Thursday, November 8, 2012
Could 2013 be 1965 all over again?
By Wallace Matthews
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Just the question alone is enough to send shivers down the spine of any Yankees fan old enough to remember back to the beginning of the Dark Ages, when an aging Yankees roster, having been beaten in the 1964 World Series in seven games by the St. Louis Cardinals, embarked on a run of 11 straight losing seasons, in five of which they were below .500.
But there are some frightening parallels, and some significant problems facing this team as it tries to crawl from the wreckage of this year's ALCS, in which the Yanks were swept by the Detroit Tigers.
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For one thing, the core of that 1965 team was old by the standards of the day -- Whitey Ford and Elston Howard were 36 and Mickey Mantle was 33 -- as is the core of the 2013 team, with Derek Jeter (38), Alex Rodriguez (37), Mariano Rivera (43) and Andy Pettitte (40) being relied upon to play significant roles.
For another, the 2013 Yankees will not only be older, but in questionable health. Jeter is coming off surgery to repair a broken ankle, Rivera off surgery to repair a torn ACL, Pettitte missed nearly three months with a broken leg, A-Rod was beset by nagging hurts, including a broken hand from which he never seemed to fully recover, and even CC Sabathia, a relative newbie at 31, is coming off elbow surgery.
To make things worse, the 2013 Yankees have an obstacle the 1965 Yankees did not, a roster locked into a half-dozen expensive long-term contracts -- $118 million already committed for next year to just six players -- that makes replacing worn-out parts difficult, if not impossible. And with the Hal Steinbrenner-imposed salary cap of $189 million looming for 2014, the everyday roster the Yankees send out for 2013 is likely to be substantially that same as it was in 2012.
So how do they get younger, faster, better?
The Mets' buyout of the onerous Jason Bay contract, no small accomplishment, may provide some encouragement that GM Brian Cashman can come to a similar agreement with A-Rod. But in A-Rod's case, the numbers are significantly higher -- $114 million as opposed to $21 million -- and the term significantly longer, five more seasons as opposed to one plus a team a option.
So that possibility is remote at best.
The brightest prospect seems to reside in the possibility the Yankees could trade Curtis Granderson for a couple of prospects, move Brett Gardner back to center, and try to find a corner outfielder or two to try to replace some of Granderson's power production.
But again, it won't be easy to replace 84 home runs over two seasons.
Unfortunately for Cashman, there's only one L.A. Dodgers out there, and they already bought up all of the Boston Red Sox dreck. Now, his task is to find some team willing to buy up his.
Otherwise, he runs the risk of a fate perhaps even more frightening than seeing the 2013 Yankees turn into 1965 Yankees. That would be turning into the 2012 Red Sox.
Question: If you are Cashman, when do you start your housecleaning, and with whom? Do you rebuild, reload, or dismantle? Let us know in the comments section.