We tried this exercise back in November and it was fun. So let’s do it again.
Here is the Yankees Top 20. The only prerequisite is that you draw a check from the Yankees. He (or she) can be a player in the majors or minors, an executive, a scout, etc.
Here’s my list and why:
1. Alex Rodriguez: Whether you love him or hate him, you pay attention to what he does. He has a staggering 8.5 years more years on his contract and the Yankees seem to rise and fall as he does. Look at this way, they were three games under .500 without him and 14 games over with him this season.
2. Brian Cashman: He is in the first year of a three-year contract and has consolidated his power, hiring his people in important positions throughout the organization. With the Steinbrenner family now largely absent from baseball matters, the on-field product is entirely Cashman’s creation.
3. CC Sabathia: He is signed through 2015 and his success could determine whether the team remains a contender moving forward. His personality will help shape the clubhouse in the post-Derek Jeter era.
4. Derek Jeter: He remains the face of the organization, if not the face of the entire game. His contract expires after the 2010 season and what happens then will be a major story and source of great debate.
5. Hal Steinbrenner: The Yankees once had the most outspoken owner in sports. Now they have one of the quietest. Widely respected within the organization, Steinbrenner emerged as his family’s leader and the caretaker of an empire.
6. Mark Teixeira: He is signed through 2016 and is the best all-around player on the team. At 29, he’s in the prime of his career and a cornerstone player.
7. Mariano Rivera: Until further notice, he remains the best closer in the game. If there is another World Series in the near future, he’ll be a pivotal figure.
8. Joe Girardi: His second year as manager has been much smoother than his first as he adapted his personality to the team and the city. But if the Yankees don’t get to the postseason, he’s out and he knows it.
9. Joba Chamberlain: His star has fallen since we last did this poll. Chamberlain was one of the best young starters in the game in 2008 but has been erratic this season. His appeal to fans and unquestionable talent makes him potentially the team’s biggest star down the road.
10. A.J. Burnett: The Yankees invested $82.5 million to sign him in December. His history suggests that money was ill-spent. Burnett has been reliable so far but he’s four months into a long-term relationship.
11. Phil Hughes: He is the symbol of Cashman’s ambition to build talent from within. Injury prone and erratic as a starter, he has been dominant as a reliever in recent weeks but the Yankees still see him as a starter down the road.
12. Robinson Cano: Only 26, Cano is a supremely talented and could be the team’s best player within the next few years. But can he stay focused on the task at hand?
13. Jorge Posada: At 37, the fiery catcher is entering the twilight of his career. But remains a team leader and still a productive plyer.
14. Jesus Montero: The slugging catcher, only 19, is the team’s best prospect and mashing at Double-A. But will be used to one day replace Posada or as a trade chip?
15. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal: A general partner and vice chairperson, she has influence behind the scenes and could be the person who helps determine whether the team remains in her family.
16. Randy Levine: He was hired in 2000 largely to get a new Stadium built. Now that he has, what is next? Levine is a political operative who was loyal to George Steinbrenner. Will he still be team president in five years?
17. Austin Jackson: A five-tool center fielder in Triple-A, Jackson could be a pivotal player for years to come if he continues his development.
18. Andrew Brackman: The Yankees signed the 6-foot-10 right-hander to a major-league contract in 2007 based on the promise of his 99-mph fastball. He has been a bust so far, going 1-9 with a 5.97 ERA in low Class A ball.
19. Damon Oppenheimer: The amateur scouting director has been in charge of the draft for several years now and has restocked what was a barren farm system.
20. Chien-Ming Wang: He once won 46 games over two and a half seasons. He has since been on the disabled list three times and has a 9.64 ERA. But if he regains his form, he can be a dominant, low-cost starter. There is no more valuable commodity in baseball.