Hot! The End of an Era?

As a disclaimer, it should be noted that this is actually a third attempt at writing an article regarding the New York Yankees. The first two attempts aimed to point out current issues plaguing the Yankees and possible solutions.

For the 2012 Yankees however, I’m stumped.

Winning a championship in any sport requires a certain blend. This includes team chemistry, player ability, leadership and an X-factor (something that distinguishes a team and strikes fear in opponents). Since the late 1990’s, the Yankees have been able to meet this criteria on numerous occasions. They have won five World Series titles since 1996 and have been in the playoffs every season since except for one.

Most fan bases are content with playoff appearances, Yankees fans are only content with championships. On this day, May 22nd, I feel comfortable predicting that the New York Yankees will not win the 2012 World Series. I even fear that If things don’t turn around soon, the team may not even make it to October. The reason for this pessimism is simple, this year’s New York Yankees come up lacking in the key components of the championship formula.

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Team Chemistry

Team chemistry not only consists of players co-existing, but functioning as a unit. The Yankees field a lineup of boom or bust power hitters and lack the ability to drive in runs through small ball and clutch hits. Guys like Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have outstanding power potential and are always a threat, but the lineup lacks speed and the ability to manufacture runs. Hopefully the return of Brett Gardner will provide a spark, but I would argue that his return will not be enough.

Player Talent

The talent that is required to be competitive is present on the 2012 team, but unlike a fine bottle of wine, there are things in life that deteriorate with age. The Yankees field the oldest team in the league with an average age of 31.5. This means that while the Yankees have talent, their biggest stars are past their prime and will in theory continue to decline in production until they ultimately retire. For the Yankees to improve they need to acquire younger talent that will be there to help carry the load when Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson are the old guys on the team. Unfortunately for the Yankees lack movable parts and will find it difficult to trade for young talent.

Leadership

During the Yankees more successful years, leadership always played as integral of a role as the talent. During the glory years between 1996-2000, Joe Torre’s managerial prowess combined with some nifty acquisitions by GM Brian Cashman and the ambition of owner George Steinbrenner lead the Yankees to multiple World Series Championships. The Yankees did win in 2009, but since then much has changed. The George Steinbrenner era is over and GM Brian Cashman has become the voice of the organization. He is tasked with fielding a team that is more budget friendly yet still competitive. As a result, while the Yankees still wish to win, the front office no longer faces the pressure instilled by Steinbrenner. While transitioning from being aggressive spenders to fiscally responsible contenders may not be what fans are used to, eventually the team will reap the benefits of this new approach, just not this year.

X-Factor

The Yankees X-factor during their postseason run has been their ability to play a different game than the rest of the MLB. While teams emerge victorious when they lead after 9 innings, the Yankees have had the unfair advantage of playing 8 inning games for the past 15 years. Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer the game has ever seen and it is no coincidence that since his debut, the Yankees have been regular postseason participants. No Yankee has dominated at his position more than Rivera through it all and there is not one batter in the game that looks forward to facing him. His loss for the remainder of the season makes the Yankees that much more mortal. Teams now don’t feel the same desperation to score runs as quick as possible knowing that even if they are losing in the 9th, whomever the Yankees throw out there is beatable.

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The Yankees have some work to do, but Brian Cashman appears to understand what it takes to rebuild: an emphasis of youth and restraint with the checkbook. It will take time for the Yankees big money contracts to come off the books to make a major overhaul possible, but Cashman will not sit by and let the team continue to deteriorate.

But as for this year, it may already be too late.

Author

Nicholas Kostopoulos

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