Yankees Belt-Tightening, Part II—the Aftereffects of Austerity

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In normal circumstances, the words “austerity measures” would never be linked with “$200 million payroll,” but that’s where the Yankees currently are.

With that $200 million payroll and the upcoming strict penalties on franchises with higher payrolls, the mandate has come down from ownership for the Yankees to get the total down to $189 million by 2014. This will supposedly save as much as $50 million in taxes and they’ll be able to spend again after 2014.

I wrote about this in detail here.

But what will the team look like by 2014 and will players want to join the Yankees when they’re no longer the “Yankees,” but just another team that’s struggled for two straight years and whose future isn’t attached to the stars Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte who will either be gone by then or severely limited in what they can still accomplish?

To illustrate how far the Yankees have fallen under this new budget, the catcher at the top of their depth chart is Francisco Cervelli who couldn’t even stick with the big league club as a backup last season. They lost Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Eric Chavez, and Raul Ibanez. The latter three, they wanted back. They couldn’t pay for Martin, Chavez and Ibanez? What’s worse, they appeared to expect all three to wait out the Yankees and eschew other job offers in the hopes that they’d be welcomed back in the Bronx.

What’s worse: the ineptitude or the arrogance?

If George Steinbrenner were still around, he’d have said, “To hell with the luxury tax,” and qualified such an attitude by referencing the amount of money the team wasted over the years on such duds as Carl Pavano, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Steve Karsay, Kyle Farnsworth, Pedro Feliciano and countless others, many of whom were total unknowns to George, therefore he wouldn’t have received the convenient blame for their signings with a baseball exec’s eyeroll, head shake and surreptitious gesture toward the owner’s box, “blame him, not me,” thereby acquitting themselves when they were, in fact, guilty. But now, the bulk of the responsibility falls straight to the baseball people. He’d also be under the belief that the Yankees brand of excellence couldn’t withstand what they’re increasingly likely to experience in 2013-2014 and that the money would wind up back in their pockets eventually due to their success.

Are there financial problems that haven’t been disclosed? A large chunk of the YES Network was recently sold to Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. In years past, that money would’ve functioned as a cash infusion and gone right back into the construction of the club, but it hasn’t. They’re still not spending on players over the long term with that looming shadow of 2014 engulfing everything they plan to do. Every improvement/retention is on a one or two year contract: Kevin Youkilis—1-year; Hiroki Kuroda—1-year; Ichiro Suzuki—2-years. It’s hard to find younger, impact players when constrained so tightly and the players they’ve signed are older and/or declining which is why they were available to the Yankees on short-term contracts in the first place.

The Yankees don’t have any young players on the way up to bolster the veteran troops.

It takes inexplicable audacity for GM Brian Cashman to trumpet the pitching prospects the club was developing under stringent rules to “protect” them, then to dismiss their failures leading to a release (Andrew Brackman); a demotion to the lower minors to re-learn to throw strikes (Dellin Betances); and injury (Manny Banuelos). The reactions to the injuries to Banuelos, Jose Campos and Michael Pineda are especially galling. Banuelos’s injury—Tommy John surgery—was casually tossed aside by Cashman, pointing out the high success rate of the procedure as if it was no big deal that the pitcher got hurt. But he got hurt while under the restrictions the Yankees has placed on him—restrictions that were designed to simultaneously keep him healthy and develop him, yet wound up doing neither.

Campos was referenced as the “key” to the trade that brought Pineda; Campos was injured in late April with an undisclosed elbow problem and is now throwing off a mound and expected to be ready for spring training. That he missed almost the entire 2012 season with an injury the Yankees never described in full would give me pause for his durability going forward. The 2013 projections for Pineda to be an important contributor are more prayerful than expectant, adding to the uncertainty.

There’s a streamlining that may make sense in the long run such as the decision to drop StubHub as an official ticket reseller and instead move to Ticketmaster. They sold that chunk of YES and are in the process of slashing the payroll.

Any other team would be subject to a media firestorm trying to uncover the real reason for the sudden belt-tightening with the luxury tax excuse not be accepted at face value. Is there an underlying “why?” for this attachment to $189 million, the opt-out of the StubHub deal, and the sale of 49% of YES? The potential lost windfall of missing the post-season and the lack of fans going to the park, buying beer and souvenirs, paying the exorbitant fees to park their cars and bottom line spending money on memorabilia is going to diminish the revenue further.

Perhaps this is a natural byproduct of the failures to win a championship in any season other than 2009 in spite of having the highest payroll—by a substantial margin—in every year since their prior title in 2000. Could it be that the Steinbrenner sons looked at Cashman and wondered why Billy Beane, Brian Sabean, Andrew Friedman, and John Mozeliak were able to win with a fraction of the limitless cash the Yankees bestowed on Cashman and want him to make them more money by being a GM instead of a guy holding a blank checkbook? In recent years, I don’t see what it is Cashman has done that Hal Steinbrenner couldn’t have done if he decided to be the final word in baseball decisions and let the scouts do the drafting and he went onto the market to buy recognizable names.

Anyone can buy stuff.

Cashman’s aforementioned failures at development show his limits as a GM. It’s not easy to transform from the guy with a load of money available to toss at mistakes and use that cash as a pothole filler and be the guy who has no choice but to be frugal and figure something else out. Much like Hank Steinbrenner saying early in 2008 that the struggling righty pitcher Mike Mussina had to learn to throw like the soft-tossing lefty Jamie Moyer, it sounds easier when said from a distance and a “Why’s he doing it and you’re not?” than it is to implement.

No matter how it’s quantified, this Yankees team is reliant on the past production of these veteran players without the money that was there in the past to cover for them if they don’t deliver.

The fans aren’t going to want to hear about the “future.” They’re going to want Cashman and the Steinbrenners to do something. But given their inaction thus far in the winter of 2012-2013, it doesn’t look as if they’re going to with anyone significant.

This time, they don’t have a prior year’s championship to use as a shield. The Yankees were subject to a broom at the hands of the Tigers. That’s not a particularly coveted memory. In fact, it might have been a portent of what’s to come, except worse.

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Yankees Modern Art

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If it were 2002 instead of 2012 and the Yankees had been humiliated by getting swept in the ALCS, there wouldn’t be organizational meetings; statements pronouncing the job security of the manager and general manager; assertions that players who had failed miserably would be back in pinstripes. Since their four game meltdown at the hands of the Tigers, there hasn’t been the outraged lunacy in the organization that would’ve accompanied a George Steinbrenner team not simply losing, but getting swept.

They didn’t run into a hot pitcher. They didn’t walk into a buzzsaw lineup. They weren’t devastated by injuries to irreplaceable players to the degree that they should’ve gotten whitewashed. They didn’t lose a tough 6-7 game series and put up a good show while doing it.

They got swept.

Swept like leaves tumbling to the ground during the Fall season that is supposed to belong to the Yankees. Swept like ash from from one of Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland’s ever-present Marlboro cigarettes.

Swept.

Steinbrenner would’ve openly congratulated the Tigers, noting what a great job Leyland and GM Dave Dombrowski did, complete with the glare and unsaid, “And my staff didn’t.”

As capricious and borderline deranged as Steinbrenner was, he served a purpose in creating a sense of urgency and accountability for even the most seasoned and highly compensated stars. They’ve become an organization that tolerates failure and allows indiscretions and underperformance to pass unpunished. Would he have sat by quietly as the team spiraled in September? Would he have exhibited such passivity while the decisions made by the entrenched GM elicited one expensive disaster after another?

Passivity vs accountability is an ongoing problem for the Yankees and there is an in-between, but the Yankees haven’t found it. How is it possible that the GM is not under fire for his atrocious drafts, dreadful trades, and inflexible and unsuccessful development of pitchers? Is it lost on observers that the two teams that are in the World Series made it with an array of starting pitchers who were not babied in the way that Cashman decreed would be the method of acquisition and development for his pitchers—all of whom are either stagnant and inconsistent (Dellin Betances, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain), on the disabled list (Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos, Jose Campos), traded (Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke), or failed completely (Andrew Brackman)?

Could the Yankees have used George Kontos this year? He’s a forgotten name, but appeared in 44 games for the NL champion Giants and was a useful reliever for a pennant-winning team. In exchange for Kontos they received Chris Stewart, a journeyman backup catcher for whom defense is supposedly a forte and whose numbers, on the surface, imply that he was “better” for the pitchers than starter Russell Martin. In reality, Stewart was CC Sabathia’s semi-personal backstop and 18 of Sabathia’s 28 starts were caught by Stewart. It’s easy to look “better” when catching Sabathia as opposed to Freddy Garcia.

If a team is limiting its payroll and can’t spend $14 million for a set-up man who could be the closer just in case Mariano Rivera gets hurt as they did with Rafael Soriano, they need to keep pitchers like Kontos who could help them cheaply. They can’t toss $8 million into the trash on pitchers like Pedro Feliciano, then look across town to blame the Mets expecting the usual cowering silence for the accusation. (At least the Mets replied for once and shut the blameshifting Yankees’ GM up.)

Firing someone for no reason is not the answer, but firing someone for the sake of change is a justifiable reason to make a move—any move. No one’s losing their jobs over this? The majority of the club—including Alex Rodriguez—is coming back? Cashman hasn’t been put on notice for his on and off field faults?

Manager Joe Girardi has lost a serious amount of credibility in that clubhouse coming off the way he buried the veteran players who’d played hard and hurt for him during his entire tenure. There wasn’t a love-fest going on with Girardi, but there was a factional respect for the job he did that was demolished with his huddling with Cashman in the decision to bench A-Rod.

What they’re doing in bringing back the entire front office, manager, coaching staff, and nucleus of players is saying that there was nothing wrong with the team in 2012; that a season in which, apart from June and September, they were barely over .500 and putting forth the thought that they’ll be the same, but better in 2013. How does that work? The already aging players are a year older, but they’ll improve?

No. That’s not how it goes.

If the Boss were around, there would be demands to do something. It might be a bloodbath, it might be a tweak here or there, it might be a conscious choice to get A-Rod out of pinstripes no matter the cost. But there would be something. Coming from his football/military background, it wasn’t a bullying compulsion alone that Steinbrenner had to fire people and make drastic changes when something didn’t go according to plan. It was a necessity. Occasionally that resulted in stupidity the likes of almost trading Ron Guidry for Al Cowens; of trading Willie McGee for Bob Sykes; of trading Al Leiter for Jesse Barfield; for firing highly qualified baseball men in the front office and as manager and replacing them with sycophants whose main function in life was to make sure the Boss got his coffee at just the right temperature.

Where’s the middle?

Questions would be asked rather than adhering to a plan that’s not working. There was an end to the threats. Now there don’t appear to be consequences. They’ve gone from one extreme to the other when, in his last decade in charge, there was a middle-ground (still leaning heavily to the right) when Steinbrenner was alive.

There have been calls for the Yankees to return to the “feel good” tenets of 1996 and the dynastic confidence of the cohesive and well-oiled machine of 1998-2000. It’s true that during that time there wasn’t an A-Rod magnitude of star sopping up a vast chunk of the payroll and making headlines in the front of the newspaper more often than the back, but those teams were also the highest-paid in baseball. There was no Little Engine That Could in 1996.

With the mandate to reduce the bottom line to $189 million by 2014, it’s not judging how the team failed as they did in 2008 by not making the playoffs, and buying their way out of it with Mark Teixeira, Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. Players aren’t running to join the Yankees in quest for a championship anymore and the money isn’t as limitless as it once was, so the playing field is level and the venue no longer as attractive.

You can’t have it both ways and claim to be superior to everyone else while having loftier goals than everyone else and being more valuable than everyone else, then run the team the same way as everyone else. It can’t work.

But they’re keeping this main cast together. It’s Yankees modern art where losing is tolerated and the aura of the Boss is mentioned as a historical artifact like the dinosaurs. He really existed once. It seems longer ago than it actually was and it’s fading off into the distance with each passing day and each organizational staff member’s comfort to the point of complacency.

They’re complacent all right; they’re consistent too. Every year it’s the same thing with the same people, and they expect it to change in the next year.

Trust me, it won’t.

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New York Style Injuries And “Knowledge” Of The Masses

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After the news broke that Mike Pelfrey is going on the disabled list—and possibly under the surgeon’s knife—with an elbow issue, the most glaring aspect is that nobody backtracked or expressed regret for ripping Mets’ manager Terry Collins for pulling Pelfrey after eight innings on Saturday.

What you’ll hear is the excuse: “We didn’t know.”

Exactly. You didn’t know. Because you’re not in the dugout and are not a baseball person, the manager is left to take a beating by outsiders stemming from the ignorance that comes from a little bit of self-anointed knowledge of statistics and “experience” accrued by watching games and studying numbers without actually being involved in the activity of playing, coaching and managing a baseball game and baseball players.

It’s remarkably easy to react to something that appears to be wrong in the realm of a layman and go on a tangent on Twitter.

What would’ve happened had Collins done what the masses wanted him to do—after the fact and knowing that closer Frank Francisco blew the game—and left Pelfrey in the game? Would that have been referenced as the time when he got hurt?

We don’t know when he got hurt, but that would’ve been the “when”, true or not.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and a forum to vent with others actually listening to the venting and giving it credibility with mass agreement makes it worse.

The Mets are being hammered by injuries.

Their frontline roster is competent and they’ve played relatively well to start the season, all things considered; but the main reasons I had the Mets finishing at 69-93 and in last place in the NL East were the notoriously rough division and the profound lack of depth in the organization. Up to now, the young players Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole and Dillon Gee have held their own, but when you lose the 200 innings of Pelfrey and a veteran like Jason Bay—regardless of fan perception of the two—it’s going to hurt badly by highlighting the absence of viable replacements for those players.

Those who were celebrating Pelfrey’s and Bay’s injuries have their own issues to deal with. In a baseball sense, the same prevailing lack of logic applies as when there were calls to release Pelfrey and Bay. Who’s going to play left field? (One suggestion last year was for the Mets to get Endy Chavez back; Chavez is currently batting .156 for the Orioles.) And who precisely are they supposed to get to replace the 200 innings that Pelfrey would provide?

Who?

On the other side of town, Michael Pineda’s saga as a Yankee continues. The majority of it is out of uniform and in MRI tubes. He’s getting a second opinion on the diagnosis for his ailing shoulder which, obviously, is not a good thing. If the initial diagnosis was good, why would he need a second opinion?

There’s little to say about the Yankees and their treatment, development and assessment of pitchers other than it’s awful.

One would think that the litany of failures—Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Brackman, Pineda—would tell them that perhaps it’s time to do something entirely different as the Texas Rangers have consciously decided to do in pushing their pitchers harder in the minors and letting them work their way through the middle innings in lieu of planting in their heads a predetermined pitch/innings count so they know that they’re coming out of the game.

The most laughable part of the Yankees’ pitching merry-go-round is that there are still Yankees’ apologists in the media trying to put forth a defense of the treatment of Pineda.

Mike Francesa is constantly discussing the prospect the Yankees acquired—Jose Campos—as if he’s the Holy Grail of the trade.

Given their absurd pitching failures, what makes anyone think the Yankees are going to do a better a job developing and using Campos than they have with the other pitchers they’ve ruined with their idiotic rules.

Joel Sherman of the NY Post clumsily altered reality on Sunday by implying that GM Brian Cashman’s statements about Pineda were designed to remove pressure from him as he became acclimated to life with the Yankees.

So saying that he’ll have made a mistake if Pineda doesn’t develop into a number 1 starter and refine his changeup is taking pressure off him? A number 1 starter is generally a Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay-type. Being placed into that category wouldn’t put pressure on a 23-year-old to overdo it?

The Yankees and the media openly questioned Pineda’s fastball when he pitched in spring training possibly leading him to try to throw too hard and light up the radar gun; perhaps ignoring pain in his shoulder while doing it to validate the trade and rhetoric.

Compounding all of this by comparing Montero to Miguel Cabrera only exacerbated the problem.

This idea that they didn’t “need” Jesus Montero is ludicrous. If they were going to trade him away due to an overabundance of hitting and need for pitching, they could’ve done it for someone established. Or they could’ve kept Montero as the DH and allowed Hector Noesi to have a legitimate shot in the rotation.

Regardless of the reasons and actions, this is where they are. They have Pineda and Campos and the trade is already looking like a long-term disaster.

The Yankees currently have the overall pitching and hitting to live without Pineda, but in the future when Andy Pettitte decides to retire once and for all; when CC Sabathia is aging and can’t be counted on for 240 innings every year; and are concerned enough about the luxury tax guidelines that they can’t fling money at their holes, what are they supposed to do then?

Wait for Campos?

They’ll be waiting until 2016 and he’ll be on a series of brilliantly devised limits.

To protect him of course.

The Yankees protection is an implanted time-bomb and I’d rather go without it in every conceivable sense.

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Calculated Omissions

Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

There’s a case for C.C. Sabathia to opt out of his contract following the 2011 season.

There’s a case for the Yankees to let Sabathia leave if he does so.

There’s even a case—however rickety—to hope that Sabathia opts out and leaves after the 2011 season.

But the two columns to this end, published this week, make an incomplete, twisted and omission-laden case for the positions of the authors.

Dave Cameron of the Wall Street Journal and Fangraphs published a piece on ESPN.com saying that Sabathia’s opt out could be a “blessing” for the Yankees. (I can’t link it because it’s Insider access, but I’ll print the relevant snippets.)

Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated said something similar—you can read his column here.

Both pieces, as is customary, take information and analysis out of context to fit into their purposes. Having heard ad nauseam how the stats-obsessed prefer objective analysis to the capricious judgment of those who use aspects other than pure numbers, it’s glaring in its hypocrisy that both Sheehan (who I don’t know to be a stat guy or non-stat guy) and Cameron (who’s an original and hard core stat zombie still clinging to the Moneyball farce) are writing these pieces without adding in the underlying caveats.

These caveats are clear if you know what to look for.

First Cameron’s title “Sabathia opt out a blessing for Yanks” is somewhat different from the body of the posting where he says it “wouldn’t be the worst thing for New York”.

There’s a big difference between the two assertions. One would imply the Yankees are sitting in their offices and quietly hoping Sabathia leaves; the other is having a contingency plan in place if he does leave.

Cameron suggests that Sabathia’s declining strikeout numbers from his days with the Indians is a conscious choice to cut down on the number of pitches he throws; that his ERA is likely to rise as a result of this strategy.

An increase in Sabathia’s walk and ground ball rates combined with a diminishing strikeout rate do not bode well for his future.

YEAR BB/9 K/9 GB% xFIP
2008 2.10 8.93 46.6 3.10
2009 2.62 7.71 42.9 3.82
2010 2.80 7.46 50.7 3.78

Pitching to contact is often encouraged as a way to reduce the number of pitches thrown and to save wear and tear on a pitcher’s arm. Indeed, if Sabathia has felt the effects of aging begin to kick in, it would be understandable that he would shift back toward a philosophy that offered the potential of quicker outs and less-stressful innings. The problem for the Yankees is that this approach is also less likely to be successful.

Fair enough, but what’s ignored is the way Sabathia altered his approach midway in his first year with the Yankees as he changed the grip on his fastball to encourage more movement and went on a tear thereafter; that the Yankees—regardless of their pitching woes—have an offense that is going to put up runs in bunches and a bullpen which will also diminish the number of innings and pitches Sabathia needs to throw to get through games and accumulate wins.

There are various ways to reduce innings pitched.

In my eyes, whether he throws 250 innings or 220 is relatively meaningless because the games from which he’s removed will be in favor of Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera; not Joe Borowski with the Indians or Salomon Torres with the Brewers. Important games won’t dictate that Sabathia stay in and keep pitching due to a faulty bullpen.

The defense is also mentioned. It’s a valid point to wonder how much Sabathia’s “pitching to contact” will be affected by the declining range of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on the left side of the infield, but this is a massive assumption that both will still be playing shortstop and third base going forward in Sabathia’s Yankees career.

It’s already being speculated as to where Jeter is going to play if and when he can no longer handle shortstop; A-Rod is about 2 years away from being a primary DH. Cameron mentions Sabathia’s xFIP with the Indians from 2005 when his SS/3B combo were Jhonny Peralta and Aaron Boone—both average defensively at best.

In examining the hit locations from 2005, Sabathia got ripped when he allowed right-handed bats to pull the ball; this is more due to location execution than stuff—link.

His control is something to watch, but was his improved walk/strikeout ratio in prior years due, in part, to having pitched in a weaker division with less patience than he does now in the AL East? The Rays and Red Sox especially make the pitchers sing for their supper—has this been taken into account?

Because Cameron can’t know who’s going to be playing third and short behind Sabathia, to say that he’s going to be pitching “worse” in the upcoming years is presumptuous at best—something the stat people are supposedly dead-set against.

If Sabathia is trying to let the hitters hit the ball earlier in the count and it’s not because of declining or even drastically altered stuff, one would be safe in thinking that he can—if necessary—go back to looking for strikeouts.

The strategy-argument works both ways.

Sheehan’s column is deeper strange speculation than Cameron’s.

He mentions Sabathia’s size and weight:

This situation may be different because of the risks presented by the 6’7″, 290-pound Sabathia. This week’s news about his weight loss aside, Sabathia is a big guy who puts strain on his back and legs with each pitch. As he said this week, even leaving 25 pounds behind just gets him to his listed weight of 290 to start the spring. There have been precious few pitchers with Sabathia’s size in baseball history. Just 30 pitchers since 1901 have come in at at least 6’4″ and at least 260 pounds, and of that group, Sabathia is far and away the career leader in everything. Just three pitchers meeting those criteria have ever thrown a thousand innings in the majors, with active hurlers Carlos Zambrano and Aaron Harang joining Sabathia. Take away the height requirement and drop the standard to 250 pounds, and you still see Sabathia at the head of a group that includes just seven who pitched one thousand innings.

Okay.

Um, but wait…where’s the list of the other pitchers that were of that massive size and pitched in the big leagues?

Cameron—to his credit—mentions this plot hole as well.

I sent a couple of emails to people who would have access to such information to possibly get an outlet for an easy list of these mysterious entities that Sheehan alludes to without naming names.

Once I hear back, I’ll publish it.

But here’s what I suspect: Sheehan’s size-based argument against Sabathia was hindered by the pitchers who inhabited said list since they weren’t on a level with C.C. Sabathia; nor were they on a level with Harang or Zambrano.

If he listed them, I’m betting the prevailing response would be, “Who?!? You’re putting him in a category with Sabathia based on what? Because he’s big?”

Then you get to the “strain on (Sabathia’s) back and legs”.

Is Sheehan a physiologist? A pitching expert? Does he have encompassing knowledge of the history of injuries to pitchers who’ve been that big and thrown that many innings or was it something he threw into the pot to fool the reader into believing what he’s saying?

If Sabathia had a history of injuries to his knees and back, I’d say there’s a basis for this idea; but Sabathia has been amazingly durable during his career and his few injuries that have cost him time have been a strained oblique, a strained abdominal and a hyper-extended elbow.

No back problems; no knee problems. In fact, Cliff Lee—much smaller than Sabathia—has a far longer injury rap sheet than Sabathia and missed time this past season because of his back.

Is this a viable reason for the Yankees to hope Sabathia opts out? Or is it a baseless, groundless assertion to provide an underpinning—spindly though it may be—for a wobbly table of hoarded “facts” to prove a nonexistent set of tenets?

For all the stat people’s reliance on “objectivity”, they abandon the fealty to “truth” when it suits them. I’m reminded of an insinuation years ago—in fact, I think it was Cameron who made it—that Garrett Olson of the Mariners had shown evidence of being a useful reliever.

Where?

He can’t throw strikes, gives up a lot of homers and is an equal opportunity punching bag getting blasted by both righties and lefties.

What evidence was there that Olson could be “useful” apart from having nothing else to say about him?

There was none.

Finally, both Cameron and Sheehan say that Sabathia is replaceable.

By whom?

If the argument is based on finances and long-term cost control, then yes, the Yankees would be better off if Sabathia left and found cogs—from inside and outside the organization—to take his place in the rotation.

But this is reality.

What are the Yankees going to do next winter if Sabathia opts out and they let him leave?

Sheehan postulates that they could go for a 1000 run offense by signing Albert Pujols and shifting Mark Teixeira to DH. Not only would this clog up the DH spot for…well…forever, but they’re supposed to pay Pujols an A-Rod contract for the rest of his career? Wouldn’t they be better off simply extending Sabathia for half of what Pujols would cost?

And let me say right now that Albert Pujols, at his age and with his ties to the Cardinals, doesn’t want any part of New York as anything other than a lever to increase his paycheck with someone else.

Does Sheehan really believe that the Yankees front office—independent of GM Brian Cashman’s desires and fresh off of ownership overruling him on Soriano—will try and sell Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos—as a replacement for Sabathia even for one year? And after the way Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy of the vaunted “young core” of starting pitchers flamed out?

Really?

Then he names possible targets Matt Cain (the Giants aren’t letting him leave); Cole Hamels (given the age of the other pitchers, they’re going to lock him up); Jered Weaver (after Jeff Weaver‘s experience in New York, is he going to want to go to the Yankees?); and Zack Greinke (good luck with all of that baggage).

The only way the Yankees could conceivably “replace” Sabathia in 2012 would be to trade for Chris Carpenter. As great a pitcher as Carpenter is, his injury history is like the medieval Wound Man charts favored by Dr. Hannibal Lecter for his basement amusements; and he’s 5-years older than Sabathia.

So then what?

Of course, with the supposedly bursting farm system, they could make a trade for a young pitcher like Ubaldo Jimenez should he come available, but that’s a major risk for a team to let Sabathia walk and hope that Jimenez comes available; and if you believe that the trading team isn’t going to hold the Yankees desperation in that instance to extract a more significant portion of the farm system to fill that hole, you’re dreaming.

If it were any team other than the Yankees—a team with payroll constraints; with a patient fan base; with less of an imperative to win immediately and, more importantly, sell tickets; and to have that star power that a Sabathia brings—I’d say yes, these thoughts make sense.

But it’s not.

And they don’t.

It’s the Yankees.

They need Sabathia. They have the money to pay him if he does opt out. And they don’t have any viable options to fill that hole in the rotation with a pitcher of commensurate star power and on-field accomplishments.

Cameron’s and Sheehen’s columns are not manuals of evenhanded and intelligent ways to build an organization. They’re tricks designed to mislead—calculated omissions—because the facts don’t bolster the arguments. When that happens, it’s best to leave said facts out and hope no one notices.

You’re smart enough to see through the puffery disguised as well-thought-out and objective analysis because it’s anything but.

Confusing those who are afraid to protest diminishes credibility. Credibility that isn’t really there to begin with as long as convenience is placed before intellectual honesty.