COMMENTARY | Hurtling toward elimination, the New York Yankees should forget about the postseason and take the next 11 days to plan for 2014.
Why expose the team to national ridicule and commentary about Derek Jeter's age, Alex Rodriguez's lingering suspension, and the fall of the Pinstripe Empire when Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman can use the rest of the season to answer a few questions?
Here are three questions the Yankees might find answers to before the season ends:
Is Austin Romine an everyday catcher, or is J.R. Murphy the solution?
Chris Stewart has been atrocious since the All-Star break, yet Girardi insists on giving playing time to the journeyman backstop. In 40 games since the break, Stewart has batted .164 -- only .008 higher than Barry Zito's season average. In 110 at-bats, he's collected 4 -- yes, 4 -- extra-base hits. Supposedly signed for his defense, Stewart has allowed 11 passed balls this season -- second-most in the American League.
For the remainder of the season, the Yankees should play Romine and Murphy at catcher to see how each deals with major league pitching. Romine has started 43 games this season and was improving as a hitter before being concussed by a foul ball, so I'd personally like to see Murphy get a majority of starts before the season ends. The 22-year-old displayed plate discipline and was hitting .269 in the minor leagues before being called up. The Yankees need a starting catcher next season, and it would be nice to see a Baby Bomber win that spot.
Is Andy Pettitte worth bringing back?
The 41-year-old Pettitte has not indicated whether he plans to re-retire or come back next season. If he does wish to return, the pitching-challenged Yankees have a place for him, although likely not for the $12 million he's making this season. Pettitte has a couple more starts left this season and, over his past eight starts, has thrown an average of 6-plus innings while sporting a 2.02 ERA. It'd be nice to see what Pettitte brings to the table in his remaining starts and whether the Yankees are willing to allow him the chance to turn those starts into a tryout for next season.
Is Brendan Ryan's glove worth pursuing?
In just a handful of games, Ryan has reminded Yankees fans that defense helps wins games and balls hit to the shortstop side of the infield don't always end up as base hits if not hit directly to the shortstop. It hasn't exactly been Joe DiMaggio watching a young Mickey Mantle traverse the outfield, but one wonders if Jeter has been watching Ryan's glove work and contemplating whether it's time to think about moving to another position or becoming a full-time designated hitter.
Cashman and Girardi, meanwhile, should be thinking about whether Ryan's glove is worth pursuing as insurance against Jeter's failing body. Grantland's Ben Lindbergh recently penned a great piece on Jeter's failing defense. In it, he compared Jeter and Ryan and, well, the results weren't exactly pro-Jeter.
Can Dellin Betances pitch at the major league level?
He's on the active roster and been ranked among the top 100 prospects three times by Baseball America, yet Betances has only been called upon three times by Girardi since August 13. Yankees fans, meanwhile, should remember Betances' name because he's a Rule 5 player, having been drafted by the Yankees in the eighth round in the 2006 draft. Basically, the team has three options for Betances next season: play him, trade him, or let him go. Converted into a reliever earlier this season in the minor leagues, Betances excelled in his new role. Girardi should test him.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
- Sports & Recreation
- New York Yankees
- Joe Girardi
- Derek Jeter
- Andy Pettitte