COMMENTARY | The New York Yankees, winner of 27 World Series and universally disliked by everyone besides their own fans, haven't had a losing season since 1992. But thanks to numerous factors, there is hope that this year could break the trend. Yankee fans won't like that, of course, but just about everyone else will.
Is the Yankees' reign over? Yes, and here are five reasons why:
The team's philosophy
Love him or hate him, you had to respect the late George Steinbrenner's win-at-all-costs approach. Many of the game's premier players landed in New York via free agency or trade thanks to Steinbrenner's largesse. His sons, Hal and Hank, also want to win, but they're not as lavish in their spending. In a cost-saving move, they allowed their catcher, Russell Martin, to sign a free-agent contract with the lowly Pirates. That's right, Pittsburgh raided the Yankees for a free agent.
The team is ancient
Andy Pettitte, who turns 41 in June, is the oldest starting pitcher in baseball. Derek Jeter, who turns 39 in June, is the oldest shortstop in baseball and is still trying to overcome the ankle injury he suffered in last year's playoffs. Mariano Rivera, who is 43 and the oldest player in baseball, is retiring after this season. The odds that the best closer in baseball history ends his career by saving the closing game of the World Series are about the same as Russell Martin catching that final out.
The team is battered
Jeter is out until at least the All-Star break, and Curtis Granderson (broken arm), Mark Teixeira (torn wrist tendon) and Alex Rodriguez (recovering from hip surgery) are all on the disabled list and expected to miss huge chunks of the season.
Jeter's replacement, Eduardo Nunez, was hit by a pitch earlier this month and was replaced by Jayson Nix. If anything happens to Nix and Nunez, the Yankees said they'll have to turn to catcher Francisco Cervelli to play shortstop. And you thought Jeter had questionable range.
The team they have right now would awesome if…
The Yankees have had to deal with a lot of injuries to key people, forcing the team to trade for expensive alternatives like Vernon Wells, who never lived up to expectations after signing a seven-year, $126 million extension with Toronto in 2006. The heart of the team's lineup is Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Wells, which would be great if this was 2006.
The team's best player might leave via free agency
It's one thing to let Russell Martin and his 21 home runs go to the Pirates in a bid to save money. It'd be something quite different if the Yankees allow superstar second baseman Robinson Cano to leave via free agency after this season.
Cano, who just replaced agent Scott Boras with singer and entrepreneur Jay-Z (not a misprint), had the second highest wins above replacement (WAR) in baseball last year after Mike Trout. Cano, 30, has finished in the top six in MVP voting each of the last three years. He's going to command a huge annual salary, and it's no guarantee that the Yankees will be able to retain his services.
But they can take solace in knowing that the Pirates can't afford him, so at least they won't lose another free agent to Pittsburgh.
Cameron Martin has written for The New York Times, ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports, and CBS Sports.
- Sports & Recreation
- Russell Martin
- George Steinbrenner
- Derek Jeter