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Monday, November 24, 2014

Yankees are just another team. Is that good?

​Hanley Ramirez and the Logjam in Boston
by Dave Cameron - November 24, 2014 fangraphs.com

The Red Sox are reportedly on the verge of signing Hanley Ramirez for something “in the range” of $90 million over five years, according to Ken Rosenthal.

If correct, it's better than the reported deal for Chase Headley ($60 million, 4 years).  Ramirez $100 million for five years seems like a good deal, especially since the Yankees can try Ramirez at short and move him to third as/when needed.  Yanks may have missed the boat again.​  They have gaping holes at second, third and short, all of which they ignored in the previous off season.

This is just the most recent example of the Yankees no longer being the big team during the free agent signing season.  The Yankees are not relevant.

The second wild card was added to the tournament in 2012.  That season the Yankees had won the division with 95 wins; Baltimore was second with 93 wins.   The bottom seed Baltimore Orioles beat the Texas Rangers in the do-or-die wild card game in Texas, then beat the Yankees 3 games to 2 in the first series.  That's the last we've seen of the Yankees in the tournament.

Those 2012 Yankees hit a team record 245 home runs.  Here are the numbers for the starters:

1CFCurtis Granderson*311606845961021381844310610375195.232.319.492.81111529355174
22BRobinson Cano*291616976271051964813394326196.313.379.550.9291483452270210
31BMark Teixeira#32123524451661132712484215483.251.332.475.8071152141170121
4RFNick Swisher#311486245377514636024932377141.272.364.473.83712525494152
5CRussell Martin2913348542250891802153615395.211.311.403.71391170138200
6LFRaul Ibanez*4013042538450921931962303567.240.308.453.761103174144025
73BAlex Rodriguez3612252946374126171185713151116.272.353.430.7831111991310053
8DHEric Chavez*3411331327836781201637003059.281.348.496.845125138101043
9SSDerek Jeter38159740683992163201558944590.316.362.429.791114293245611

Here are the 2014 Yankee players with at least 10 home runs:

1CBrian McCann*30140538495571151512375003277.232.286.406.69294201167041
21BMark Teixeira#34123508440569514022621158109.216.313.398.711101175136043
3LFBrett Gardner*3014863655587142258175821556134.256.327.422.749111234361360
4CFJacoby Ellsbury*301496355757115627516703954993.271.328.419.74711124193075
5DHCarlos Beltran#3710944940346942301549313780.233.301.402.70398162114052

23.  The Yankee high in home runs was 23.  23.

real v. Pythagorean won-loss estimation
2012 95-67    95-67
2013 85-77    79-83
2014 84-78    77-85

In other words, the last two seasons the New York Yankees were probably sub .500 teams that somehow overachieved and deluded fans and, more importantly, management into thinking that the organization was solid and merely needed some tinkering.

Between the 2013 and 2014 seasons that tinkering led to bad decisions to abandon the team goal of finally getting under the soft salary cap and not paying a luxury "tax".  That may have provided $100 million that could now be spent on a player like Hanley Ramirez or free agent pitcher Max Scherzer.  That's assuming that quality free agents still want to sign with the Yankees.  Most want to go to a team that will contend.  The Yankees no longer offer that.

Instead the Yankees went after the first shiny objects that they saw a year ago and signed Jacoby EllsburyBrian McCann and Carlos Beltran.  You can see their numbers above.  Now they join other players with contracts that will pay them more than they produce for multiple years.

Bad ownership, bad management, blah, blah, blah.  The point is that the Yankees are ordinary.  The organization has no base on which to build.  The 25 player roster is old and mediocre.  The 40 player roster lacks impact players.  I checked the minor league numbers of the ten youngest players on the 40 player roster: they suck.

The Yankees cannot trade for players like starting pitchers Cole Hamels or Jordan Zimmermann, or outfielder B.J. Upton because the Yankees lack quality minor league players, which has been painfully obvious the last two seasons when young talent was desperately needed but did not emerge from the Yankee farm teams.

Part of the recent problem was the Derek Jeter mess but that merely exacerbated an already untenable situation.  The Yankees can no longer spend irresponsibly and hope that enough of their free agent signings will work out to at least keep the team competitive, if not of championship calibre.

For about twenty years the Yankees had an unmatched advantage in TV revenue, which the team smartly expanded by creating one of the early regional sports networks, the Yankees Entertainment & Sports (YES) network, which the Steinbrenner Kids sold after the death of patriarch George.  George Steinbrenner was not very bright or mentally stable but his impulsiveness provided resources and energy that drove the Yankees to championships.  Not an admirable model but there it is.  Now many teams have their own regional sports network generating additional money.

The heroic pitching of Madison Bumgarner of the 2014 champion Giants was the only thing that avoided complete chaos in which teams capable of winning 82-85 games think that they can now compete for that final bottom seed wild card and then ride a tide of good fortune as the Kansas City Royals did, coming within a hit of winning it all.  2014 Royals real v. Pythagorean:
89-73    84-78.

The Royals were lucky to have even qualified as the home wild card team.  Now Kansas City-like teams are dreaming the impossible dream.  I still think those wild card spots are almost worthless but the 2014 tournament went completely against me, so I won't push that.

Yankee fans thought pretty much like Kansas City fans in 2014.  If the team can just get into the tournament, anything can happen, especially since we're drinking the Jeter Kool-Aid.  Jeter is gone.  And Yankee fans should never think like Kansas City fans.

Bruno Sammartino was a professional wrestler who was champion in the 1960s and 1970s.  That was Bruno's thing: he was champion.  That was the Yankees thing, being champion.  No cutesy stuff.  No nice guy stuff.  Just being champion.  And doing it by hitting home runs.  The Yankees were the team people loved to hate.  The Yankees were America.  Americans who hated the Yankees didn't understand America.  Power doesn't sit well with the powerless.

So, is the baseball galaxy better off with the Yankees reduced to being just another team?

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