The Yankees Adhere To Conservatism

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With their conservative persona stemming from George Steinbrenner’s rightist agenda and continued with the current regime under Hank and Hal Steinbrenner (military school graduates both); Randy Levine (worked for the Rudy Giuliani New York mayoral administration and recently created a controversy by donating money to the reelection campaign of republican Massachusetts senator Scott Brown); and Brian Cashman (the newly minted bon vivant GM with a sex scandal to call his own), the Yankees are holding true to one of the tenets of the Republican Party by adhering to the rules of succession.

The Republicans nominate their presidential candidates based on who came in second in the prior election cycle.

This is the way it’s always been and we’re seeing it with a candidate that neither the evangelicals nor the hardline wants—Mitt Romney.

They did it in 2008 as well with John McCain.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless of the simplistic “when we go to the right, we win” mantra espoused by the talking heads on Fox News and the agenda-laden talk show hosts, there are numerous variables in the success or failure of the strategy including the turnout, the opponent and current societal circumstances.

The influence of opponents and circumstances are transferrable into baseball.

With their decision to use David Robertson to pitch the ninth inning last night in the Yankees’ 6-2 win over the Royals, their intentions have become clear as to whom is going to replace Mariano Rivera as closer for the rest of the season.

They’re going with the “next in line”. The next in line is Robertson.

Watching Robertson, I’d be very concerned.

His motion is, always has been and always will be a nightmare. He throws off an entirely stiff front leg and his arm recoils with extreme violence. He’s mentally tough enough to deal with the ancillary aspects of closing, but the “trying too hard” factort could lead to overstressing his arm and causing injury. The Yankees’ braintrust will tell him not to treat the ninth inning any differently than he did the seventh and eighth, but that’s easier said than done.

Given the decision to use Robertson last night, here’s what I suspect is going to happen. Robertson will close and they’ll use Soriano to set-up…for now. They’ll watch and see how Phil Hughes pitches tomorrow in Kansas City and if he pitches poorly, move him back to the bullpen for the rest of the season. Andy Pettitte is set to return and David Phelps pitched well on Thursday. They have options to fill out the rotation with Hughes in the bullpen.

At first, Soriano will get a chance to pitch the eighth inning, but if he struggles, they’ll flip him and Hughes and Hughes will pitch the eighth as he did in 2009.

The Yankees’ expectation of automatically being in the playoffs on an annual basis is partially leading them to using Robertson as the closer.

I would not trust Rafael Soriano as the closer in the playoffs. He’s pitched 7.2 innings in the post-season and allowed 3 homers—two of them backbreaking to his clubs, the Rays and Yankees. But they have to make the playoffs first—not a small feat—and there’s a small chance that Rivera might make it back for the playoffs.

If that happens, Soriano or Robertson closing is a non-issue; in fact, it would be easier to demote Soriano than it would Robertson and perhaps the confidence Soriano accumulates by doing well as the closer would extend to the playoffs and he’d be more than a “we hafta hold our collective breaths”, mentally weak, self-interested and overpaid pitcher not fit for the Yankees’ lofty expectations commensurate with his absurd salary.

After the season, that self-interest would come to the Yankees’ rescue in the form of the opt-out in Soriano’s contract.

Robertson is under contractual control until after the 2014 season; Soriano is owed $14 million for 2013 with the opt-out and possible free agency after this season. If he opts out, they’d pay him a $1.5 million buyout.

Soriano’s agent is Scott Boras. Boras has a history of convincing his clients to take free agency when it suits them and is undeterred by prior failures. Because Francisco Rodriguez and Ryan Madson both listened to Boras’s sweet nothings, expected huge riches on the open market and didn’t get them won’t stop Soriano from doing as he’s told and entering the free agent market again looking for more money, more years and a guarantee to close.

How much would it benefit the Yankees to get out from under that onerous and ridiculous deal to which they signed Soriano over the public objections of Cashman?

If Rivera’s coming back for 2013; if Robertson is there; if Joba Chamberlain returns; and Hughes proves himself capable of relieving full-time, what’s the value in paying Soriano that kind of money?

There is none.

The advantages of giving the ninth inning to Soriano are multiple and obvious, but the Yankees are making the safer and more explainable choice.

In the short and long terms, it might work.

But it’s still a mistake.

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