Mike’s 20 Most Important YankeesBy
Way back in November PeteAbe posted his list of the twenty most important Yankees, and Ben said we’d follow that up by posting our own list shortly thereafter. Well, four months later seems like as good a time as any to roll out our lists. That’s right, lists. I’m going to present my list of the twenty most important people in the organization today, and tomorrow Joe’s going to follow up with his version. Ben will post his list on Wednesday, then we’ll wrap this whole thing up on Thursday, podcast-style.
This list is a ranking of the most important people in the Yankees organization. It can be anyone – players, coaches, front office personnel, groundskeepers, clubbies, literally anyone on the payroll. We’re ranking them based on their importance from this day going forward, and not just in regards to the 2009 season. Obviously there is no right or wrong answer to this, it’s just my opinion.
Fun starts after the jump.
1. Brian Cashman
It only makes sense to me that the man in charge of the putting the team together is the most important person in the organization. Cash had a chance to basically wash his hands of the organization after 2008, but instead signed on for another three seasons and pledged to turn this ship around. His decisions affect the future of the team more than anyone else.
2. Hal Steinbrenner
The media ran to Hank whenever they needed a quote, but Hal was the one running the show all along. He’s shown his father’s willingness to spend and affinity for big name players, but at the same time he’s been cool, calm, collected and quiet. Hal doesn’t have to change anything, he’s a great chairperson just the way he is.
3. Alex Rodriguez
Like him or not, A-Rod is the most important player on the Yankees. He’s only been embarrassing himself and not the team, so who really cares if he’s kind of a weird dude? Certainly not the Yanks. The bottom line that he’s the best player on the team (and has been since he got here) and the Yankees need him to be healthy and productive over the nine years left on his deal.
4. CC Sabathia
After (wisely) passing on Johan Santana last offseason the Yanks invested $170M in Sabathia to give the team it’s first legitimate ace under the age of thirty since Andy Pettitte back around the turn of the century. He fits the bill in every way, with an established track record of dominance and a likable, larger than life personality. The Yanks are counting on him to be their horse not just in 2009, but for the next half-decade as well.
5. Joba Chamberlain
The homegrown stud, Joba looks like he was born to wear pinstripes and the team is heavily invested in him. His potential to provide cheap and incredibly effective innings will help the Yanks offset the megabucks they spend on star players. When Sabathia starts to succumb to age, Joba is the one expected to assume the first spot in the rotation.
6. Damon Oppenheimer/Mark Newman
I lumped these two together because they function as a team. Scouting director Oppenheimer is responsible for bringing talent into the organization while Newman’s job as farm director is to mold that talent into major league ballplayers. There’s no doubt that the Yanks will continue to be major players on the free agent market, but having a steady flow of young talent provides ammo for trades and a means to plug holes on the cheap. Considering the game’s gravitation towards young players, the role of the scouting/farm director tandem becomes even more important.
7. Jorge Posada
One of the most important yet unheralded Yankees of the last quarter century, the stability and production a healthy Posada provides behind the plate is near impossible to match. He’s a fierce competitor and a clubhouse policeman, plus they’re locked into him for another three years.
8. Derek Jeter
The unquestionable face of the franchise, The Captain is only the second most important player on his side of the infield. The 800 lb gorilla in the room is what happens when Jeter’s contract expires after next season, when he’ll be 36, but the Yankees need Jeter to be that goodwill ambassador, that media darling that does his best to take the heat off everyone else.
9. Mariano Rivera
Ah the security blanket. He’s shown no signs of slowing down, but right now the Yanks don’t have a surefire replacement at their disposal if Mo were to go down for an extended period of time with injury. Sure, Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney and even Joba Chamberlain might be able to do the job, but none of them are Mo. If the Yanks expect to go anywhere this year or next, they need the Hammer of God at the end game.
10. Mark Teixeira
Think about this: once Teixeira’s contract is up in 2016, the Yanks will have had just four primary first basemen over the last 35 years. The massive nature of his contract means that the team needs Tex to be productive, but more importantly they are relying on him to be a run producting, middle of the order stalwart as they go from an older team to a younger and more athletic one.
11. Joe Girardi
Managing the New York Yankees is unlike managing another other club, in that the job goes beyond taking care of business on the field. His ability (or inability) to deal with the media could lead to unnecessary scrutiny and increase the circus that is the team.
12. Robinson Cano
Cano is the Yanks only established position player age 26 or younger, and he just so happens to play a premium up the middle position. He should provide excellent value out of a position not known for it, assuming that last year was the exception rather than the rule. The Yanks have no obvious replacement if he fails to bounceback.
13. Chien-Ming Wang
The senior member of the rotation (counting only consecutive years on the team), the Yanks need Wang to be the rock solid starter he’s been in the past while the team ushers in a new generation of superstars. He’s relative cheap and about to enter his prime years, the most valuable commodity in baseball.
14. Phil Hughes
The charter member of the Yanks’ farm system revival, Hughes has dealt with his share of adversity at the Major League level, not uncommon for 22-year olds. His future role with the team may not be crystal clear after the Yanks’ offseason spending spree, but he’s expected to make good on his tremendous promise and fill a rotation spot down the line, ideally Andy Pettitte’s spot after 2009. The fact that he may be only the fifth best starter in the rotation as soon as 2010 is damn exciting.
15. Austin Jackson
Jackson is the Yanks lone upper level position prospect with the potential to be an impact player, and with a lineup that gets older and less athletic by the minute – not to mention an entire outfield set to hit the free agent market after 2009 – he becomes that much more important. One of Oppenheimer’s late round bonus babies, Jackson has the best chance of filling a premium up the middle position for the long term of the Yanks’ in-house options. His continued development could literally save the Yanks tens of millions of dollars in free agency.
16. Jesus Montero/Austin Romine
The Yankees haven’t had an obvious heir apparent to Jorge Posada since Dioner Navarro was traded away, and these two represent the new Great Catching Hope. Montero’s bat makes him a truly special prospect, but if he’s unable to stay behind the plate then he’s just another nice potential first base/designated hitter. Romine is more well rounded, but that just means he has more stuff to work on to develop into a legit starting catcher. If either of these players comes through behind the plate for the Bombers, that solves a major positional question for the next decade.
17. AJ Burnett
Most of the time landing the second best free agent pitcher on the market means the team has a new ace. This year it means they have a new number three starter. The pressure on Burnett isn’t unbearable because of CC Sabathia’s presence, but the Yankees are counting him to be a dominant and stabilizing force in their rotation for the foreseeable future. They took a big risk in terms of contract value, and it’s up to Burnett to hold up his end of the bargain.
18. Kevin Long/Dave Eiland
The Yankees promoted Long from Triple-A Scranton to be their hitting coach in 2007, then did the same a year later with Eiland to become their pitching coach. Both men are familiar with the organization and have been entrusted with the development of their young players at the Major League level. While the coaching tandem of Long Eiland (cheesy, I know) can do a lot of good for the organization with their coaching methods, they can also do a lot of damage to their young players with poor instruction. The Yanks need these two to be on their game.
19. Randy Levine
The team president is the guy that’s spearheaded of the political mumbo jumbo that comes with financing a $1.3B goliath with tax free government bonds. He also has quite a bit of pull in the front office, helping … ahem … usher Joe Torre out the door after the 2007 season.
20. Andrew Brackman
Twenty-five teams passed on Brackman in the 2007 draft because of elbow issues, but the Yanks jumped at the chance to pick him because they see the potential for a right handed Randy Johnson. Whether you want to believe it or not, at the very least one of Sabathia, Burnett, Wang, Chamberlain and Hughes isn’t going to pan out, and Brackman represents a “replacement ace.”
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So let me know what you think in the comments. Joe and Ben will have their lists up in the coming days.
Photo Credit: AP via SI