Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Yanks' only hope?

Is it impossible for a 75-year old man to be patient? That's the age George Steinbrenner will reach on July 4 and the Tampa contingent of the Yankees' front office (which jumps every time he twitches) is getting reamed in the press for its awful bullpen manoevers (Heredia, Hammond, et al.), such as in this column by Tom Verducci. The Great Verducci makes a number of good points but misses the worst of the Yankees' problems: they have 12 pitchers under guaranteed fat contracts this season. That shrinks the bench to 13 hitters. This will be a problem in general and will be exacerbated during the Yanks' roadies against NL teams.

Now I disagree that losing Todd Williams and Jake Westbrook (who gave no sign of actually having a clue until late 2003) are disastrous deals, but Verducci is deadly accurate in pounding the Yanks for trading Ted Lilly, Dodgers' fill-in closer Yhency Brazoban (ANOTHER Jeff Weaver-related fark up -- he was in the package for Brown) and losing Lieber. Plus Damaso Marte could have been the Yanks' closer in waiting for Rivera, as Rivera was for Wetteland. And the Yanks' luck with injuries and idiots (the latter IS a scouting issue -- after all, the scout who nabbed Jeter loved the mental makeup and everyone knows how that turned out) has been awful: Ramon Ramirez, Jorge DePaula, Christian Parker and Danny Borrell all losing years and effectiveness to arm troubles, Alex Graman and Ed Yarnall lacking the mental capacity to pitch in the big leagues, David Walling lacking the mental capacity to pitch in the higher minors.

So what's the future? Unlike the Dodgers who have recently traded for young power arms (Brazoban, Penny) and the Marlins who have assiduously developed same (Willis, Burnett, Beckett), the Yanks' pipeline is a long one. The Yanks had the chance to trade Alfonso Soriano for pitching help in the 2003 offseason -- they didn't need ARod, they needed some hair of the dog that bit them in the '03 Series: a staff like the Penny-Pavano-Willis-BECKETT group that dominated their hitters.

Currently, only Chien-Mien Wang and Ramirez could be used in the majors this year; and the Yanks' best prospects (Tyler Clippard, Jeff Karstens, Ben Julianel [reliever], the rather wild Edwardo Sierra) are two years away. And the Yanks' track record at the majors for molding the kids they have is poor (Lilly is the exception). The conclusion? Thank goodness the Yanks will finally lose some stiffs to attrition after this season (Brown, Bernie, Quantrill, Karsay).

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