The post-2000 Yankees were not quite the disappointments they’re often made out to be. They failed to achieve the near-impossible standards set by the late-90s dynasty, but consistently reaching the playoffs is all any team can ask for on a year-to-year basis. Too many things have to go right in the postseason to expect any sort of regularity there.
For proof, just look at all the wild card teams that have won the World Series. Through 162 games they weren’t the best teams in their divisions. For one month, they were the best teams in baseball.
Despite the positives, though, it’s clear that not everything went right during those eight years immediately following the Yankees run of championships. There were lessons to be learned, and this morning Ben needed only 11 words to sum up the biggest lesson of all: Moves made out of restlessness and desperation are not the answer.
Most likely, moves to acquire Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia are not the answer either, but at least those signings have no chance of haunting the franchise. At best, Garcia and Colon are place-holders. At worst, they’re a waste of spring training innings. Just because they’re part of a desperate situation doesn’t make them desperate signings.
“You can’t force it,” Brian Cashman said at Andy Pettitte’s retirement press conference. “If you want to force it, you’re going to make a mistake and maybe overpay.”
The Yankees are trying to learn from the high-dollar mistakes of the previous decade. There is a new focus on player development, and the Steinbrenners’ pocketbook is being used to eliminate those holes that the system can’t adequately fill. That’s why Brett Gardner and Phil Hughes were given second chances in 2011. That’s why — until the Rafael Soriano signing — the bullpen has been pieced together with internal options and low-risk, mid-season trade targets.
The Yankees haven’t stopped spending. Two years ago, Cashman pushed ownership to spend more, not less, and in a matter of weeks he radically transformed the rotation and the heart of the order. But the Yankees can’t make that kind of splash every offseason. They have to pick their free agent battles.
They chose not to engage in any big battles last year. They lost the only big battle worth fighting this year.
“When Cliff made his declaration of going to Philadelphia, all of the inventory that we liked came off the board,” Cashman said.
The Yankees have a rotation problem this season, but it seems one lesson they’ve learned is this: It does no good to take this year’s problem, and turn it into a problem that lasts four or five years down the line.
Associated Press photo