Looking back

The Yankees focus this offseason has obviously been starting pitching.  They will have at least 2 new faces in the rotation and possibly 3 (though I think it will be 2). 

The last time the Yankees tried for such a drastic rotation overhaul was before the 2005 season, when they brought in Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, and Jaret Wright to go with Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina.  The year before, Brown and Javier Vazquez were the big acquisitions.   

We all know how all of those player’s Yankee tenures turnout out.  Along those lines, comes this article from The Star:

Buying expensive pitchers simply isn’t a long-term recipe for success. Yes, CC Sabathia is a terrific pitcher, but seven years at an average of $23 million a year, for a guy weighing more than 300 pounds, just doesn’t sound rock-solid. And now that they’ve got A.J. Burnett for $82.5 million over five years, what will the under/over total be on visits to the disabled list for the pair of them? You know Burnett, who won’t like the pressure in New York, will be good for a couple.

The Yankees never seem to learn. They spend years waiting for gigantic contracts to work their way off the books – Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, etc. – and then rush out to replace them with more potentially disastrous packages. Their recipe for success a decade ago was building a home-grown team and adding finishing pieces. It doesn’t work the other way, or at least hasn’t so far.

Obviously the Yankees minor leagues, pre-2005, weren’t producing. But otherwise, the Yankees recipe for success has always been the same: get the best players available. They are of course more successful when they have talent coming from the minors, but to think that their success is simply a product of that is naive. The 1996-2001 teams had Jeter, Williams, Pettitte, Mo, and Posada. Very good home grown players. But they also went out and bought starting pitching: Jimmy Key, David Wells, El Duque, David Cone, Mike Mussina, etc. They bought aging free agent sluggers like Wade Boggs, Darryl Strawberry, and Tim Raines. In short, they did all the things that are supposedly hurting the current team.

The real issue is not the Yankee method but the Yankee’s ability to evaluate talent. They did a terrible job scouting in the early part of the decade, which hurt the minor leagues. They didn’t evaluate free agents well, leading to signing the Jaret Wrights of the world. A lot of that was because of the New York / Tampa divide, where Cashman wasn’t allowed to have control of the team. Cashman never wanted Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, and others.

Well, now Cash has control, much like Stick Michael had control in the early to mid-nineties. Articles like these always point to the homegrown talent the Yankees used to have; well look around: Cano, Wang, Joba, Hughes, Gardner, and most of the bullpen are from the farm system. Jeter, Mo, Posada, and maybe Pettitte are still around. Swisher, Nady, A-Rod, and Marte were acquired by trading young talent, much like Tino, O’Neill, and company were acquired years before.

CC and Burnett really are the finishing touches here. We just have to trust that Cashman’s talent evaluators are right and that they succeed.

A final side note: I love the whole “the Yankees never learn” angle. If the Yankees hadn’t signed CC and AJ and instead decided to rely on Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves, etc, it would be “the Yankees never learn, you can’t trust young talent.” I guess chalk that one up on the “Cashman can’t win” ledger.

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