The New York Yankees do not handle aging stars well.
For all the New York Yankees do well they fail in a big way when it comes to figuring out what to do with aging stars. “Loyalty” seems to take a back seat when signing on the dotted line for a final contract which becomes pain-staklingly slow and contentious at times. General Manager and lifetime Yankees executive Brian Cashman has never been quick to exclude true economic evaluation when it comes to stars that have spent a lifetime winning championships. All of a sudden, they are treated as a back-up fourth outfielder or part-time designated hitter with a salary baseline of the MLB minimum?
Cashman isn’t wrong about his technical reasons for evaluating diminished talent of these one time super stars, but a little short-sighted as far as giving a little more to a player that has given Yankees fans so much. Consequently, avoiding any visible media squabble that might look distasteful or embarrassing to the long time fan. Especially when the Yankees make billions of dollars and could afford a thousand bad contracts. What is the difference if they throw a little extra money toward a beloved Yankee? As long as that money doesn’t preclude purchasing other needs that will help them win a championship. Fans hate when their team spend millions of dollars on outside players who do not perform up to standard. They could care less how much you give to the players they love! They certainly care how their beloved players are treated in the media and they will always side with their icon.
THE DRUM ‘JEETS’ SLOWLY
Brian Cashman told SI in 2010 that he and Derek Jeter, then age 36, sat down for a face-to-face meeting during a dispute over the terms of the shortstop’s next contract.
“Who would you rather have playing shortstop this year than me?” Jeter asked Cashman.
“Do you really want me to answer that?” Cashman replied. Jeter told him to go ahead, and he listed Tulowitzki, then the Rockies’ shortstop who was in the midst of his first All-Star campaign.
“We’re not paying extra money for popularity,” he added, “We’re paying for performance.”
Jeter ended up signing a three-year, $51 million deal but left bad blood between him and Cashman that has not seemed to have been eradicated. After retirement, Jeter went on to buy-in and then leave the Florida Marlins four years later. The Marlins organization were never going to be like the Yankees and Jeter was not used to that way of thinking. Jeter explained that it was the unwillingness of the Marlins to spend money and be competitive that caused him to resign.
The case of long-time veteran and one time champion Brett Gardner is slowly creeping down the same path. Although I agree that Gardner should be brought back for a final season, he should not be thrown boat-loads of money to do so. Where I disagree is how once again, Brian Cashman is handling the aging Yankee fan favorite. We are almost at the end of spring training in 2022 and Gardner has not been signed. In fact, the Yankees signed a back up outfielder early into spring training instead of giving that contract to Gardner. Now perhaps his agent has out-priced Gardner even for the cash-flushed but froogle Yankees. Optics make it appear that the Yankees have forgotten or don’t care about a loyal Yankee like Gardner. Gardner is a special player that is home-grown and viewed as a blue-collar worker who plays every chance he gets with no excuses. The last thing fans want is for him to sign with the Mets or the Red Sox.
There have been other glimpses of Yankee veteran failures going back to the off season of 1995–1996 when first baseman legend and captain Don Mattingly was forced into retirement. He was coaxed into hanging up number 23 with a promise of a new job as hitting instructor. All because they wanted to make room for the Seattle Mariner star Tino Martinez. Unfortunately for Mattingly, the Yankees won the World Series in 1996 leaving Mattingly a year short of his first ever potential championship ring and appearance into the fall classic. This was under Bob Watson and Cashman as an assistant to the general manager.
Alex Rodriguez was little more complicated and a little messier as they could not wait to jettison Rodriguez into retirement after the admitted steroid user and keeper of all the baseball secrets threatened and tried to sue major league baseball and the Yankees. With diminished skills and a horrible reputation the Yankees didn’t want Rodriguez to appear on the filed anymore. In fact they changed his job title to “Yankees Consultant” his final year and paid him $20 million to do nothing. Perhaps they really did know what to do with this aging star!
Aaron Judge the new Yankees superstar is about to sign an extension that will take him into years that will be unproductive. Even at a 7 year deal Judge will be in his late 30’s and has already shown signs of being injury-prone. What will the end look like for the “judge and jury” of this superstar? At least we have Giancarlo Stanton’s later years to look forward to which will come sooner than Judge. Fantastic!
COLD WAR OR STANDING PAT?
The Yankees announced shortly after Derek Jeter resigned from the Marlins that they would be honoring him at Yankee Stadium for his Hall of Fame induction. Do not read into the fact that this is purely a gesture of good will on the part of Brian Cashman. Not that he is opposed to it but I am sure this comes directly from the Steinbrenner Family. If we have learned anything about Cashman is that he likes to be right. He has gone the distance with Aaron Boone after bouncing field general Joe Girardi out and is hell-bent on making analytics work to almost a determent. Believing that stealing, bunting and the hit & run is an overacted obsolete part of the game. “Launch Angle” is the answer to the super shift which thankfully will be phased out in 2023.
Just his past week Brian got a little ornery with a reporter regarding the Yankees “drought” from appearing no less winning the World Series. He pulled out the “2017” argument that they were robbed by the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Therefore, I doubt he wants to show the love behind the scenes with Jeter by holding onto his right as a General Manager not wanting to through boat loads of money at him during his last contract as a player. Regardless of being a Hall of Famer. Remember, he negotiated with premiere closer Mariano Rivera during his last contract even thought he eventually paid him as the highest salaried closer at the time. There was a real threat of Rivera leaving to go to either the Mets or the Dodgers where another Cashman cast-off, Joe Torre, went once Cashman felt it was time for a “new voice”. This happened to be Joe Girardi who Cashman did the same thing to 10 years later. Rivera did leave on his own terms sparing Cashman a need to push him out the career-ending-window. Just the fact that the public knew they were “negotiating” and that other suitors came into play was unnecessary when it comes to Yankee Superstars. Brian loves when there are no other teams involved and he can let the legends know that their current skills are diminished despite their one way ticket to the Hall. As stated before, financially he is not wrong but really? They’re Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera! Come on.
ENOUGH SAID OR NOT?
Cashman will appear to make nice with Jeter and will say all the right things to the press on his HOF day. However, he will always think he was right for negotiating that final time regarding the Yankees legend. If pushed, Brian will crack and tell you again that he was right.
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