Friday, December 2, 2011
Updated: December 3, 12:24 PM ET
Winning winter isn't Yankees' goal
By Andrew Marchand
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees are no longer the Boss' Yankees. A second winter without George Steinbrenner is passing quietly. The Yankees are boring, but it is a good boring.
In death, Steinbrenner has mostly been remembered as Saint George, but he was a most imperfect owner. It could be argued that the reason fans and media mourned him with such fondness was because his suspension in the 1990s allowed the seeds of a dynasty to mature.
It has been told many times before that the Core Four might never have been allowed to develop if Steinbrenner hadn't been put in timeout by then-commissioner Fay Vincent. Without Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, there is no dynasty, and Steinbrenner probably would not have been made into a hero upon his death.
So as the winter meetings and baseball's hot stove heat up in Dallas on Monday, the Yankees may continue to be listeners more than anything else. Headlines might mean more clicks on stories and more quarters put down for the tabs, but they don't necessarily equate to wins. The Yankees aren't irrationally trying to do something just to do something.
The post-George Steinbrenner Yankees are being run more efficiently and much more in the manner as when Gene "Stick" Michael and a young sidekick named Brian Cashman were among the men who put together the Jeter Dynasty teams.
That is not to say they are building another dynasty now, but the way they are going about their business most mirrors those days when Steinbrenner was sidelined in the '90s.
This is why the Yankees are not expected to be big players in free agency unless the market drops substantially. The Yankees declined C.J. Wilson's offer to visit the Bronx. Mark Buehrle would seem like the lefty they have been looking for since Pettitte retired, but there are questions about whether he would be able to amp it up in the American League East. Roy Oswalt has a back issue. Edwin Jackson isn't much of an upgrade over what they have.
Now, the Yankees could still make a big splash. The best odds would be on Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish, or if they decided, with the new collective bargaining agreement coming, to outbid everyone for the talented Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Cashman believes winning the winter means nothing by the fall. From Hal Steinbrenner on down, they have learned from George's mistakes.
It is smarter to wait, hold your chips, and then empty the farm when a Felix Hernandez or someone of his ilk is available. If the right trade comes up for a lesser talent, the Yankees might jump, but not if it means parting with Manny Banuelos or their other top-tier prospects. Those guys are only being saved for real diamonds.
The Yankees are a different franchise. They have the imprint of The Boss' ethos without the impatience and irrationality. It is less entertaining, but ultimately could lead to even more winning.
Occasionally, they will make some noise, like when Cashman went after Jeter last winter or when team president Randy Levine said the season was a failure because there were no rings.
But the Yankees are now more pragmatic than dramatic.
Hal's Yankees are different than George's. Aren't they?
"I'm not even going there," Cashman said.
"Why?" Cashman said. "We had a team that won 97 games. There is nothing but controversial stuff that can come from that. The Steinbrenner family has run this franchise since -- what? -- 1973 and they have done a fantastic job from George to the sons now."
So Cashman continues his conservative winter. They have no holes among any of their position players. They could use a lefty to complement Boone Logan in the bullpen, but it isn't pressing.
They have Freddy Garcia back to join CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. They think Hector Noesi might be the next Nova.
"I think we've got a good team," Cashman said. "We will go through the process. We will go to the winter meetings and see what comes from that. I think we have a lot of talent right now."
The Yankees aren't going to overreact to losing in the ALDS. They know that if you played the tournament 10 times, different teams would win. They are not into judging small sample sizes.
Cashman won't even give Nick Swisher demerits for his poor postseason hitting. George Steinbrenner would be ranting over Swisher's .169 playoff average. The Boss would have been infatuated with Cespedes' résumé tape.
Maybe Cashman will go hard after Cespedes, one last dip into the international market, before the CBA evens that playing field. Or perhaps he will try the Japanese route and go for Darvish.
Those are possibilities, but right now the Yankees seem content to be quiet. This could change in a moment's notice. But the feeling is far different from when George roamed the Bronx. It is not as sensational, but it is smarter.