Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Most Important Yankee Offseason in Years plus NFL Picks for Week 7

So you want me to act like a spoiled Yankee fan and not give credit to the Texas Rangers on winning their first American League pennant, cry about the 27 rings, or even throw in a "BOSTON SUCKS!" just for self-preservation?

Well, like the Yankee team in practically the entire series except for 10 total innings, I lost interest in getting upset or throwing a fit. It's not worth my time or my health.

I don't want to say the Yankees quit in this series, but considering the way this Texas team dominated them through six mind-numbing games, it sure seemed that way.

This was the most listless, lifeless performance by a Yankee team in a postseason series since the 2006 ALDS against Detroit. They played like they didn't belong in the Major Leagues, much less an American League Championship Series. In other words, they deserved to lose this series, and everyone knows it.

Does age have something to do with it? Maybe. Is terrible coaching and management to blame? Maybe. Is a lack of effort to blame? Maybe.

The bottom line is this: This offseason may define the direction the Yankees take in this decade. Many, many questions face this team after a disappointing exit.

How much longer will the "Core Four" stay together?

In all honesty, I believe next year is the year the "Core Four" becomes the "Core Three." I will be surprised if Andy Pettitte comes back next year. Based on his body language and hesitations when faced with the retirement question, coupled with a groin injury that sidelined him for two months, I believe this is the end for Andy. Derek Jeter will get paid by the Yankees, and I mean really overpaid, but how much longer will be produce at a high level? 2010 was arguably the worst season of his career, and it really makes you wonder if he will be the same player again at age 36? But look at it this way: at mid-season next year, he will become the first Yankee ever to achieve 3,000 hits. And all probably before the age of 37. You can already bet on one special moment in the 2011 Yankees season, and there it is. 2011 may also be the final year in pinstripes for Jorge Posada. His bat remains a force in a stacked lineup at age 39, but his defense is an immense liability on a team that lacks a truly above average defensive catcher. With the two top prospects in the Yankees' minor league system both being catchers (Jesus Montero, whom despite being a defensive liability himself, has the potential to be the next Miguel Cabrera offensively, and Austin Romine, a great defensive catcher with a good bat, a la Buster Posey), and both possibly ready for the Majors in 2011 and 2012, Posada may become expendable as his contract expires. Mariano Rivera, at age 40, is still the best at what he does and is once again showing no signs of slowing down. You can bet your life he will be re-signed in the offseason.

Is it imperative the Yankees sign Cliff Lee?

There are three answers to this question: Yes, yes, and yes. If the Yankees are hell-bent on winning #28 in 2011, this is the man that must be signed. With the aforementioned Pettitte likely retiring, the ineffectiveness of outgoing free agent Javy Vazquez and headcase A.J. Burnett, the youth of Phil Hughes, and no prospects ready for the big leagues, the only truly reliable pitcher in the Yankees' rotation will be CC Sabathia. Which means the big man will have to help lure his best friend to the Bronx. If you know anything about baseball, you know that Cliff Lee is the one of the best postseason pitchers in history, and of course, only one month matters in the Yankee Universe: October. How different would this ALCS have been if Brian Cashman had pulled off the deal with the Mariners for Lee? And let's face it, the Yankees may be the only team that will be able to afford him. If Hank and Hal Steinbrenner have the same lust for winning their father did, Lee will be in pinstripes before Christmas.

Should Joe Girardi be fired?

The organization probably says no, but the fans emphatically say yes. Girardi is the definition of a micro-manager: going by the book 99.9% of the time instead of by his brains and guts. This is a man that single-handedly cost the Yankees huge games in both 2009 (Game 3, ALCS) and 2010 (Game 4, ALCS). When you have a manager that is capable of such a feat, he may not be the man for the job.

What other big-name free agents should the Yankees sign?

If the Yankees believe Brett Gardner is a fourth outfielder, they will attempt to sign Carl Crawford. If the Yankees are tired of Nick Swisher's postseason ineptitude, they will attempt to sign Jayson Werth. Other than the aforementioned three big names, there are no potential franchise-changers on the market the way CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira were on the market two years ago. If it were up to me, Lee and only Lee would be shown the money, and maybe a savvy trade or two would shore up the outfield or the pitching staff, especially in the bullpen. Which brings me to:

Who should stay or go in the bullpen?

This may be the end of Joba Chamberlain in pinstripes. Girardi's reluctance to use him in the biggest spots of the postseason shows a lack of confidence by the coaching staff and possibly the higher-ups as well. Don't be surprised if he is traded this offseason. David Robertson's inconsistency is also a concern. I believe he will return, however. Kerry Wood's 8th inning dominance shows that he needs to be re-signed, and if Damaso Marte comes back healthy, the Yankees have two potential dominant lefties in the 'pen besides Boone Logan. Don't get me started on Sergio Mitre.

Will A-Rod be A-Rod again?

The Yankees are stuck with him for the next seven years, so they'd better hope he produces a few more 30 HR/100 RBI seasons. But the inclination is to say he may not be the same player again at age 35, and coming off a major hip injury, he may not reach the heights of 2003, 2005, or 2007 again. Steroids or no steroids. The bottom line is, the Yankees will need him to be great to win another title, and it's a 50/50 shot at this point.

Brian Cashman and co. will have a lot of work to do to put the Yanks in a position to win #28, and it starts with locking up Jeter and Rivera, and signing Cliff Lee. For now, it's a long way until pitchers and catchers in mid-February. Stay tuned.

NFL Picks for Week 7:

FALCONS -3 over Bengals
Vikings +3 over PACKERS
RAVENS -13 over Bills
Redskins +3 1/2 over BEARS

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