Thursday, May 05, 2005

Going down with the ship

Most Yankees fans I talk to can hardly remember the last time they felt this badly about their team's fortunes. You would think it's been 111 years, not 11, since their team last missed the playoffs. Although, as good as they've been in the last decade, you can sort of understand why they'd feel that way.

All that winning has led to a much-deserved confidence/arrogance among Yankees fans that the team, as currently configured, will turn things around. But as I watched the Bombers go down to a third straight humiliating defeat against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays tonight, I got to thinking: What if they DON'T turn it around? Is this the end of the Yankee dynasty as we know it?

Invariably, when dynasties end, good people get hurt along with the bad. In much the same way, the Yankee cornerstones of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams could be enjoying their last few months together. Sometimes you have to throw out the apple to kill the worms.

So I decided to handicap the odds that various players and coaches will be traded, released, or fired by the Yankees before the end of the season, assuming the team continues to falter. All bets/parlays must be placed prior to May 31 and sent to, c/o Mike Casey, Assistant News Manager, 235 Pinelawn Rd. Melville, NY 11747. Hmmm. . . On second thought, that's probably not a smart idea. Just use these for "recreational" purposes, like the point spreads they print in the newspaper:

DEREK JETER: 999 to 1.
Jeter is a cornerstone in the truest sense of the word. Take him out of the mix, and the entire team would crumble. His trade value is astronomical, but the Yankees wouldn't dream of dealing him. Not only is he a leader and team captain, he's one of the few players who hasn't underperformed this season. And he's still the most marketable and popular Yankee.

Good luck getting rid of this guy. Sure, he's got great numbers. But he's also got a $500 bazillion contract and zero World Series rings. Even if the Yankees wanted to trade him (they don't), they wouldn't be able to find a team that could afford him.

HIDEKI MATSUI: 750 to 1.
Matsui has been the Yankees' most reliable offensive player the past two seasons. He plays good defense and is a solid citizen. He never complains and he hits well in the clutch. No reason the Yanks would ever part with him, unless George Steinbrenner fired Cashman and replaced him with George Costanza.

The Yankees wouldn't really considering trading Mariano, would they? No, probably not. But if -- and it's a big if -- he continues his recent run of mortality, and the Yankees drop out of the playoff race, someone desperate for a proven postseason closer could float a very appealing offer the Yankees' way. The deal would have to include someone the Yanks felt strongly could become their next great closer, though, and those guys just don't come along every day.

CARL PAVANO: 500 to 1.
The Yanks would be nuts to trade him. They've got him under contract through 2008 and he's practically a teenager (29) by Yankee standards. He's one of the few guys on this team who has a chance to still be in his prime three years from now. They'll keep him.

He's played very well and he makes a lot of money. That means two things: 1) The Yanks don't want to trade him. 2) The Yanks would have a tough time trading him. The only variable is if the team takes a serious nosedive and he pulls a "Milwaukee Brewer," mailing it in and becoming a clubhouse nuisance. But so far, so good.

RANDY JOHNSON: 250 to 1.
Ironic that he said he would only go to the Yankees because they gave him the best chance to win a World Series, isn't it? Steinbrenner paid a small fortune to acquire him, and he's got him under contract through next year. Johnson actually wouldn't make bad trade bait, but the Yankees have way too much invested in him to ever give him up. He'll stay in pinstripes.

Your natural inclination is to think Bernie is safe. He's won four rings. He's still immensely popular. But he's also in the last year of his contract. The Yankees would never resort to the embarrassment of releasing him, but they might consider trading him if a team desperate for a good switch-hitting pinch hitter comes knocking in July. Emphasis on might.

Tino is well-liked and respected in the Yankee clubhouse. But there's no reason to keep him around at his age if it's not going to be as a leader on a young or playoff-bound team. He could draw interest at the trade deadline from the Cardinals, Braves, or Angels as a solid lefty pinch-hitter or defensive replacement off the bench.

JASON GIAMBI: 100 to 1.
The Yankees would love -- love -- to unload this guy. But he's still owed about three Michael Jackson settlement's worth of money, which means a buyout is out of the question. If he ever got hot, which isn't likely to happen, Cashman would shop him all over town. Maybe they'd find someone dumb enough to take him. Is Kevin Malone still general managing somewhere?

JOE TORRE: 75 to 1.
It amazes me how many Yankees fans want him fired. It isn't that he's done such a great job with this particular installment of Bronx Bombers -- it's that I don't know who could do any better. Who exactly would the fans prefer to coach this bunch of indifferent moneygrabbers? The drill sergeant from "Full Metal Jacket?" Jimmy Doogan from "League of Their Own?"

Joe has never enjoyed a fully harmonious relationship with Gen. Steinbrenner, which means he could stand before the firing squad if this $200 million whale goes in the tank.

MIKE MUSSINA: 60 to 1.
Fight it all you want. The fact is Mike Mussina makes $19 million and has a 4.50 ERA. He's been decent as a Yankee, but not outstanding. His high price tag and reputation for being a snobbish clubhouse presence make him a fairly unattractive player to dangle as trade bait. However, his past credentials and detachment from the hearts and minds of the Yankee fan leave him as their most tradable starting pitcher.

JORGE POSADA: 40 to 1.
All the conditions are right for Posada to become the first member of the Yankee nucleus to leave town. He makes a somewhat manageable $11 million. He's played on championship teams, which increases his trade value. At 33, teams may believe he's still got a couple of productive years left in him. He's underachieved this season, but if you think teams won't overpay for a power-hitting, switch-hitting catcher at the trade deadline, see Nurse Ratched at the asylum.

KEVIN BROWN: 20 to 1
Forget about a trade. This guy is about as untradable as a 1992 Fleer Kim Batiste rookie card. He's a multi-million dollar albatross around the Yankees' neck. The only way they'll get rid of him is if the Boss takes a big bite out of the $15.7 million Brown's owed and swallows hard. As bad as he's been, and as disliked as he's reported to be in the clubhouse, it's not hard to believe that will happen.

TONY WOMACK: 10 to 1
He can still hit, he can still run, and he's not bad defensively. He wants to play for a winning team. If the Yanks freefall, Womack will be among the first to go. He's extremely marketable at $2 million, and he'd make a good trade deadline addition for any club looking to bolster a playoff-bound lineup.

Brian is an upfront, honest guy. That's hard to come by in New York. But he's made one bad move too many, and he'll be the first to go if the house of cards falls. You might argue that many of the poorest moves he's made (Giambi, Brown, failing to re-sign Andy Pettite) were orchestrated by the Boss himself. Fair or not, he's going to take the blame. That how things work in Steinbrenner's world.

  • Comments? E-mail me at

    • At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Harry Garcia said…

      The losing started with Mike Mussina in 2001. We should have gotten Manny instead. In that 2001 series what we lacked was offense which Manny would have provided. Moose has never been a true cluth pitcher like Cone, Pettitte or Duque.
      There is some idiot out there that will take A-Rod.
      Mariano has to go while he has value. Bring in Billy Wagner next year.
      Posada needs to go. For a catcher he's too temperamental. We need someone who has the patience for the young pitchers that are sure to arrive with the house cleaning at the trade deadline.

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