To take a page from Roger Kahn, who our fearless proprietor Alex Belth credited in Lede Time II, “Every year is next year for the Yankees.” Apparently, it’s next year already. The offseason doesn’t exist anymore.
Less than a week after the World Series, the news cycle has shifted to the GM meetings and the Hot Stove League. At least we got to enjoy the parade for a day or two.
Columns talking about 2010 and dismantling the team that were written within days of the Yankees doing their victory lap around the New House left as sour a taste as the bogus basking-in-the-afterglow pieces of Mike Lupica and Wallace Matthews. How quickly they changed their tunes; two days prior, they took Joe Girardi to the rails, one driving the “Win Game 6 or the s—t hits the fan from the Steinbrenners” bandwagon and the other riding shotgun.
It seemed like too much, too soon. Maybe that’s because for the first time in six years, the Yankees’ season went beyond the first week of October. Maybe it’s also because the Free Agent declarations were made public on Monday.
The Red Sox have already exercised the option on Victor Martinez, signed Tim Wakefield to a two-year deal, and traded for outfield/bench help, acquiring Jeremy Hermida from Florida. If it’s about keeping up with the Joneses, then the Yankees are playing their typical game of Snake in the Grass. They are the Joneses.
The stories coming out now as they pertain to the champs — random aside: now YES Network really is “the home of champions” — will center around three storylines:
1) Age (Keep 36-year-old Johnny Damon and 35-year-old Hideki Matsui, who’s now nothing more than a DH? Keep one? If so, which one? Or Jettison both?)
2) Pitching. Lots of decisions to be made outside of re-signing Andy Pettitte, non-tendering Chien-Ming Wang, and placing Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in the rotation.
3) Economics. The GM Meetings taking place at the Airport Hilton at Chicago O’Hare did not signal a depressed market. A weak free agent class does.
Where does that leave the Yankees as the Hot Stove premiere shows tape for YES and MLBN this week? Perhaps the most intriguing article came from John Harper at the Daily News. In his “10 Ideas For 2010” list, No. 8 was especially provocative:
CONTENT WITH CANO?
Robinson Cano’s abysmal postseason confirmed what scouts say about him, that he’s an undisciplined free swinger who is always going to put up numbers during the season against a lot of mediocre pitching, but should be an easy out on a big stage against elite pitching.
It doesn’t mean the Yankees should trade him. Indeed, he improved his focus in 2009 after his late-season benching in 2008, and for the most part played a brilliant second base. But it does mean the Yankees shouldn’t rule it out, in case some team sees him as their No. 3 hitter and is willing to give up a golden arm for him.
The Cano conundrum is interesting, mainly because the same things were said about Alfonso Soriano after the 2003 World Series loss. All the Yankees did that winter, albeit right before pitchers and catchers reported in February of ‘04, was send Soriano to the Texas Rangers as part of the blockbuster trade for Alex Rodriguez.
While Harper was just tossing an idea around as thought snacks, Joel Sherman preheated the oven with rumblings of Curtis Granderson heading to center field for the Yankees. Leave it to Sherman to leave some crumbs as the Winter Meetings approach.
This is the time of year when the good reporters in the industry elevate their games and separate themselves from the rest of the pack. On the TV side, the hangers-on from the local networks who are generally detached will be further removed from the process, leaving the info-gathering to the people who are typically in the trenches. In the coming weeks, you’ll see which beat writers and columnists have the most connections and go to the greatest lengths to source their stories. Their methods are not as scientific or analytical as the respective crews of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs, but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. They have a more difficult task: being first or being right.
And for us, the group that’s largely on the receiving end of all the tidbits, we have to decide which line is most credible.