Mike’s 20 Most Important Yankees

Nady has leg up in right field competition
An A-Rod-inspired anti-tabloid rant

cashman-and-halWay 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.”

* * *

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

Nady has leg up in right field competition
An A-Rod-inspired anti-tabloid rant
  • http://evilempire20.com Ryan S.

    That list looks pretty solid to me, but personally, I’d rank Teixeira #7 and bump everyone else down a peg. He’s going to be in the middle of the order for a very long time, and will be an important clubhouse presence, especially in a few years during the post 6-ring era.

  • steve (different one)

    Long Eiland

    /throws tomatoes….

    j/k, nice list.

    i’d probably flip Teixeira and Mo, but no big deal.

  • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    I should probably keep quiet about this, but I think Mo is way too high on this list. He’s amazing, but he’s just a reliever. I just don’t see how a reliever could be the ninth most important member of the organization, let alone one as advanced in his career as Mo.

    • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

      i agree… he cant be above tex

      tex is our everyday 3 hole hitter and an 8 year 180 mill investment… he should be higher than mo

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


        Mariano should be the lowest non-minor leaguer on the list.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

          Good points, I probably over-rated his True Yankee-ness.

    • andrew

      But Joba is 5th, and he’s our set up man…

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        No, he’s 5th because we’re using him as a starter.

        If we were doing the smart thing and using him as an 8th inning specialist, he’d be #1, of course. Don’t state the obvious.

    • dane bramage

      He may be the most valuable Yankee,certainly in the last decade.No four Championships with out him.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        That’s gotta be satire. Has to be.

        While I love Mo as much as the next man, that statement is highly dubious and likely false. No way to know for certain.

        Mike Stanton or Jeff Nelson or Bob Wickman, for christsakes, may have been able to close out games effectively enough for us to win all 4 of those rings. In any event, Bernie, Jeter, Posada, Tino, O’Neill, Knoblauch, Pettitte, Cone, El Duque, and others are all much more valuable and much more directly responsible for those 4 rings than Mariano is.

  • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

    i guess we have to decide if we are talking about 2009 or for the next several years…

    if its just for this upcoming season, posada could be no. 1 or 2

    judging by your list, you seem to lean more towards 2009 and beyond, in which case i think its a good list… tex and cano seem a little low to me, but overall good list

  • radnom

    Help me Jesus Montero, you’re my only hope..

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    It’s not easy going first, but well done. Here’s my beef:

    Burnett’s 82.5M in salary obligation and full no-trade means that we’re wedded to him for the next 5 years. While Wang and Hughes are young pitchers that we expect to be in our long term plans, if they fail/get injured/become trade bait/etc., they can easily be replaced with someone else in the rotation.

    Burnett is like ARod: he’s with us, good or bad, and he’ll be on our 25 and 40 man rosters and eat up a sizable chunk of our budget. Hence, the level of his performance is more critical to our success than Wang or Hughes. If he succeeds, we’re good. If he fails, we have a major problem, much more major than any failures of Wang or Hughes who are making peanuts.

    I’d put AJ at #13 (if not higher) and bump everyone else down a peg.

    • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

      my feelings towards tex

      he bats 3rd in the lineup every day, and were paying him 180 million for the next 8 years…

      for that reason, 10 seems very unfair

      and like u said, aj should be moved up as well

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Tru dat, in retrospect I probably should have bumped him higher.

      • Mike Pop

        The most important members of the team.

        A.J. and

        because he spits hot fire man.

        • http://www.freewebs.com/ps3tf2/ Double-J

          Like A-Rod’s crotch after Madonna?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          The five best rappers alive?

          Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan and Dylan.

          • Mike Pop

            I’ma need you to walk to Brooklyn and get breast milk from a Cambodian hooker. Cause I only drinks the finests breasts’ milks.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Look on the bright side: Ben and Joe can incorporate my brilliantly intelligent criticisms into their subsequent posts, thus making all three of us look immeasurably smarter than you.

        Wait, that’s not a bright side for you at all. Never mind. Sorry I brought it up.

        • Spaceman.Spiff

          you get a complementary IETC to go with your ICWUDT

    • daneptizl

      Burnett has a ‘limited no-trade clause (Burnett may block deals to 10 clubs each year)’ according to Cot’s Contracts.

  • Jack

    I’ll just get this out of the way now:

    Heh, you said Wang needs to be rock solid.

  • Expired Milk

    Why is everything negative the Yankees do blamed on Hank and vice versa with Hal? Anytime a bad trade or signing happens internet commenter blame Hank.

    I think Cashman is way too high on that list and Levine shouldn’t be on there.

    • steve (different one)

      since the Hank/Hal team took over, has there been that many negative moves?

      for the ones that are considered negative, there is a large body of circumstantial evidence (quotes, reporting in the media, etc) that Hank was the driver.

      for example: A-Rod’s contract negotiations.

      i find it highly probably that Hank was driving the negotiations, even if Cashman and Hal were involved in the decision to bring him back.

      what else? Posada’s contract? not sure. but there is a lot of evidence that Hank had grabbed more than his 1/3 of the power triumverate last winter.

      this winter, he’s been dead quiet, and this offseason has been great for the Yankees, IMO.

      just seems like the simplest, most logical explanation.

    • Rich

      Given his influence, Levine should actually be higher, whether we like it or not.

      I would put Hal first, Cash second, and Texeira fifth.

  • Ace

    Look what CBS says about Humberto Sanchez; kind of depressing…

    When the Yankees acquired Sanchez for Gary Sheffield shortly after the 2006 season, they thought they were getting a pitcher like Justin Verlander or Joel Zumaya. Instead, they got another Brien Taylor. OK, so perhaps that is overstating things. Sanchez returned from Tommy John surgery late in 2008 and now is nothing more than a minor league arm. He has a higher ceiling than fellow Yankees prospect Ian Kennedy, but we don’t see him being an impact pitcher right now for the Yankees or Fantasy owners.

    • http://www.freewebs.com/ps3tf2/ Double-J

      They make it sound like it was a straight up trade, but the Yanks also received Whelan and Claggett. Not sure what Whelan is up to but isn’t Claggett having a decent spring?

      Besides, Sanchez is still projected to be at least a decent set-up man, no?

      • steve (different one)

        also, they had no use for Sheffield.

        • http://www.freewebs.com/ps3tf2/ Double-J

          Sheff @ 1st base = fail. Agreed.

        • Dave

          It’s not like Sheff has been tearing it up for the Tigers. He has a whopping 106 OPS+ in Detroit.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      We got Sanchez, Claggett, and Whelan, three young power arms who may be nothing but may be something.

      They got the age 38, 39, and 40 seasons of Gary Sheffield at $41M.

      Yeah, Humberto Sanchez could never throw another pitch in the big leagues and I still wouldn’t regret that deal at all. We had Abreu, we didn’t need Sheffield, and we certainly didn’t need his contract extension demands.

    • Rich

      From North Jersey.com:

      Sanchez, who missed ’07 with Tommy John surgery and was plagued by elbow tendinitis last year and forearm tightness this spring, expects to start pitching in minor-league by next week, though his status as a prospect has taken quite a hit. He’ll turn 26 in May.

      So at least there have been physical reasons for his decreased velo, which, if they can be rectified, may argue in favor of a recovery at some point.

    • Drew

      Late 2008? How long does it take to fully recover?

  • http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/profile.php?id=594331910&ref=name Jamal G.

    I am literally in an utter state of shock that Michael Kay has yet to use that “Long Eiland” bit.

  • Ace

    Great job with the list, by the way. I like that you reconsidered Mo and Burnett after the suggestions of the board.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona


    • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

      Thought about bringing him up too but I can’t bring him up in every discussion.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        There’s always room for Melvin.

        • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

          Sure. At least I’m the one responsible for the first mention of Melvin on the Podcast.

          That has to count for something.

  • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

    I would put Melancon on the list. If he pans out it would to some extent silence the B-Jobbers.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I wish I could believe you, but I can’t.

      B-Jobbers may eventually give up their lust for Joba in the bullpen, but they’ll never stop overestimating the value of the 8th inning. If Mo retires and Melancon assumes the closer’s mantle, B-Jobbers will still be clamoring for us to trade Robinson Cano for Matt Lindstrom to be the “bridge to Melancon”.

      An fool and his idea are not soon parted.

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

        But the 8th inning IS the most important inning. Here’s the reason why: to win in pool, you have to pot the 8 ball. See: 8 and 8 for the win.

        I rest my case.

  • Tripp

    Could Romine and Montero alternate C and DH in the majors too?

    • Ed

      If they’re both good enough to become starting catchers in the majors, you’d get more value by trading one of them to fill another need.

    • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

      I’d say if it becomes apparent that Montero cannot stay behind the plate, he will be the DH and Romine will be the catcher. If Montero can stay behind the plate, I’d imagine he will be Jorge Posada part two.

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

        They will try Montero at other positions before making him a permanent DH. He is much more valuable as a 1B or corner outfielder then as a DH.

        • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

          I’d prefer corner outfielder, since he’ll essentially be blocked at first for a while what with Tex being here til 2016. If Montero can maybe slim down and get a little more athletic, and manages to keep his power, I think left-field could be an option.

          • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

            I’d prefer that too, but I’m not sure he can make that transition. You don’t hear very often of catchers-made-outfielders. He may not have a chance as a 1B with the Yankees, but he’d have tremendous trade value even as a 1B if his bat developes.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              You don’t hear very often of catchers-made-outfielders.

              Josh Willingham? (Not a great comp, as he was an SS/2B before moving behind the plate and then moving out to LF… best I got off the top of my head.)

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside
                • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

                  Didn’t they that there are none, but the transition from C to 1B is much more common.

                • Thomas

                  Biggio went from catcher to 2B to OF. He’s all I can think of and obviously not a good comp for Montero.

                  Also, Todd Hundley, but he was forced there by Piazza for 34 games and that really didn’t work out.

                • Stormrider6
                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  Oh, yeah, I wasn’t saying that it’s commonplace.

                  Just trying to unearth a possible example or two.

                • Drew

                  Inge can play any position, he’s a freak.

  • Thomas

    I’d probably toss Swisher on the list at 20 instead Brackman. Swisher is on the team for the next three years. and essentially, Swisher performance this year has a dramatic effect on what the Yankees do in the 2010 (and 11) offseason for the OF. Swisher’s play can effectively decide if the Yankees go after Holiday and possibly Manny.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I wouldn’t disagree with that.

      Brackman’s basically a luxury. With CC/Burnett/Wang/Joba/Hughes/Kennedy in the rotation depth chart + Betances/ZMac/Bleich etc., we’re not really counting on/depending on Brackman to make it, he’s just our ace in the hole.

      Swisher probably has a more defined and critical role on the team going forward, as I’d imagine the team expects him to assume one of the corner OF spots for next year (when we figure to lose Matsui + Nady and possibly Damon). Brackman’s just icing on the cake.

  • Peter

    we want Venditte…

  • Briley

    I would replace Brackman with Gardner….We will be set with our rotation for the next three years so his importance isnt very high, more of a luxury…As for gardner, if he proves he can hit at MLB level, he would completely change the dynamics of the team….

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