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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Basic Biittner : Another 'Unofficial' World Series this year

Monday, October 22, 2012

(Photo)
The late Frank Miller, a Yankee fan, drew this classic cartoon
After watching a couple of exciting American League post-season series involving my beloved New York Yankees, I have come to the conclusion that the time has come for the Yankees to regroup or rebuild, before they sink to the level of that horrible 1965 -1974 decade, when they were nowhere to be found in the post-season picture.

While the team's pitching hasn't been all that bad in the ALDS and ALCS, their hitting - if I can call it that - has been pretty much non-existent, with only a couple of exceptions.

The Yankees' most recent fallow period came in the late '80s and early '90s, when poor Don Mattingly, or "Donnie Baseball," as we call him, was pretty much the lone shining beacon for the Bronx Bombers. That all changed in 1996, when New York native Joe Torre was hired to manage the team and four youngsters from the farm system came aboard to join young switch-hitting outfielder Bernie Williams and lead the team to a glorious six-year run that produced five American League championships, four World Series crowns, and with that a return of the Yankee haters - all reminiscent of earlier championship eras of the franchise.

Those four young players - pitchers Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, catcher Jorge Posada and shortstop Derek Jeter - were indeed the core of the Yankees for 15 years or so, in spite of the periodic addition of other players through trades and free agency, and we Yankee fans should have realized that when the "Core Four" faded away, the days of recent Yankee glory would fade with them.

Posada and Pettitte retired last year, though Andy had second thoughts this spring and "un-retired". When he has pitched this season, he has shown flashes of his former self, but he's also had to battle injuries and aging. Rivera remained his reliable self as a closer until he suffered a season (and career?) ending injury in a pre-game workout early this season. Then there is the captain, Derek Jeter, who continued rolling along this season, once again topping the .300 mark and adding to his 3000-plus hit total. Until last Sunday, that is,when Jeter stumbled to make a play in the field and fell with a scream as he broke an ankle - the third leg injury he has had this season- and his season, too, came to a premature end. As with the members of the "Core Four", one question lingers - Has the career of the almost assuredly first-ballot Hall of Famer also come to an end?

And then there's A-Rod. Or is there? When a team chooses to pinch hit for their highest-paid player and leading run producer several times and benches him for whole games at other times, they obviously feel he's not a part of their current plans. Next year? Who knows?.

If he is traded or released, the Yankees would have to "eat" the millions of dollars remaining on A-Rod's contract. Though Jeter may return next season - and perhaps Pettitte and Rivera as well - it has become fairly obvious that the time has come for the Yankees to move on and begin a new era.

I'm not sure that the farm system will provide a nucleus this time, though. The system's last two sure-fire prospects were outfielder Brett Gardner and pitcher Phil Hughes, and while both finally cracked the lineup and have had their occasional moments in the sun, neither, in my opinion, is a player upon whom the franchise can be rebuilt.

In the old days, the late Boss Steinbrenner would have opened his pockets and brought in all the Free Agents he could. Those days, though, are basically a thing of the past under the stewardship of his sons.

General Manager Brian Cashman has done a yeoman job of putting the pieces together to shape the Yankee teams of recent years, and I have confidence that he will not over-react and ship everyone out of town, but rather take a deep breath, wait for the post season disappointment to fade, and then take a long, hard look at what moves he needs to make - or not make - this off season.

In the meantime, here's hoping the Cards and Tigers give us another exciting seven - game World Series, as they did in their two previous Fall Classic matchups in 1934 and 1968.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner