This off-season has been one constant game of bad news, good news for the Yankees. With every loss of a player, every injury, GM Brian Cashman and his crew have worked to sign veteran stop-gaps like Kevin Youkilis Brennan Boesch, Ben Francisco and Travis Hafner to fill in the holes left by injuries or departures of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeria, Curtis Granderson and Raul Ibanez. There should be little doubt in the mind of Yankees fans that these players can contribute, as these last-minute, seemingly scrap-heap singings have helped the Yankees in the past under Cashman’s tutelage. However, there has to be a point in time when Yankees fans also stop and ask themselves: are there too many band-aids for the Yankees to be successful within the context of the team’s own self-imposed standards?
The Yankees are not a team that measures successes by any other standard than a World Championship. Anything short of that, even if it means close to 100 wins, is considered a failure, prompting even ownership to admit to the season’s failure. All of which is absurd on a multitude of levels, but we as Yankees fans are spoiled by an obscene four titles in six years from 1996-2001. The point of the matter is that the Yankees are a team that is defined by winning championships, and usually, they have a pretty good shot at doing so, with a perennial All-Star team of a batting order.
But this year is not most years. A third of the Yankee lineup is out for a considerable period of time as ARod, Tex and Granderson all work their way back from injuries that will sideline them for eight to ten weeks at a minimum. Juan Rivera could be starting at first. Francisco and Boesch will take the place of Brett Gardner in left, as Gardner shifts to center, making a relatively light-hitting outfield that much lighter. The Yankees must hope Travis Hafner- who will (smartly) not be used in the field- will regain his offensive form, as his entire roster spot will be dedicated to being solely a DH.
All of these players are decent players, regardless of whether or not they were released by prior teams. Each could absolutely play a role for the Yankees, or any other team, in any other year. They are serviceable bench or role players at this point in each of their varied careers, and I say that with much respect to all of those players. In any other circumstance, I think all would be able to contribute to a run for the Yankees.
However, it is not every other year. There are roughly 90 home runs currently sitting on the DL, in addition to those lost in free agency. Those offensive contributions are not going to be replaced by Boesch, Hafner, Youk or Francisco, even at their best. These players are not Brian Cashman’s first choice, that is for sure. These players are merely band-aids at this point. And while that would be fine if any one player on the usual Yankee roster went down, all of them together may be a recipe for disaster.
For instance, Kevin Youkilis is an solid option at third for a short period of time, but is he any replacement for Mark Teixeria at first if Tex is lost for the season with an apparent torn tendon shear? Again- each player individually is fine, but together, the Yankees may find themselves in too big of a hole to climb out of, even after only eight weeks. These players are bench players, and, through no fault of their own, cannot produce in the way that the regulars do. Combined with the significant loss of run support from departed players and those injured (even with a strong rotation and bullpen), it may be that the Yankees will struggle in a way that we have not seen in quite some time as a result of all these band-aids.
It’s fair to say that the Yankees might be just fine, and that Boesch, Youkilis, Hafner and Francisco will play out of their minds for the first few months of the season until Teixeira, Granderson and Rodriguez return to action. That said, the drop off in talent may be too much for the Yankees to overcome this season. While that may not live up to the Yankees own over-the-top expectations, Yankees fans might have to face a tough set of facts this year: there are just too many band-aids, and Number 28 definitely won’t be happening in 2013.