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Monday, December 1, 2014

Triangle offense: Yankees copying Knicks?

What's the plan, Cashman?  Maybe Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is taking a page from the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA): the triangle offense.  First some background.

Both teams are run by rich sons of wealthy families that made their money in other industries:
- Yankees: Hal Steinbrenner, ship building
- Knicks: James Dolan, cable TV.

Since 1947 the Knicks have won only two championships: 1970 and 1973.  The Yankees have won many but only one since 2000: 2009.

When interviewed a few years ago on WFAN by Fat Mike, Dolan at least exhibited knowledge of the cable industry.  Hal Steinbrenner has not shown any aptitude in any area, least of all baseball.  Dolan seems to actually care about the Knicks.  Hal Steinbrenner seems to tolerate the Yankees intrusion on his leisure time.

In recent seasons the Knicks have tried rebuilding, only to also try too often to qualify for the NBA playoffs, which is fairly easy.  The most recent attempt to improve the Knicks was Dolan hiring someone to run the entire basketball operation.  Unfortunately, Dolan chose a person with no such experience.  He hired a former coach instead, a guy who supervised 12 players and some assistant coaches.  The retired coach hired was Phil Jackson, who was head coach on more championship teams than any other in NBA history.  So far, most of what we hear from Jackson are coaching things, including his pet tactic: the triangle offense.

Jackson even hired a first time coach, Derek Fisher (no relation to Derek Jeter), because Fisher agreed to implement the triangle offense.  So far this season the Knicks are 4-14.

But the Knicks seem to have inspired the Yankees, if for no other reason the Knicks seem to have a plan.  A year ago the Yankees had a plan: get under the soft salary cap and free up about $100 million for use in acquiring future free agents.  However, the Yankees lacked discipline and focus and instead wasted lots of  money on Jacoby Ellsbury (CF, 31), Brian McCann (C, 31) and Carlos Beltran (RF, 37).  After spending on them the Yankees were on the salary cap bubble but smashed through the cap by signing pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.  Tanaka was a huge success until he wasn't: arm trouble, possibly caused by pitching more than once a week as he had in Japan.  Ouch.  Yanks should have considered that.

The Yankees now seem content with emulating the Knicks and trying to ensure that the team qualifies for the Major Baseball League (MBL) tournament, which is now also pretty easy with the addition of a second wild card in each conference.


Check out behind-the-scenes footage from the Spike Lee MSG special What is the Triangle Offense, as the acclaimed director learns more about the new system the Knicks are using.


The Spike Lee video was shown on the MSG Network.  Madison Square Garden (MSG) owns both the Rangers hockey team and the Knicks.  Spike Lee is a long time Knicks fan and hanger on.  He also directs movies and TV commercials from time to time.  His triangle offense video suggests farce and/or parody but I'm pretty sure Lee was serious when he made it.

Both impresario Phil Jackson and coach Derek Fisher discuss and illustrate the triangle offense to the obvious bewilderment of Lee and me.  I really wondered if it was a put on.  What the heck are they talking about?  I've tried to spot the triangle when the Knicks have the ball and observations are fleeting and uncertain.

So with that background why not suspect that the Yankees intend to implement a comparably bizarre baseball version of the triangle offense?  Maybe that's why the Yankees have gaping holes at second, third and short: to fill with the triangle offense.  Or maybe the Bermuda triangle.  Those same holes existed a year ago when the Yankees signed the aforementioned players for center, catcher and right.  Maybe they expected to fill the vacant infield spots by osmosis.

About a week ago someone asked me what the the Yankees needed.  I said they need to clean house, starting with the owners, the Steinbrenner Kids.  The person then rhapsodized about the possibility of Derek Jeter buying the team or at least being part of a group that buys the Yankees, I guess like Magic Johnson "buying" the LA Dodgers. That would introduce an owner with even less executive experience than Phil Jackson.

Of course, Jeter could do as he did with his charitable foundation: have unqualified relatives serve on the board and act as chief executive officer.  Sort of like the Knicks.  Then the question could change from what's the plan to who's on first?

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