This New York Yankees off-season can be summed up in two words: money and controversy.
The Yankees 2008 campaign ended on a sour note, with the team missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Heading in to the post-season the Yanks were faced with enough questions to fill the bleachers of old Yankee Stadium. Right-hander Mike Mussina announced his retirement after coming off his first ever 20-win season. The team’s expiring contracts included first baseman/DH Jason Giambi, right fielder Bobby Abreau, and pitchers Carl Pavano and Andy Pettitte; major players coming off injury included catcher Jorge Posada, OF/DH Hideki Matsui and P Chien-Ming Wang.
The Yankees were looking at a roster that was down in runs scored and up in runs allowed. Major issues needed addressed in the line-up, as A-Rod obviously needs bats around him to alleviate pressure, and for a team that has so traditionally relied on the home run there was a serious lack of pop in the ‘08 season.
The starting rotation was in tatters as well, with the starting five looking like this: Wang, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and a big question mark at the five spot. That’s not exactly a World Series ready rotation.
So GM Brian Cashman had his hands full. And he hit the ground running. In early November, Cashman re-signed lefty Damaso Marte to a three-year deal with a club option for 2012, essentially shoring up a bullpen that turned out to be the Yankees biggest strength of the 08 season. A day later, a trade was made with the White Sox for 1B/OF Nick Swisher and a minor league pitcher for utility infielder Wilson Betemit and two minor leaguers (neither of whom was looked upon with much promise by the Yankees farm system). This was a surprising move, as this supposedly took the Yankees out of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes (or would it…).
Then came the curious courtship of CC (or C.C., if you prefer) Sabathia, starting with a massive six-year, $140 million dollar offer and ending nearly a month later when the hefty lefty agreed to an even more massive seven-year, $161 million deal. Not content with just one of the top pitchers on the market, the Yankees also signed A.J. (not AJ) Burnett to a five-year, $82.5 million deal.
Next came the shocker of this year’s off-season. After many sources reported that the Red Sox were close to a deal with highly sought-after 1B Mark Teixeira, it was announced that the Yankees had agreed in terms to an eight year, $180 million deal with the switch-hitting slugger. Teixeira said it was his wife who had the final word on his playing in New York; Red Sox fans blamed the devil.
Controversy rocked the MLB and sports communities as media and other organizations reacted to the Yankees spending spree. From Red Sox owner John Henry’s sour grapes to calls for a salary cap, the simple fact was this: the Yankees spent a lot of money, but were a decidedly better team at the beginning of January then they were at the end of October, at the expense of no prospects of consequence. Gone were the many bloated and failed contracts and new were many new, bloated and un-tested contracts. Time will tell if these massive signings will pay off, but they were moves the Yankees had to make in order to put the best possible product on the field for the inaugural season of the new Yankee Stadium.
But the controversy is not over by any means. As I write this the Yankees are still without a true fifth starter, as the team and fan-favorite Pettitte are still locked in a staring contest, waiting to see who blinks first over their one-year, $10 million offer to the pitcher; there seems to be an abundance of outfielders on the roster, with Swisher, Matsui, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrara, Brett Gardner and Xavier Nady competing for three spots (it should be Damon in left, Gardner in center and Nady in right, by the way); and it has come out that former manager Joe Torre is releasing a book that allegedly “reveals past rifts” in the clubhouse while he was in New York, including difficulties with Cashman and A-Rod.
We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out over the next few days and months, but it seems that once again, the center of the baseball world is in The Bronx.
Would you have it any other way?
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