At the advent of most baseball springs, the only question surrounding the AL East is whether the Yankees will win the division or enter the playoffs as the wild card. Not this spring.
The Yankees are officially reeling as they attempt to accomplish ownership’s mandate of cutting payroll from an all-time high of $213.4 million in 2010 to under $184 million by next season. That’s the threshold for baseball’s luxury tax, a negotiated total payroll meant to act as a deterrent to big-market teams spending in excess. For GM Brian Cashman it’s been a painful exercise.
Since the end of last season, following a Championship Series loss to the Tigers, the Yankees have lost or jettisoned catcher Russell Martin, right fielder Nick Swisher, a power-hitting bench that included Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones (for a lost total of 100 home runs and 298 RBIs).
In addition, currently on the Yankees disabled list are Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter — who together hit 76 homers with 221 RBIs. The only potential power bats brought in are DH Travis Hafner and third baseman Kevin Youkilis. That’s not much of a trade-off.
“I don’t want to put anything in my mind that I have to do more than what I’m capable of,” second baseman Robinson Cano told the New York media. “I just have to go out there and play the game. We’ve got guys here who can step it up. It’s hard to replace a guy like (Granderson), but other guys can hopefully step it up and do the job and help the team win some games. Sometimes you don’t need a home run to win a game. There’s a lot of ways you can win a game.”
The Yankees are going to have to invent some other ways to win games. It’s been 21 years since the Yankees finished a season under .500. That was in 1992, under manager Buck Showalter. That pre-Jeter, pre-Mariano Rivera, pre-Joe Torre Yankee team included a rotation of Melido Perez, Scott Sanderson, Scott Kamieniecki, Tim Leary and Greg Cadaret. The closer was Steve Farr and the shortstop was Andy Stankiewicz. It was nearing the end of Don Mattingly’s great career, marked by having the longest career ever in pinstripes (14 years) without going to a World Series.
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