Brian Cashman has long been an advocate of roster flexibility. But for all that preaching, he has little to show for it. At the outset of 2007, the Yankees had one of the most inflexible rosters in the bigs — hampered by 12 pitchers, two first basemen, and one full-time DH. That left room for one utility player (Cairo) and one backup outfielder (Melky). So when injuries and ineffectiveness began to plague the roster, there really isn’t (and wasn’t) anywhere to turn. The bench become starters, and the new bench consists of AAA or AAAA scrubs. And, of course, you’re left with a sub-.500 team. It’s easy to think that there’s nothing you can do at that point — that the players on your roster are talented enough to carry you, and that if they don’t do it, it just won’t work. I say horseshit to that. There’s plenty you can do, it’s just that the Yankees are too afraid to make these perceived high-risk moves that, in fact, aren’t high risk at all.
Over the past week, week and a half, the Yankees have been called out for not trying, or just being complacent. Now, when this comes from beat reporters and columnists, I don’t buy it. They may have access to the locker room and might sense some sort of complacency, but they’re only allowed during designated times. And the players are certainly going to act differently when they’re around. Plus, what they perceive as complacency might just be frustration. These beat reporters aren’t psychologists, remember.
However, when a player — or, more accurately, multiple players — start talking about complacency, then you have to start listening. And you have to especially start listening when guys like Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada tell it like it is (and Mike Myers to an extent, given his reputation as a hard worker and clubhouse guy). Players generally don’t call out teammates to the media, so when that’s happening, you know it’s worse than even the fans think. Something or some things are going on off the field that are affecting on-field play. So, as general manager, Cashman must do something about this.
Now, I’m not going to tell you which players aren’t trying; I don’t have the means to do that. But, since we run this here website, and I like to jabber about the Yankees, I’m going to speculate a bit — as well as use a degree of logic — to determine who should just be gone from the roster. We’re four games under .500, and we’re just three games from the season’s midpoint. Our run differential puts us at eight games over .500. So the runs are coming (and being prevented) in bunches, rather than spread over time. This may not necessarily be a sign of complacency, but when combined with the words of Posada and Pettitte, I think we can see that it holds a degree of truth.
Let’s start with who’s safe. This is in no particular order, though I’ll leave the ones with extenuating circumstances (i.e., they wouldn’t necessarily be safe if not for some outside factor).
Derek Jeter: Kicking ass as usual.
Alex Rodriguez: I shudder to think at what kind of team we’d be without him.
Jorge Posada: Turning into a clubhouse leader.
Melky Cabrera: You can never accuse him of not trying. Plus, he’s starting to hit better.
Hideki Matsui: People complain about him, but 1) I’ve heard it takes 18 months the time of the break to fully recover from a wrist injury and 2) he’s the only outfielder with any pop in his bat. Plus that whole no trade clause.
Andy Phillips: You know he’s out there working his ass off every day, even if he doesn’t hit as well as you’d like from a first baseman.
Miguel Cairo: For what he’s supposed to be (guy who can play nearly every position), he’s fine. You’d like to see an upgrade at some point in the future, but now it’s not high on the priority list.
Mariano Rivera: No explanation needed.
Chien-Ming Wang: The ace.
Andy Pettitte: Leader of the pitching staff, and doing mighty fine if you just forget about yesterday.
Roger Clemens: He ain’t goin’ away, whether we like it or not.
Mike Mussina: 10-5 guy signed at a discount to stay in NY.
Johnny Damon: Two and a half years left and plenty of dough on that contract. No way anyone’s taking him, and you’re not going to pay him to play for another team.
Now comes the fun part. Let’s look at the rest of the Yankees and determine their fates. I’m being dead serious in these assessment, so if you have an issue or think I’m a loony, leave a comment or drop an e-mail. I’ll be more than willing to discuss any of these assessments further.
Bobby Abreu: Let’s start off with a bang: decline his option and DFA him. It’s seriously not worth having him on the roster right now. I’m not saying he’s not trying; I’m just saying that he’s horribly inconsistent and it’s hurting the team. Let’s look at his June: .282/.395/.456. Okay, so you think that’s pretty good, right? Now let’s look at his June 15-July 1: .132/.242/.208. I’ve been defending Abreu for a damn long time now, but I’m done. His season averages are .247/.342/.347. He’s been aided by two good streaks — beginning of April and beginning of June. And he’s offset those performances with the worst slumps we’ve seen from a Yankee in a long time. Just cut bait. Stick Damon back in center, keep Matsui in left, and play Melky in right. It’s probably the best solution we have right now.
Robinson Cano: He’s had a while to figure things out, and he’s just not adjusting to the way he’s being pitched. Can he adjust in the second half? Oh, absolutely. And really, I’m not advocating a trade of Cano. I’m just saying that if someone makes a decent offer for him, you’ve gotta listen. His value may be low now due to his performance, so if the return reflects that perception of his value, you obviously don’t pull the trigger. But if you can get a package of young players, you have to at least consider it. Hey, maybe DFAing Abreu will light a fire under the guy’s ass.
Kei Igawa: He melts down with more efficiency than Mussina. Seriously, this guy is not going to help us win games. When one bad thing happens, the flood gates open — and he’s demonstrated this throughout the season. He needs everything to go perfectly for him to be effective (see the Boston game). That’s just not going to happen. Whatever they thought they fixed in the minors is still a problem. Send him down, bring up Steve White until Phil makes a return.
The entire bullpen: Other than Mariano, every single pitcher in the bullpen is expendable. It’s hard to knock Villone after his performance on Sunday, but I’d still DFA him; you know he’s just going to come out next time and screw things up. That leaves Farns, Vizcaino, Proctor, Bruney, and Myers. It’s time to cut bait with Myers, and I think that’s pretty obvious to everyone. Good guy, ineffective pitcher. As for the rest, I’d listen to any and all offers for them. They lead the league in bullpen walks, and that just isn’t going to fly.
My new roster
So there are a few moves there. The time to act is now. There are 84 games left to play, and it looks like 95 wins will be needed for the Wild Card. That means the Yanks will have to go 58-26 (.690) over the rest of the season. The team as currently constructed has demonstrated that they’re not going to do that. A shake up might not help, but it’s damn better than coasting for the rest of the season. This is how I’d like to see the roster by the All-Star break — though I’d take July 31 for the bullpen moves.
BN: Shelley Duncan
BN: Omir Santos (can’t be worse than Nieves)
BN: TBA (because we don’t need 13 pitchers)
RP: Vizcano (because he’s been doing well lately)
RP: Bruney (because when he’s on, he’s money)
It’s not a huge mix-up, but it’s damn better than what we’ve got now.