In the winter of 2008, the Yankees had huge money coming off the books. They also had a free agent market that included two premier players — one a pitcher, the other a hitter — who were still in their late 20s with compelling big league track records that included terrific stretch runs the previous season.
Opportunity presented itself, and the Yankees pounced, committing much of their payroll and their future to CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. With significant pitching concerns, they also committed five years and $82.5 million to A.J. Burnett.
For so many reasons, the timing was right for a splash, and the Yankees made a big one.
This morning’s Pinch Hitter, Brendan, sees timing a little differently this winter. It’s not so much about what’s available. It’s about what’s soon to be gone. The possibility of losing the game’s greatest closer has Brendan thinking about a different window of opportunity: The opportunity to win another championship while the ninth inning is in familiar, safe hands.
It’s a perfectly fair point. Teams have to strike when they have a chance, and certainly Mariano Rivera has been a key to the past five Yankees championships. It makes sense to chase another title while he’s still around.
Thing is, the Yankees have to — whether they want to or not — begin to consider a life without Mo. They’ve lost Andy Pettitte. They’ve lost Jorge Posada. Some point soon, they’ll lose Rivera, and eventually Derek Jeter.
And you know what the expectation will be when Rivera and Jeter retire? A championship, same as it’s always been.
Timing is everything, and certainly the Yankees owe it to themselves to go after a championship while they still have Rivera in the ninth inning. But the Yankees also owe it to themselves to envision a championship team that’s led by Robinson Cano, Dave Robertson and Michael Pineda. This is a big-picture team, and like or not, the big picture includes a finite future for the game’s greatest relief pitcher.
The Yankees have to be prepared today to win a championship with Rivera, and they have be prepared tomorrow to win one without him.
Associated Press photo