. What I’d like to know is when this is going to end with those who are supposed to be dispensing the news rushing to be the first to deliver the story and getting it completely wrong!!! Then their reporting brethren report the same wrong story!!!!

Clearly Sherman, the leader of the hack brigade, learned nothing from his news that the Yankees had acquired Cliff Lee in July of 2010 when they had not acquired Cliff Lee.

Getting the truth is meaningless today and that’s not being a reporter, it’s being a pop-up ad and/or spammer. Unfortunately there are never any consequences for these repeated, infrastructural gaffes.

As for the Yankees, they’re a team that was already on shaky ground when it came to contending for their one and only objective every single year—a championship—and now they not only have to find a right fielder and a catcher, but they need to figure out what they’re going to do about third base. I wrote about the host of Yankees issues earlier today and also explained why they’re adhering so rigidly to the $189 million by 2014 mandate.

For the future, given the way the A-Rod contract has gone down the tubes, how does this affect the Yankees negotiations with Robinson Cano after the 2013 season? It’s Yankees policy not to give a player a contract extension before it’s absolutely necessary. This is a George Steinbrenner tactic that they never bothered to change no matter who the player is. It’s going to cost them a great deal more money than if they copied the Rays’ strategy and tried to sign their players to reasonable deals before it got to this point. But with A-Rod breaking down entirely at age 37, are the Yankees going to give Cano the $200+ million he and Scott Boras are sure to ask for? Could they dare to play chicken with Cano and let him get onto the market with the risk that another team—the Dodgers?—would give him more money than the Yankees?

It’s reasonable to be hesitant with the contracts the type A-Rod signed and what Cano will ask for becoming a universally losing proposition, will the Yankees draw a line that they won’t cross or will they repeat the risks of the past?

There’s no solution out there given the payroll mandates, age, lack of prospects on the farm, and now the injuries. In short, it’s a new disaster for the Yankees except, unlike the past, they don’t have the capacity to toss money at it to cover it up.

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