So I'm sitting here watching the Yankees/Red Sox game. Right now it's 1-0 Boston at the end of the first. This is a rare treat, since Dish Network and the YES network were never able to come to terms when the latter network was formed two years ago, so we can't see most Yankee games. Although I am a lifelong Yankee fan who practically bleeds pinstripes, I find the entire concept of the YES network repugnant on several levels (I ranted on the subject two years ago
, and my feelings haven't changed in two years), so not giving them my money is fine.
The problem is that we didn't get our Sunday season tickets this year for a variety of reasons, mostly scheduling (plus some issues both Terri and I had with several of the Yankees offseason moves), so we haven't gotten to as many games. We did go to one Saturday game, and we'll be seeing the Yanks take on the Mets at Shea Stadium on Sunday, but it's frustrating to not see the guys as often.
The Yankees did very little to actually improve the team this year. Honestly, the only real upgrades were acquiring Gary Sheffield, replacing the revolving door in right field last year, and the Alex Rodriguez-Alfonso Soriano trade, which made sense because, as excellent a player as Soriano is, A-Rod is the best player in the league. (Honestly, A-Rod is, to my mind, the only player Soriano was worth trading for.)
It's now 1-1 at the end of two.
The Jeff Weaver-Kevin Brown trade will only be an upgrade if Brown stays healthy (he's on the DL right now). As good an acquisition as Javier Vasquez was, the price the Yankees paid for him -- Nick Johnson, Randy Choate, and Juan Rivera -- was too high, especially since Johnson and Rivera are being replaced by the less talented and more expensive Tony Clark and Ruben Sierra. (Actually, they got two
players to replace Johnson, Clark and Travis Lee, but Lee's out for the year; it's saying a lot that they felt the need to acquire two players to replace the immensely talented Johnson, who's now wasting away in Montreal.) When they signed Kenny Lofton, I thought it wholly unnecessary, and Lofton's play this year has made me realize I understated the case with that thought. They did upgrade the bullpen, but at the expense of degrading the starting rotation. (Though the Yankees can't really be blamed for Roger Clemens unretiring.)
If Johnny Damon had been shot in the head before this game started -- a task that any number of Yankee fans would happily take on -- the Yankees would have a 1-0 lead; he just hit his second home run of the game, giving the BoSox a 2-1 lead in the top of the third.
Most distressing is that virtually every exchange the Yankees made -- with the exception of the (in essence) trade of Vasquez for Andy Pettitte, who was let go through free agency to the Astros -- made them older. Clark is older than Johnson, Brown is older than Weaver (though I'm quite happy to see the back of Weaver), Lofton and Sierra are older than Rivera, A-Rod is older than Soriano (though only by a year, not the three years we all thought until this off-season), plus all the others are a year older. They've got next to nothing in the farm system.
Then we have the defense. Johnson is a better first baseman than either Giambi or Clark. Bernie Williams stopped being an effective center fielder last season, and should be moved to left field, letting Hideki Matsui (who was a center fielder in Japan, and who played the position excellently when Bernie went down on the DL last year) play center. A-Rod is one of the best shortstops in the league, and Derek Jeter is one of the worst, yet A-Rod is playing out of position at third with Jeter staying at short, even though Jeter's lack of range and cannon arm would make him a much more viable third baseman.
Having said all that, this is still
a damn good team. They've earned the best record in baseball, and it's pretty obvious that, regardless of how the standings shake out, the Yanks and Red Sox will both make the postseason, as both teams are better than any of the other teams in the league.
I do, however, fear for their long-term prospects. Until last year, the philosophy of the team has been a good combination of homegrown talents and smart free-agent signings. The heart of their championship teams were Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Derek Jeter -- all products of the Yankee farm system. But the only recent prospects to look promising (Johnson and Soriano) were traded.
Sheffield just hit a sacrifice fly, and it's tied at two in the bottom of the third, with Jeter still on first with one out and A-Rod up.
But I have high hopes for this season, at least, even with the flaws. This is a team that has Jorge Posada, who has been the most consistently brilliant catcher in the majors for the past five years, Bernie Williams, who is remarkably underrated given how fantastic he's been since 1995, Derek Jeter, who more than makes up for his atrocious fielding with his spectacular bat, Hideki Matsui, who is finally turning into the player who tore up Japanese baseball for years, Mike Mussina, who has quietly been one of the AL's best pitchers for his entire career, Mariano Rivera, one of the best relievers in the history of baseball, two of the best hitters in baseball in Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi, etc.
Matsui just hit a two-run double to make it 4-2. Life is good.