Archive for Derek Jeter
Via Jon Heyman: Hal Steinbrenner has spoken to Derek Jeter and explained to him the Yankees will look for a starting shortstop this winter in the wake of his injury-riddled season. The Cap’n has not spoken publicly since signing his new one-year, $12M contract, but Heyman says he understands what the team is doing and is okay with it. I’ve always assumed Derek Jeter will play shortstop for the Yankees until Derek Jeter says it’s time for Derek Jeter to stop playing shortstop for the Yankees, but it sounds like he may wind up spending most of his time at DH in 2014. The Yankees are said to be “close” to a new deal with Brendan Ryan and have been connected to several other infielders.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with the captain who wasn’t around to go down with the ship.
This was the season Derek Jeter was never supposed to have. He’s Derek Jeter. Things are always supposed to go his way, and if they don’t, he proves people wrong and makes them go his way. Last season was a perfect example. The Cap’n was supposed to be finished, a washed up former star who was losing a fight with Father Time. Instead, he led the big leagues in hits (216), at-bats (683), and plate appearances (740). Thirty-eight-year-old shortstops aren’t supposed to do that.
Jeter finished that remarkable season on a down note, playing through a bone bruise in his left ankle during the month of September before it finally gave out and fractured in Game One of the ALCS. He had surgery in late-October and although the rehab timetable meant things would be tight, it appeared he would be ready in time for the start of Spring Training. Unfortunately, Father Time started started to win the war after losing the battle in 2012.
The offseason was full of gossip stories about Fat Derek Jeter and reports that his rehab was right on schedule. The Cap’n emphatically said he was working hard and would be ready in time for camp. Ultimately, that was not the case. Jeter’s rehab had slowed down at some point and he was far behind the other position players in Spring Training. He didn’t play in his first Grapefruit League game until mid-March and only appeared in five total, as many as Cito Culver. It was clear he would not start the season on time.
Jeter opened the 2013 campaign on the DL as he continued his rehab from the ankle surgery. In early-May, right when everyone was expecting him to return to the lineup, the Yankees announced their captain had suffered a major setback — there was a new fracture in the ankle, a smaller hairline crack that would nevertheless keep him out until the All-Star break. New York was getting nothing offensively from Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix at the shortstop position, so the setback was a big blow.
It wasn’t until July 11th, four days prior to the All-Star break, that Jeter joined the team. He played in only four rehab games and was rushed back to serve as the DH when Travis Hafner‘s shoulder started barking (again). Jeter was in the lineup for the series finale against the Royals and his return lasted all of eight innings. He legged out an infield single in his first at-bat of the year but felt tightness in his right quad when he tried to do the same a few innings later. The Yankees kept Jeter active over the weekend and through the All-Star break to see if he’d feel better, but that didn’t happen and back to the DL he went.
The second DL stint was shorter, only 17 days total. Jeter rejoined the team one day prior to a West Coast trip through two NL cities that would force him to play the field. That (second) first game back from injury resulted in one of the most memorable moments of the season, a first pitch solo homer off Rays left-hander Matt Moore:
Jeter played a total of four games at shortstop (the game against the Rays and three on the West Coast) before his right calf started acting up. Tests revealed a Grade I strain and just like that, the Cap’n was right back on the DL. This stint lasted 24 days. When he returned on August 26th, the team’s 131st game of the season, the Yankees were seven games back in the division and six games back of the second wildcard spot.
Following the third DL trip, Jeter stayed healthy for approximately two weeks. He wasn’t all that effective, going 9-for-48 (.188) with one extra-base hit (a double) and ten strikeouts while playing ten of 13 games at shortstop. After missing so much time due to injury and only playing in seven rehab games — that’s seven rehab games total: four coming back from the first injury, zero coming back from the second, three coming back from the third — it was no surprise he showed considerable rust at the plate. The problem was the Bombers were slipping in the standings and couldn’t afford the lack of production.
Jeter’s season came to an end on September 7th, when he exited a game against the Red Sox in the sixth inning with soreness in his surgically repaired left ankle. Tests came back clean but he was going to sit a few games before returning to the lineup. The team didn’t want to risk yet another setback. Four days later, with the Yankees sitting ten games back in the division and three games back of the second wildcard spot, Brian Cashman announced Jeter was being placed on the DL to prevent him from pushing too hard to come back after the doctor said he needed to strengthen the area around his ankle before returning. Jeter’s fourth DL stint of 2013 ended his season.
All told, the Cap’n hit just .190/.288/.254 (48 wRC+) in only 17 games around the various leg injuries this past season. He made four separate trips to the DL this summer after making four total from 1999-2012. The Yankees never really came out and said so, but the team and their doctors gave indications the leg injuries were all related — Jeter was compensating for one injury but putting extra stress elsewhere on his body. Certainly sounds reasonable, especially with leg injuries, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. Jeter missed all that time and it hurt the team dearly in 2013.
Rather than wait for him to exercise (or decline) his $9.5M player option for next season, the Yankees re-signed Jeter to a one-year contract worth $12M about two weeks ago. They reportedly agreed to the increased salary (and luxury tax hit) in exchange for avoiding a repeat of their contentious negotiations from three years ago, which only makes sense if Jeter’s camp indicated he was prepared to decline the player option and ask for more money. The Cap’n had no leverage following his self-proclaimed “nightmare” season but the Yankees gave into his demands anyway. Jeter is a total unknown heading into next season but the team paid him as if he’ll be a big time contributor because hey, he’s Derek Jeter and things are always supposed to go his way.
“Get a little healthier,” said Joe Girardi to Anthony McCarron earlier this week when asked what the team’s first order of business was this winter. He’s not kidding. Even though the Yankees have not played a game in more than a month, they still have plenty of injured players to keep tabs on. Here’s the latest on the walking wounded, courtesy of Charles Curtis, Mike Puma, Bryan Hoch, and John Manuel:
- Derek Jeter (ankle, calf) has started lifting weights for the first time in over a year as he prepares for next season. The ankle surgery kept him from lifting last winter and I guess he wasn’t able to do anything even after returning during the summer. Will it help? Hopefully.
- CC Sabathia (hamstring) has started throwing and is working out at full strength after his season ended in late-September due to a Grade II strain. He suffered the injury six weeks ago and the initial recovery timetable was eight weeks, so apparently he’s ahead of schedule. Sabathia was expected to start a long-toss program similar to his usual offseason routine as soon as the hamstring was healthy. Elbow surgery threw off his routine off last winter.
- Outfield prospect Mason Williams missed some time this week after being hit in the face by an errant throw during Arizona Fall League play. It was a freak accident — he was in the tunnel next to the clubhouse when the ball hit him. Williams has a small cut on the bridge of his nose and has since returned to action. This year’s injuries have officially jumped the shark.
Saturday: Sherman has the gory math details if you’re interested. I’ve given up caring about whether they saved money against the luxury tax threshold. It is it what it is. Ronald Blum says the contract includes the same bonus package as Jeter’s previous deal, and unlike the player option stuff, the Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it very clear bonuses count towards the luxury tax if triggered. Jeter can earn a maximum of $7M in awards-based bonuses and the Yankees have to be prepared for that. For all intents and purposes, his “tax hit” for next season is $19.81M.
Friday: To no one’s surprise, Derek Jeter will return to the Yankees next season. Just not the way we all expected. Rather than exercise his $9.5M player option, Jeter has signed a new one-year contract worth $12M, the team announced. Both Joel Sherman and Andrew Marchand report the deal was brokered one-on-one with Hal Steinbrenner as a way to avoid a repeat of their contentious negotiations from three years ago.
According to Sherman and Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees will save approximately $1.19M against the luxury tax with the new contract. The player option was treated as a guaranteed year when the original contract was signed, so Jeter’s original deal was a four-year, $56M pact with a $14M average annual value. The new deal is valued at $12.81M for some complicated reason. There has not yet been any confirmation from Brian Cashman or someone else with the team regarding the luxury tax stuff, however.
Jeter, 39, played in only 17 games this past season due to four (!) leg injury related DL trips. He hit a weak .190/.288/.254 (48 wRC+) in those 17 games and was barely mobile at shortstop, which wasn’t terribly surprising given all the leg problems. Obviously the Yankees expect Jeter to rebound both at the plate and in the field next season, otherwise they wouldn’t have guaranteed him the $12M. The Cap’n hit .316/.362/.429 (117 wRC+) with a league-leading 216 hits as recently as 2012.
Even with Jeter re-signed, the Yankees still need to address the left side of their infield because of the uncertainty surrounding Alex Rodriguez. Even if A-Rod is not suspended, the team can’t count on him or Jeter to play the field everyday. They love Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix is a fine utility man, but New York should look into acquiring a better infielder to fill in at short and third on a fairly regular basis. Banking on two guys closing in on 40 with a recent history of leg injuries to stay healthy is an unwise move.
The 2013 season is over and we’ve had a week to catch our breath. It’s time to review the year that was, starting with the Yankees’ significant injuries. They pretty much defined the season.
Every single team deals with injuries every single year. It’s impossible to make it through the full 162-game season without losing players to injury, either nagging or severe. Injuries come with the territory and the Yankees had a lot of them in 2013. They didn’t use a franchise record 56 players out of the kindness of their heart — they lost roughly 1,400 man games to injury and used the Major League DL a ridiculous (and MLB-high) 28 times this season. If you wore pinstripes this summer, chances are you got hurt at one point or another.
For the most part, we can fit every injury into one of two categories: predictable and unpredictable. A player rolls his ankle running through first base? Unpredictable. Not necessarily surprising, it happens, but not something you’d expect. But a pitcher with a history of arm problems blowing out his elbow? Yeah that’s predictable. Some guys are so injury prone it’s a matter of when they’ll get hurt, not if. You want to think this is the year they’ll stay healthy — remember when being a full-time DH was supposed to keep Nick Johnson healthy? — but it very rarely is.
The Yankees had a ton of injuries this year, some more devastating than others. We’re not going to focus on the nagging day-to-day stuff or quick 15-day DL stints in this post. We’re going to look at the long-term injuries — both the predictable and unpredictable ones — meaning the guys who missed most or all of the regular season. I’m leaving Alex Rodriguez (left hip) out of this because we knew coming into the year he would be out until at least the All-Star break. I want to focus on the players everyone expected (or hoped) would be on the roster come Opening Day.
Predictable Injury: Derek Jeter
It all started last September, when Jeter fouled several pitches off his left ankle/foot and played through a bone bruise late in the season. In Game One of the ALCS, the ankle finally gave out and fractured. The Cap’n had surgery in October and the initial timetable had him on track for Spring Training and the start of the season. He’s Derek Jeter and he works harder than everyone, so he’ll make it back in time, right? Wrong.
Jeter’s progress in camp was deliberate as he nursed the ankle, and it wasn’t until mid-March that he appeared in his first Grapefruit League game. He played five exhibition games before needing a cortisone shot in the ankle and being ruled out for Opening Day. Here’s the timeline that followed:
- March 31st: Yankees place Jeter on 15-day DL.
- April 18th: Yankees announced Jeter suffered a setback — a second (and smaller) fracture in the ankle. He was not expected to return until the All-Star break.
- April 27th: Jeter is transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Vidal Nuno.
- July 11th: Yankees activate Jeter off DL. He goes 1-for-4 in his first game back but suffers a calf strain running out a ground ball.
- July 23rd: Jeter is retroactively placed on the 15-day DL after the calf doesn’t respond to rest and treatment.
- July 28th: Yankees activate Jeter. He plays five games before the calf starts acting up again.
- August 5th: Jeter is retroactively placed on the 15-day DL (again) as rest and treatment doesn’t do the trick (again).
- August 26th: Yankees activate Jeter. He plays 12 games before his surgically-repaired left ankle becomes sore.
- September 11th: For the fourth time, Jeter is placed on the 15-day DL. The moved officially ends his season. Three days later, the Yankees transferred him to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for David Phelps.
Four DL trips for what amounts to three different leg injuries. Jeter appeared in only 17 of the team’s 162 games and looked pretty much nothing like himself, with little impact at the plate and close to zero mobility in the field. He was never the rangiest defender, but it was especially bad this season. When a 38-year-old shortstop — Jeter turned 39 in June — has a major ankle surgery, you have to expect there to be some delays and complications during the rehab process, even when he has a full offseason to rest.
Unpredictable Injury: Mark Teixeira
Up until last season, Teixeira was an iron man. He was good for 155+ games played a year every year, but various injuries (cough, wrist, calf) limited him to only 123 games in 2012. With the cough behind him and an offseason of rest for the calf, Teixeira was expected to be as good as new for this season. Then, while with Team USA preparing for the World Baseball Classic, he felt some discomfort in his right wrist and had to be shut down.
The soreness turned out to be a tendon sheath injury, which can be pretty severe if not allowed to heal properly. Teixeira and the Yankees opted for rehab because there was no reason not to — surgery, which was always a realistic possibility, would have ended his season anyway, so might as well try the rehab route first. He did the rest and rehab thing before rejoining the team on the final day of May. Teixeira appeared in 15 games before the wrist started acting up again. On July 3rd, he had the season-ending surgery. No one saw the wrist problem, which was described as a “wear-and-tear” injury, coming.
Predictable Injury: Kevin Youkilis
When it became official that A-Rod needed his hip surgery in early-December, the Yankees had to find a replacement everyday third baseman. The free agent market had little to offer, especially once Eric Chavez decided to move closer to home in Arizona. New York signed Youkilis to a one-year, $12M contract to replace Rodriguez despite his history of back problems.
Not counting four separate day-to-day bouts with spasms from 2008-2010, Youkilis spent time on the DL with back problems in both 2011 and 2012. That doesn’t include some nagging day-to-day stuff between the DL stints either. Sure enough, 17 games in the season, Youkilis’ back started barking. He missed a handful of games with tightness before aggravating the injury on a feet-first slide into first base on a defensive play. That sent him to the DL with a bulging disc. Youkilis returned in late-May and managed to play another eleven games before needing season-ending surgery to repair the damaged disc. For their $12M investment, the Yankees received 118 mostly ineffective plate appearances. Backs don’t get better, then just get worse.
Unpredictable Injuries: Curtis Granderson
Aside from Jeter and A-Rod having surgery in the offseason, the parade of injuries started in the first home game of Spring Training. On the fifth pitch of his first Grapefruit League at-bat, Granderson took a J.A. Happ fastball to the right forearm. Just like that, the Yankees had lost their top power hitter for three months with a broken arm. They’re lucky (in a sense) that the injury occurred so early in Spring Training and Granderson was able to return in mid-May, not much later in the season.
After returning from the DL in the team’s 39th game of the season, Granderson appeared in eight games before another errant pitch sent him to the sidelines. This time it was Rays left-hander Cesar Ramos who did the deed. The pitch broke Granderson’s left hand and would keep him out ten weeks even though the initial diagnosis called for a six-to-eight week recovery time. Curtis returned to the team in early-August and wound up playing in only 61 of the club’s 162 games. Hit-by-pitch injuries are the definition of unpredictable injuries.
Predictable Injury: Michael Pineda
Thanks to last May’s labrum surgery, Pineda was expected to miss the start of the 2013 season but be a factor in the second half. He started an official minor league rehab assignment in early-June and exhausted the full 30 days before the Yankees determined he was not big league ready. They optioned Pineda to Triple-A Scranton in early-July and less than a month later, he came down with shoulder tightness. Although tests came back clean, the tightness all but assured we wouldn’t see him in pinstripes for the second straight season. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman said during his end-of-season press conference they shut Pineda down as a healthy player after more than a year of rehab and pitching just to get him rest. Given the nature of the injury, it was no surprise the right-hander was slow to return and ultimately a non-factor in 2013.
Unpredictable Injury: Frankie Cervelli
Thanks to some throwing improvement in Spring Training and the fact that Chris Stewart can’t hit, Cervelli took over as the team’s everyday catcher early in the season. He started 16 of the team’s first 22 games, but in that 16th start, Rajai Davis fouled off a pitch that hit Frankie square in his exposed right hand. His suffered a fracture and was expected to miss at least six weeks … until he suffered a stress reaction in his elbow during rehab. The stress reaction supposedly stemmed from a change in his throwing motion to compensate for the hand injury. Cervelli was suspended 50-games for his ties to Biogenesis in August but that really didn’t matter; the elbow injury had ended his season anyway. Catching is brutal, but a broken hand on a foul tip is still not something you can see coming.
Predictable Injury: Travis Hafner
You name it, and chances are it sent Hafner to the DL at some point in recent years. Most notably, he missed almost the entire 2008 season due to right shoulder surgery. The same shoulder started barking this summer, first in mid-May and then again mid-July. It’s probably not a coincidence his production completely tanked after the first bout with soreness. Hafner was placed on the DL in late-July and missed the rest of the season, for all intents and purposes. He was activated for the last few games of the season but only played in one. Pronk visited the DL seven times from 2008-2012, so it’s no surprise he wound up there in 2013.
Got six questions this week, so I tried to keep the answers short and go rapid fire. If you want to send us questions or links or complaints or whatever, the Submit A Tip box in a sidebar is the best way to go.
Joe asks: If Joe Girardi leaves who would be on your short list of replacements?
I don’t even know where to start. There are no great candidates out there. You’d need someone familiar with being in a big market just because it’s completely chaotic, or it can be if the manager lets it. Bench coach Tony Pena seems like an obvious candidate and I guess the just-fired Dusty Baker is as well. Triple-A Scranton manager Dave Miley and Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin seem like long shots. I want no part of Mike Scioscia (if he’s fired) or Don Wakamatsu, who has big league managerial experience (with the Mariners) and works in the Yankees front office. I don’t see a ton of obvious candidates out there. Pena is clearly the best at this point.
Joey asks: B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla are both well-paid and under-performing for Atlanta. If the Braves cover most of the salary, do you think the Yankees would be interested in either player and would think its a good idea?
I don’t think the Braves would eat a ton of money to move Upton after just one year. Not with his brother still on the team and a roster that still managed to win 96 games despite his terribleness. As for Uggla … I don’t think I’d touch him. He hit .179/.309/.362 (91 wRC+) with 22 homers in 537 plate appearances this season, and he’s also 33 years old (34 in March). That’s right around the age second baseman tend to fall off the cliff. This sums up where his career is heading:
Go look at Uggla’s graph page on FanGraphs and notice how pretty much everything has been trending in the wrong direction for three years now. The Braves left him off their NLDS roster and they own him $13M in each of the next two years. Yeah, the Yankees could use him as a backup corner infielder/DH, but even if Atlanta eats so much money that he’s a $4M a year player, I wouldn’t touch him. The Bombers already have one Vernon Wells, no need to add the infield version as well.
Anthony asks: Say #HIROK decided to retire, could the Yankees still offer him a qualifying offer and get a pick?
The only way the Yankees would get a draft pick for Hiroki Kuroda (or any other player who turns downs a qualifying offer) is if they sign a Major League contract with one of the other 29 times before next summer’s draft. That’s it. They don’t get a pick if the player retires, goes to Japan, or signs a minor league contract.
Mr. Fish Fingers asks: Any interest in/chance of acquiring Jason Castro this off-season or (more likely) at some point in the season? Got to cost an arm and a leg, but he had a nice season in Houston and is under team control.
Theoretically, the Astros would want to build around Castro going forward, right? He just turned 26 and hit .276/.350/.485 (130 wRC+) with 18 homers this season, plus he’s a standout defender behind the plate. That’s a cornerstone player. If you’re a rebuilding team, you keep him. That said, the Astros seem to have completely given up on being competitive and are instead focused on having a strong farm system, so who knows. I’d take Castro in a heartbeat — he is arbitration-eligible for the first time this year and can’t become a free agent until after 2016 — and would open up the farm system to give Houston whatever they want. Gary Sanchez and Rafael DePaula? Sure thing. You hope that in six years, Sanchez will be what Castro is right now. Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy? Tyler Austin and Mason Williams? Done deal. No-brainer for me. I think Castro is the one guy the Astros will keep, however.
Jon asks: MLBTR got me thinking about Asdrubal Cabrera as a possible 2014 shortstop target. If I remember, Brian Cashman was hot on him previously, only one year left on contract and coming off a down year. Possible buy low, would the Yankees want the Indians to kick some money in to offset $10M ’14 Salary? What would it take in prospects?
Cabrera would make sense as a shortstop target if he was actually a shortstop. The 27-year-old is an awful defensive player — pick any defense stat and it’ll say he’s been terrible for several years running now — and to make matters worse, he isn’t hitting all that much either. Cabrera put up a .242/.299/.402 (95 wRC+) line with 14 homers this year, which is way better than what the Yankees got from the position this year but way below what his reputation would lead you to believe. He’s better than Eduardo Nunez, but we’re not exactly setting a high bar there. Is he so much better that it justifies the massive salary and a trading away a prospect or two? Asdrubal is someone worth looking at more in-depth if he actually ends up on the block at some point. My short answer is: meh.
Elliot asks: If Derek Jeter declines his option (crazy talk) do you see a situation where he wants a longer contract guaranteed, but will spread out the cost over more years and help the team get under $189 million?
I don’t know if Jeter will want that, but there is a scenario in which opting out and signing a multi-year deal would help the Yankees get under the luxury tax threshold. Right now his option is worth $9.5M and can be worth as much as $16.5M with awards-based incentives. The team would have to treat him as a $16.5M player in 2014 — you can’t plan on him costing only $9.5M and then have him blow the whole thing up by finishing fifth in the MVP voting or something. They could, I suppose, guarantee the extra $7M (instead of basing it on incentives) and spread it out over multiple years. Instead of a one-year deal worth $9.5M and potentially $16.5M, it could be a three-year deal worth $16.5 guaranteed. That would lower the average annual salary (and his “tax hit”) from at least $9.5M and possibly $16.5M in 2014 to $5.5M flat. It’s worth considering, but remember, it takes two to tango.
Via Dan Martin: Derek Jeter as not yet made a decision about the $9.5M player option in his contract for next season. “I haven’t even thought about it. Our season just ended right now, so I’ve given no thought to the offseason,” said the Cap’n, who has until three days after the end of the World Series to officially exercise or decline the option. Awards-based incentives could increase his salary to $16.5M.
Jeter, 39, went 12-for-63 (48 wRC+) in only 17 games this season while missing time with a series of leg injuries, most notably the fractured left ankle he suffered last October. He has called this season a “nightmare” and I have a really hard time thinking he will decline the option and try to coax the team into giving him a two or (gasp) three-year contract. Jeter has zero leverage at this point.
In other news, Jeter said he is planning to begin offseason workouts relatively soon. He couldn’t work out on his usual schedule last winter because of the ankle injury, so hopefully having a regular offseason will help keep him healthy and productive next summer.
Brian Cashman held his annual end-of-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon and, unsurprisingly, there were no announcements made. Not even a minor one. He fielded questions for about an hour and in typical YankeeSpeak, the GM said a lot of words that had little substance. The team’s higher-ups have a knack for dodging questions and giving vague answers while talking a whole bunch. Anyway, let’s recap the presser:
On Joe Girardi
- Cashman confirmed he met with Girardi “for a while” yesterday and will meet with agent Steve Mandell tomorrow to continue talks. “After tomorrow, I think I’ll get a real good feel for where we’re at,” he said. “I think he likes it here. We’re going to give [Girardi] a real good reason to stay.”
- “His effort and his efforts in pre-game preparation for each series and how he runs Major League Spring Training … he’s been consistently tremendously at it,” said the GM while also crediting Girardi for working with such a poor roster this season. “[His] job as a manager is to make sure these guys compete on a daily basis … I thought he did a great job, him and his staff.”
- Cashman would not comment when asked if the Cubs (or any other team, for that matter) had contacted the team to ask for permission to speak to Girardi. His contract expires November 1st.
- Cashman closed the press conference with a preemptive “no comment” about how things go (went?) with Mandell tomorrow. He told the media not to bother to reach out for an update because he won’t give one. It was kinda funny.
I’ve never really been fond of the term “Core Four.” Not because it’s cheesy or because I hate pretty much everything, but because I feel it’s disrespectful to every other player who had a role in the dynasty years. I’m talking about guys like Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Paul O’Neill — the guys who were on the field celebrating Mariano Rivera‘s career yesterday. Even more recent players like Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano, and CC Sabathia deserve to be any kind of “core” talk.
The Core Four or whatever you want to call it is no more at this point. Jorge Posada retired two years ago and both Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will play the final games of their careers within the next week. Derek Jeter is still hanging around and figures to return next year — I have a very, very, very hard time thinking he would go out with a disastrous 2013 being his final season — but otherwise all the on-field ties to the dynasty years are gone. Even if Jeter does return next season, it’s hard to think he’ll be the same player he was just last year, nevermind 1996-2001.
The homegrown core of those dynasty years is not something we’re ever going to see again. Not in our lifetimes. The collection of players who came up through the farm system in the 1990s was historic, more than once in a generation stuff. Just think about it this way: if you were building a team today, from scratch, what types of the players you would target to build around? In no particular order, they’d be:
- A switch-hitter center fielder who hit for average, power, and got on base.
- A switch-hitting catcher with power and patience.
- An elite offensive shortstop who had all the intangibles associated with being a franchise cornerstone.
- A workhorse left-handed starter.
- A durable reliever who was unfazed in the biggest moments.
Those are the five guys you’d want to build your team around, right? Strength up the middle and strength on the mound. Now imagine not only drafting/signing and developing those five guys all at once, but imagine all of them having careers long enough that they turned into this:
- A borderline Hall of Fame center fielder.
- A borderline Hall of Fame catcher.
- A first ballot Hall of Fame shortstop.
- A borderline Hall of Fame left-hander.
- A first ballot Hall of Fame closer and the greatest reliever in baseball history.
That’s the core that came up through the Yankees’ farm system all at once in the 1990s. It’s a historically great crop of players that you’d be thrilled to develop over the span of 25 years, nevermind in just five or six years. In recent memory, I think only the Phillies — Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels — come even remotely close to developing such a high-end core in the same period of time.
The development of that five-player core is not something the Yankees or anyone can repeat. You can’t fire that idiot Brian Cashman and replace him with that genius Gene Michael, wait five years, then have another core with those caliber of players. It doesn’t work like that. The Williams/Posada/Jeter/Pettitte/Rivera core is a combination of both great scouting and historic luck. I’ve been using the word historic a lot because that’s what this is. There’s no other way to describe these guys individually or as a five-player unit.
As amazing as that development was, you know what I find just as fascinating? With the exception of Jeter, all of those guys were dangerously close to being traded at one time or another. Bernie was rumored to be involved in separate deals for Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Jeff Blauser, among others. The Yankees originally wanted to include Posada in the Tino Martinez trade with the Mariners before relenting and giving up Russ Davis. Mariano was almost dealt for Randy Johnson, Felix Fermin, and David Wells at different times. Pettitte was on the trade block all throughout his first tenure in pinstripes it seemed, and the most notable rumor involved the Phillies and Adam Eaton. All it would have taken was one “yes” to dismantle the core of a dynasty.
Rivera and Pettitte saying goodbye to the Yankee Stadium crowd yesterday was about more than just saying goodbye to the fans. It was saying goodbye to one of the greatest runs in franchise history, a historic era that featuring five World Series titles and seven pennants in a 14-year span. We watched Jeter reach 3,000 career hits, Pettitte claim the team’s all-time strikeout crown, Bernie become the all-time leader in postseason RBI, Posada play in more playoff games than any other catcher in history, and Rivera save more games than anyone else in baseball history. It has been a privilege and an honor to watch all five of these guys — as well as anyone else who helped out during the dynasty years — but like everything else at one time or another, this great era of Yankees baseball has reached its end.
Sunday: Phelps has indeed been activated. He threw a two-inning simulated game on Thursday, so at least he had some kind of tune-up appearance under his belt. Derek Jeter was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Saturday: Via Dan Barbarisi: The Yankees will activate David Phelps off the 60-day DL prior to Saturday’s game to help their, uh, disheveled bullpen. Last week we heard Phelps had just started playing catch and was still a few days away from throwing in the bullpen. He’s been out with two forearm strains since early-July. There is pretty much zero chance Phelps is big league ready. Desperation is a stinky cologne.