Transition and Tradition

Judge ST I have to admit that I am a bit lost. I don't know how to love these Yankees. Oh boy...that doesn't sound very journalistic. Well, heck. I'm not a journalist. I have always written from the point of view of a fan. My name on Twitter should give you a clue. On my site, I stay neutral and write as a fan of baseball as a whole. When I write for IIATMS, I am a Yankee fan. That's what I am. And as such, I don't know how to feel about this 2015 team.

Oh, there are plenty of writers that will tell me how I should feel. The team is old. Our writers have already blown up that notion. The starting pitching is a time bomb. Excuse me, but every rotation in baseball is a time bomb. Any rotation can blow up in the blink of an elbow. I should be dissatisfied because there were no big deals this off season. Hal is sitting on his money and blah blah blah.None of those things are my problem.

My problem is my fan history. I don't go as far back as Lou Gehrig. But I go back as far as Mickey Mantle. And every generation has had its home grown star. We went from Gehrig to Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle to Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson to Don Mattingly to the Core Four to...uh...to..what, exactly?

As I look at the Opening Day lineup, I see one homegrown guy: Brett Gardner. We can probably have a debate on whether or not he is a star. A guy putting up 4 WAR seasons is pretty darned good. But a star? We can probably agree he isn't a superstar. When Brian McCann has a rest, there will be two homegrown guys when John Ryan Murphy plays. I can say for sure that Murphy is not a star and will not be as long as McCann's contract is around.

You are probably saying, "Wait, William, what about our pitchers?" That's true. We have Dellin Betances and Adam Warren. Ivan Nova doesn't really count because he was a Rule 5 guy from San Diego. But pitchers don't really count. Well, maybe Mariano Rivera counted.

Generally, pitchers are once-every-five-day guys. Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry and, to some extent, Mel Stottlemyre and Andy Pettitte were all stars and even heroic in the minds of many. But pitchers are rarely your anchors. Every day players are. And Derek Jeter was the last one standing. Now he's gone and there isn't anyone to carry on the tradition.

What is left is a semi-star in Gardner and a bunch of guys we are told not get attached to because they are overpaid mercenaries that the Yankees paid too much for and for too many years. It is sort of like going to a Memorial Day Parade in 1810 and seeing nothing but old French soldiers walk by.

Yes, the free agent model brings these types of situations to teams. We are all happy when the Steinbrenners empty their wallets and outbid everyone on superstars. But, by the time they turn 34 or older, we chafe and grind our teeth that we keep having to see those overpriced and over the hill stars who refuse to hit the ball to the opposite field. (You knew I had to throw that last bit in there...)

Spring Training was fun, wasn't it? We got to see Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder hit the ball all over the place. We got to see Greg Bird and hear people say he has the best bat in the Yankees' system. We got to see Aaron Judge hit moonshots and rifle balls in from right field. But they all went away and we are left with Gardner and the Hessians.

We hear that these Birds and Judges are the future and will be the next core of stars. Time will tell. But just that statement alone implies that the team is in a transitional phase. The PR machine tells us that the emphasis is on competing now. Nobody believes it. I'm not saying it can't happen. A whole lot of things have to go right, but this could still be a playoff team. The year isn't lost after one game.

But I have to ask the question a fan would ask. Yes, I admit in advance it is an emotional one. But realistically, can Aaron Judge perform as well as Carlos Beltran? Is it possible that Judge playing every day might even be an upgrade? But unless you refuse to admit the team is in transition, you cannot make moves like that. Could Pirela or Refsnyder add just as much value to the Yankees as Stephan Drew? It would not take much to convince me. But again. It won't happen.

Instead, we have Gregorio Petit place holding until Brendan Ryan comes back. Oh boy! If I could play GM for a day, I would give Pirela or Refsnyder a shot and Drew would be the upgrade on Ryan as the utility guy. That will never happen. It took a long time for Don Mattingly to get a chance too. Once he did, that worked out pretty well.

Perhaps I am a fan in transition. I certainly have lived through the 1980s and the late 1960s. There are dry times for any team. I am still hoping for the playoffs. But I am a realist too. I just wonder how long the Yankees will stay with the Hessians if the team gets down early. The trend in baseball is go young. It will be interesting to see if, at some point, the team looks to see what it has and what it hasn't.