What’s the true sign that you’re getting old? When players who you vividly remember watching during their rookie season are retiring. With today marking the final Yankee Stadium start for Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera’s Hall of Fame career, barring a miraculous wild card berth for the Bombers, a mere one week away from reaching its end, I’m feeling old. And the depressing thing is that I wouldn’t feel that old if this team was stocked with at least a few young guys with upside, a new generation of homegrown players who would offer some optimism for this aging and injury-ravaged squad.
Derek Jeter, the last remaining member of the “Core Four”, probably has one, maybe two years left in the tank, and who knows if they will be productive seasons. A 38-year-old Alex Rodriguez could very well be suspended for the entire 2014 campaign, and in order to re-sign Robinson Cano, the club will almost certainly need to abandon their plan to get their payroll under the luxury tax threshold. CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, the two big free agent signings from a few years ago, will be back. Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano, both under contract for one more year, will be back. Beyond that, the 2014 Yankee roster is a mystery, and GM Brian Cashman will have plenty of work to do this off-season in order to strengthen this group and give the fans a reason to be giddy for the coming season. And unlike the winter of 2008-2009, he won’t have a whole lot of financial flexibility. Good luck, Brian.
The Yankees are on the verge of finishing the 2013 season with their worst winning percentage since 1992, which happens to be the first year I followed this team. A past his prime Don Mattingly was still their best player, Danny Tartabull led the club with 25 homers, Melido Perez turned in an outstanding season (2.87 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 218 K in 247 2/3 IP), a 23-year-old Bernie Williams appeared in 62 games, batting .280 with five homers and 26 RBI, and Andy Stankiewicz was the starting shortstop (an 8-year-old Zach got a kick out of that name). But despite the 76-86 finish, this was an organization on the rise. Derek Jeter was drafted that year, Jimmy Key and Wade Boggs were signed over the winter, and then there was that Roberto Kelly for Paul O'Neill swap. The probability that this off-season will be nearly as successful is roughly equal to the probability that this team will win all seven of their remaining games. Hey, it’s OK to be money conscious, but for these Yankees, frugality could be a recipe for disaster. Besides free agency, how does a franchise go about improving their roster? The answer is through the trade market. But when all of your top big leaguers are tied to massive contracts and your minor league system is barren, it’s awfully tough to make an impact trade.
What’s the true sign that you’re getting old? I think it’s when you’re overly pessimistic about the baseball team that you’ve stood behind for the past 20-plus years. I mean, have you ever met an 8-year-old fan who doesn’t believe that their team will win the World Series every season?
What’s the true sign that you’re getting old? When rational thinking overpowers emotion. Postseason? Forget it. The Yanks need too many things to go their way over the next eight days. But then again, a 7-0 finish isn’t out of the question with one game left against the mediocre Giants and three versus the lowly Astros.
Old? What am I talking about? I’m not that old.