Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Not even good at cheating

  I haven’t written much about the Yankees this year and for good reason: there just hasn’t been much to write about. Despite a 200 MILLION DOLLAR payroll, the Yankees have limped along at a mediocre .500 pace for much of the year. It was expected that the team would struggle with $84 million dollars in payroll starting the year on the disabled list (Jeter – $17M, Alex Rodriguez - $29M, Teixeria - $23M, Granderson - $15M), but the team managed to get off to a good start and was in first place in mid-May with a 25-14 record thanks to the hot starts of GM Brian Cashman’s acquisitions of unwanted veterans Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkillis, and Vernon Wells. Unfortunately this quartet showed in May, June, and July why they were unwanted in the first place when their home run production all but disappeared and the Yankees have scored more runs than only 5 other major league teams.

  The relief pitching has outstanding with the ageless Mariano Rivera and David Rovertson, but the starting pitching has been spotty at best. Kuroda has been worth every penny of his 15 MILLION dollar salary, but CC Sabathia's 23 MILLION dollar salary has produced the performance worthy of a has-been pitcher and while 41 year old Any Pettitte has pitched well for a 41 year old pitcher he is still 41 years old and he has not pitched well in absolute terms.

  Granderson and Jeter have recently returned from the disabled list and even though Jeter has had to be disabled twice since his return there may be hope for a late season resurgence to sneak into the expanded playoffs. Even with the injuries it is pathetic to see the Yankees trailing teams like the Athletics, Royals, and Indians who spend less than a third of what the Yankees do on players. The injury filled season has given a glimpse into the Yankee minor league farm system and from all appearances the cupboard is bare. Of all the position players brought up, only Zoilo Almonte has shown the ability to be a hitter at the major league level. While the high payroll teams have to pay a ‘luxury tax’ for every dollar over the threshold, there is no limit on how much a team can pay to develop minor league talent and it is a telling indictment of the Yankees that they have no minor league help available and have to get high priced has-been talent to fill gaps while teams like the Athletics and Pirates can have winning teams without big name talent and the other mega payroll team (the LA Dodgers) had their season rescued from the brink of disaster by the arrival of the relatively low-priced Cuban defector ($42 million over seven years) Yasiel Puig from their minor league system.

  Alex Rodriguez has been due to return to the Yankees for over a month but the Yankees have been in no hurry to have the former slugger join the team even as desperate as they are for offense. 2 weeks ago, while the Yankee team physician diagnosed A-Rod with a strained quad, his personal physician denied there was an injury of any sort. He did make his season debut on Monday and singled in the Yankees 8-1 loss to the White Sox, which was a costly victory beyond the standings. If A-Rod could have been held out of the entire season due to injury, the Yankees insurance policy would pay his hefty salary. Once he took the field the Yankees were responsible for this years $29 million. Given his declining regular season production (34 home runs combined in 221 games in 2011-12 after 12 straight seasons of 30+ homers) and consistently pathetic postseason efforts (hitting less than .200 with zero home runs in the Yankees last 4 postseason series over 3 years) the Yankees would probably feel lucky if A-Rod retired due to his injuries and let the insurance company pay the remaining $114 MILLION on his contract.

  The Yankees may be off the hook for much of A-Rod’s salary anyway since he has become the central figure in the ‘Biogenesis’ scandal in which the Florida based business’ clinic records were revealed showing the company was involved in the business of selling Human Growth Hormone to at least 20 major league baseball players. 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun had his 2012 suspension for excessive testosterone levels set aside when the corier stored his samples in his home refrigerator for a weekend. At the time, Braun loudly proclaimed his innocence (“This is all B.S. I am completely innocent.”), but after he was linked to the Biogenesis company he was suspended for 65 games he now said ‘I realize now that I have made some mistakes’, foremost among those mistakes getting caught.

  Rodriguez’s infractions are even more serious. In 2009, he admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003 and was largely forgiven, so these new allegations that he’s used steroids every year since 2009 have led to calls for his punishment to be harsher. But on top of merely ingesting illegal substances there are also allegations that he tried to impede the investigation by attempting to purchase evidence that would be used against him. Rodriguez’s representatives have gone from threatening to sue MLB if they suspend A-Rod to negotiating the length of the suspension. The Yankees will save around $300,000 for every game that Rodriguez is suspended and I think they are secretly hoping for a lifetime ban, especially since he seems through as a player.

  The Yankees are well represented on the list of players linked to the Biogenesis scandal. Bartolo Colon resurrected his career with the Yankees in 2011 after missing the entire 2010 season. Jesus Montero was the jewel of the Yankee farm system before being traded to Seattle last year for Michael Pineda (who has yet to wear the pinstripes). Francisco Cervelli hit .298 as a backup catcher for the 2009 championship team. Melky Cabrera was a regular on the 2009 championship team who was subsequently played for 5 teams in 5 years and was leading the National League in hitting in 2012 before being suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. Is it a coincidence that so many players linked to the Biogenesis scandal have associations with the Yankees? Probably not. After all Roger Clemens was an accused steroid user when he was with the Yankees and Andy Pettitte admitted to using HGH as Clemens’s teammate with the Astros in 2004.

  I would have hoped that with all these cheating going on around the Yankees would have led to more than one world championship in the past 12 years, but this is indicative of their deep seated organizational problems. While the Yankees are great at spending more money than any other team for players for their stars and their band-aid replacements like Wells ($24 million) and Youkilis ($12 million) with luxury tax penalties on top of their payroll, they can’t find a way to efficiently spend money on a farm system to provide adequate replacements or even help their players discreetly take their HGH and PEDs without getting caught in order to remain top performers.