Sunday, February 24, 2013


Well, this is interesting...the Yankees seem hell-bent on turning the clock back to 1989, when the team that has churned more butter than those striped cats in Little Black Sambo was last in the red vis-a-vis its won-loss record. (Just in case you've forgotten, the Yankees circled the tree for four consecutive losing seasons from 1989-92, and even a number of Democrats who grimaced through GHWB's broccoli-infused reign went on record to say that these were some of the happiest years of their lives.)

Why do we say this? Why, because the Bronx Bombers have been shedding players at an alarming rate  since the conclusion of the 2012 season. Now they are piling up another sub-group of payroll recipients who will be on the sidelines for an indeterminate amount of 2013.

First, there was our old pal Derek Jeter, who fractured his ankle in the playoffs. Then there was Alex Rodriguez, whose decline threatened to reach terminal velocity over the winter and will miss an indeterminate amount of the 2013 season.  Next: Phil Hughes, who twisted, then began to shout when he tweaked his back. The Yanks are likely to be worried about this injury for a good bit longer than the initial two-week layoff they're giving Phil.

Granderson: out ten weeks with a fractured forearm...
And now: Curtis Granderson, the team's home run leader in 2012--and, in fact, the major league leader in HRs over the past two years with 84 (ten more than Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun)--suffered a forearm fracture in the Yankees' first spring training game.

This is shaping up to be the grandaddy of all austerity programs. The Yankees' uncharacteristic restraint in the 2012-13 offseason has now become a set of manacles, and there are no longer any bullet-proof adjustments open to them.

Their acquisitions since their abrupt departure from last year's playoffs--Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner--will have to reverse their career arcs in order to provide the Yanks with any kind of buffer. It was already clear that this year's edition of the Bombers was going to need all of the pitching it can get in order to offset an unaccustomed offensive anemia (at least by their standards); now, with these two forced to carry a full-time load, we've gone from fissure to fault line in the Bronx.

There's virtually no depth on the Yankee bench in '13, in direct contrast with earlier years. This is a team that will be starting 39-year-old Ichiro! Suzuki in right field this year. Full time.

This is looking more and more like a Yankee team that will score less than 750 runs for the first time since 1992. If catastrophe strikes (Rodriguez out most of the year; downturns from Jeter, Youkilis, Ichiro!, and Robinson Cano; another injury to the recently fragile Hafner), this team could actually get below 700 runs. If they do, they just might make a run at 75-80 wins for the season.

People have been talking about the Yankees collapsing for years, but this squad is now shaping up to have the type of sluggish start last seen in 2008, when they were 20-25 in late May and never did get into any kind of overdrive for the entire year.

This season could make '08 look like a walk in the park. Can Brett Gardner become the leadoff man we haven't seen in the past twenty years? Will the depleted bullpen seize the day even with Mariano Rivera coming off his injury? Can Eduardo Nunez step in for Jeter and hit .350? Clearly the answer to that last question at least needs to be memorialized in a time-honored fashion, as signified by the picture at left.

Don't count your pigs till they come in for a crash landing...but this just might be a year for the rest of us to savor.