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Blog Entry

Are the Yankees in trouble?

Posted on: January 13, 2011 5:35 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 9:13 pm
Three years ago, the Yankees began the season with two unproven starters in their rotation.

And maybe it's no coincidence that the 2008 season was the only one in the last 16 that ended with the Yankees out of the playoffs. Or that the Yankees reacted to that failure by throwing nearly $250 million at their rotation that winter.

So now here we are, with spring training a month away and with the throw-money-at-it plan not having worked nearly as well. Here we are, a month after Cliff Lee shunned and stunned the Yankees by signing with the Phillies, and we understand even more why even Yankee officials always admitted that this winter included no real Plan B.

Here we are, thinking more and more with each passing day that maybe Andy Pettitte really doesn't want to pitch this year -- although still not knowing for sure.

Here we are, looking at a Yankee rotation that for now includes two unproven starters (Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre, perhaps, behind CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and the always undependable A.J. Burnett), and with seemingly no significant starters available as free agents or in trades.

By adding Rafael Soriano to Mariano Rivera, the Yankees might be assembling a bullpen that reminds you of 1996, when Rivera was setting up John Wetteland in the first title of this two-decade run. But you wonder if it's a bigger problem that their rotation reminds you of 2008, when those two unproven starters (Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy) combined to go 0-8 with a 7.51 ERA in their 17 starts?

Are the Yankees in trouble?

Maybe not, but when you're the Yankees, with $200 million-plus committed every year, and with an organizational philosophy that regards anything shy of a title as failure, can you take the chance that it is?

I wrote yesterday that I fully understand the low-budget Rays taking chances. I'm writing today that it's a whole lot tougher to accept that when it's the big-money Yankees (although I'm not sure where they'd go to find a proven starter now).

By all accounts, the Yankees have quite a bit of young talent in their minor-league system. One scout who follows the Yankee system closely said he'd have no problem relying on the kids right now.

"They have two or three guys in the minors who could pitch in the big leagues right now, and I'm talking besides Nova," the scout said. "They have three other guys just waiting for a shot. If I worked there, I'd be pushing for them, instead of Mitre.

"Nova will be fine as a fourth starter."

That may be true, but Nova won just one of his seven starts last year (although the Yankees won five of the seven games). Mitre has never had more than five wins in a big-league season.

As for those kids the scout mentioned, Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos have each made just three starts above Class A, while Adam Warren has just 10.

"If this were a team like the Indians, yeah, you could let them learn on the job," said another rival scout, who also likes the young Yankee starters. "But they can't do that. The Yankees have a lot of young players, but you wonder how they can fit them in while they're trying to win, and also how they'll live with the mistakes that all young players make.

"They had enough trouble living with [Robinson] Cano's mistakes early, and he's a great talent."

The Yankees have other issues, most notably an aging group of position players ("The third baseman is getting older, and the first baseman is getting older fast ," the first scout said).

But the biggest issue this year is still exactly what it was when the winter began, and that's the starting rotation.

Remember, each of the last two Octobers, the Yankees had just three starting pitchers that they wanted to count on, when you really need four.

And each of those years, one of those three dependable starters was named Andy Pettitte.

There was no Plan B behind Cliff Lee. If we didn't know that a month ago, we sure know it now.

Is there also no Plan B behind Andy Pettitte?


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Posted on: February 20, 2012 6:46 am

Are the Yankees in trouble?

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:53 pm

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Since: Nov 27, 2011
Posted on: November 27, 2011 10:58 pm

Are the Yankees in trouble?

Since: Oct 21, 2011
Posted on: October 22, 2011 6:17 am
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Since: Jan 19, 2011
Posted on: January 19, 2011 7:16 pm

Are the Yankees in trouble?

i seem to recall the 1996 team had the same setup with one reliable starter in david cone and a couple of young pitchers and a great 1-2 punch in wetteland and mo and that team won the world series so don't give up on this years team i have a feeling we will be better than people think this season

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