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Yanks’ Offseason: Less is More?

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Updated: February 26, 2013
Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

Brian Cashman worries so we don’t have to. Last year everyone worried that the Yankees didn’t win games unless they hit home runs. This year we’ll find out if they can.

The prevailing impression from this Yankee offseason is one of ‘less’, that is, less of everything. Less power: it’s been well-documented that they’re down over 100HRs from last season’s roster between free agent defections and A-Rod’s injury (replaced by Travis Hafner?). Less payroll: after averaging $209M the past 3 seasons the Yanks open 2013 around $195M. Less age: it’s hard not to get younger when you’re shedding Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones. Less A-Rod distraction: his post-op recovery is slated to keep him shelved until at least midseason, probably longer; regardless they’ve got him stashed in the deep-freeze.

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

And now we hear the Yanks will be without Curtis Granderson for the 1st month of the regular season with a fractured arm. People are wringing their hands, calling for the return of Soriano, Damon or Bernie (seriously). Time to panic, right?  The Yanks can get a look at Juan Rivera (yes THAT Juan Rivera), Zoilo Almonte or Matt Diaz. For a month they’ll be down a couple HRs, up in batting average, no reason to panic.

Oddly enough there’s probably more panic going on among YES Network brass than with Joe Girardi.

The star-driven, HR-bashing, back-page-filling formula that drives YES ratings in some ways works against what succeeds down on the field. By putting a ‘name’ at every position including the bench, the Yanks offer little opportunity for their prospects. The beauty in providing opportunity is not only to find out what they have in new talent but maybe more importantly in giving a jolt of young energy to an otherwise sclerotic roster. The only youthful energy they’ve had in 10 years came from Robinson Cano and Joba Chamberlain.

The Yankees will play a different style this year, more dependent on pitching, defense and smart baseball. More small-ball, less bashing. This isn’t the late-’90′s Yanks but that’s the formula that won championships; the boom-or-bust power lineup of the past decade produced excitement but just one title.

Not waiting for the 3-run HR, the Yanks should get back to grinding out ABs, putting the ball in play and utilizing the speed of Gardner, Ichiro and Jeter. In fact Brett Gardner could be a key to success (believe it or not). And as the defense is presently constituted everyone can catch the ball. In recent years Swisher, Nunez and some of the aging names have provided a little too much ‘adventure’ in the field.

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

Girardi seems very comfortable going into the season with a defense-first catcher in Chris Stewart. The staff seems to prefer pitching to him. Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli are in the same mold. No reason to panic…with Jorge Posada we’d forgotten, a catcher’s 1st job is to make the pitchers effective.

With an aging club, the injury report will be crucial. And otherwise this Yankee team will live and die on pitching. CC, Kuroda and Pettitte can’t lose a step, Hughes and Nova need to take big ones forward. Mo needs to come back and be Mo. As for the future they need to see something out of Michael Pineda. They need him to get healthy and more mature…his injury last year was a function of being out of shape and then overthrowing. They’re hoping that being in the Yankee environment for a year will teach Pineda something about responsibility because the they have a lot riding on him.

Big picture, the Yanks in 2013 look like an imperfect team in a very competitive division…probably underdogs, nothing is a given. If things break right they can make the postseason. They can hope for turn-back-the-clock seasons from Ichiro (hopeful) and Youkilis (don’t bet on it)…they can hope Teixeira and Granderson can rediscover the existence of the opposite-field and become hitters again.

The Steinbrenner 2.0 mandate to get under the $189M salary cap in 2013 is real. It probably comes at a good time to see what they have in house, to step away from the YES Strategy and back to Baseball 101…a cleansing for the payroll AND for the strategy. Newbie fans of the past 10 years may not recognize it. It may or may not be pretty. They might even find out how the other half lives.

The Yanks will have to battle the whole way. It could be fun.

This post was written by

Dave Graziano – who has written posts on Big Dog Sports Blog.
Short Hills, NJ USA

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