I hate to say it. I'm a Yankee fan, for Pete's sake. The Mantra is to win, this and every other year. Win today. Win tomorrow. Win the day after that. Each season, the expectation goes, should be punctuated with a gaudy, diamond-crusted ring.
But realistically, you can't win every year. Everyone knows that, even Yankee fans, even though they are used to seeing their team win more than any other. Every team hopes for the opportunity to compete each season. The Yankees certainly build for that, having made the postseason each year but once since 1995, winning five World Series and seven American League pennants in that span.
This year, more than any other within that span, it seems that there will be no light at the end of the tunnel. The Yankees currently sit fourth out of five in the AL East, 8.5 games behind the first place Rays, who are younger and more talented. While they're only 3.5 out of the Wild Card, but does anybody really believe that they're going to be able to stay within striking distance? I'm not convinced.
As it stands they're currently 4 games over .500. Sure in 2007 they entered the All-Star break 4 games under .500, the first time they took a losing record to that point of the season since 1995. They still made the postseason, but things are different now. That season Alex Rodriguez carried the team with his 56 homeruns and 156 RBI, numbers which we clearly will never see again from the third baseman. This season he and most of the Yankee regulars are far older and injured. Mark Teixeira is out for the season, Derek Jeter has been struggling with a series of injury setbacks, Curtis Granderson has yet to play any meaningful innings, and the lineup on any given night is unfamiliar.
Right now the Yankees rank 23rd in runs, 24th in batting average, 25th in on base percentage, and embarrassingly, 29th in slugging. These are not typical Yankee numbers. This is not a typical Yankee season, and this is not a typical Yankee team. And what I am about to suggest is not a typical Yankee solution.
The trade deadline is today, and maybe the Yankees should have been sellers all along. It's sacrilege, but they should have. It's the nature of running any sports franchise, even the richest and most successful in baseball. A period of rebuilding, even for a short span of one or two years, is inevitable. There is no shame in it. For the past 20 years, the Yankees have given their fans a legitimate hope of winning the World Series, year-in and year-out. It's quite remarkable when you think of it that way in this modern era of postseason baseball, Wild Cards, luxury tax, and revenue sharing.
Consider that Robinson Cano is in the last year of his contract, will be 31 by the time he hits free agency, and will command a minimum of 8 years, and God knows how much -- some estimates put the total worth in the $200 million range. Now think about the fact that it's trade deadline day and the biggest concern on Yankee fans' minds is how long Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for in the Biogenesis scandal. Assuming A-Rod does play again, he has four years and left on his contract after this season, at around $100 million. Instead of cashing in on homerun milestone bonuses that the Yankees are reaping marketing rewards from, he is now a weight around the neck of the franchise. Do the Yankees really want to commit nine figures to another player until his 39th birthday?
I hate to say it, but perhaps they should have been fielding offers for Robinson Cano the entire time, and perhaps Hideki Kuroda as well. Brian Cashman has done wonders to improve the farm system, but what it is lacking is major league-ready talent. Cano and Kuroda could have perhaps fetched 5 or 6 such prospects. The combination of returning veteran talent, mixed with younger, exciting players, could have put the Yankees back into contention within the next year or two. And the low salaries that such players command would certainly help them get under the $189 million salary cap threshold, assuming that goal is for real.
Instead, the Yankees have a mediocre hand that they refuse to fold. And although the team already boasts the likes of Ichiro Suzuki, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells, all acquired within the last year despite the fact that the 2003 World Series is already over and lost, the Yankees went out and got themselves another over 35-year old whose best days were a decade ago in Alfonso Soriano -- reportedly over Cashman's objections.
I hate to say it, but the Yankees should have been sellers by this point. I also hate to say I told you so, which is why I won't come October.
Truthfully, I honestly hope that I'm wrong right now. Perhaps Jeter will return and his impact on and off the field will ignite something in the team. Perhaps Granderson will return and hit 20 homeruns in the second half, the Yankees will find a way to win the wildcard, and Cano will be a valuable asset in the postseason -- whether the World Series is won or not.
But that's highly unlikely. As much as I hate to say it.