McAdam: Welcome to rock bottom, Yankees

916947.jpg

McAdam: Welcome to rock bottom, Yankees

DETROIT -- Losing the American League Championship Series to a team which won seven fewer games than you is bad.
Being swept by that same team in the ALCS is worse. And never holding a lead, for even a fleeting moment in the entire series, is the absolute worst.
Welcome, New York Yankees, to rock bottom.
In the last two post-seasons, the Yankees have yet to win a single game past the Division Series. They were knocked off in five games by the Tigers in 2011, then got by the Baltimore Orioles in this year's ALDS only to be outclassed by Tigers Thursday, 8-1, who completed their four-game sweep.
While eliminated by the Tigers for the second straight October, the Yankees set records for offensive futility. In the four game series, they scored a grand total of six runs. They hit a collective .157 for the ALCS.
"There's a lot of a good hitters in that (visitor's clubhouse) and to be able to shut them all down is surprising,'' said Joe Girardi.
"Collectively, we didn't get it done...We didn't just struggle. A lot of guys struggled mightily.''
For the first three games, the Yankees got strong starting pitching and it didn't save them. They went into Game 4 with a 2.25 ERA in the ALCS -- and hadn't won in a game.
Then, when CC Sabathia sputtered Thursday in Game 4, it was too late to matter. By the ninth, the Yankee lineup looked like something Joe Girardi might bring to Fort Myers for a game next March.
In truth, the Yankees' offensive struggles weren't a total shock. Scouts who watched them over the course of the season warned that the Yanks were too dependent on home runs, which, by definition, are harder to hit against quality pitching staffs in the post-season.
Sure enough, the Yankees hit five homers in nine post-season games -- three of them by Raul Ibanez. And three of the five homers they hit came with the bases empty.
"Just bad timing,'' shrugged Mark Teixeira. "Really bad timing for four games like this.''
"We didn't hit the way we were supposed to,'' said Robinson Cano in a bit of understatement. "We had our chances and didn't take advantage. We didn't do our job with men on base and they beat us.''
The Yankees problems go far beyond the temporary embarrassment of the playoff sweep. Any team, after all, can have a bad week, and it's dangerous to read too much into such a small sample size.
"We lost,'' concluded Nick Swisher. "That's it. We went out and gave it everything we had. It just wasn't good enough.''
That said, the Yankees are in trouble. Their aging roster is becoming problematic.
Take a look around their roster of position players, and while you're at it, their ledger sheets.
At first, Teixeira has seen his OPS decline in each of the last three seasons and is only halfway through his eight-year, 180 million.Derek Jeter will undergo surgery Saturday and it's unclear whether he'll be ready for Opening Day. He'll turn 38 next year, an age when few continue to play shortstop everyday.
Curtis Granderson is wildly inconsistent, capable of power (43 homers), but too often, failing to make contact (.232 batting average, 195 strikeouts). Swisher is a free agent and won't be back.
Behind the plate, Russell Martin is also a free agent, and because the Yankees traded one catching prospect (Jesus Montero) and have had another (Austin Romine) slowed by injuries, probably will return.
The Yankees hold a 15 million option on Cano and will exercise that. Next year, the Yankees might have a tough call on whether to extend him beyond 2012. Cano will be 30, relatively young, but his .699 career OPS in the post-season may give the Yanks some pause.
Finally, of course, there's Alex Rodriguez, who was benched for three of the nine post-season games and pinch-hit for in three others. Rodriguez looks for all the world like the most overpriced platoon player, with five years and 114 million in salary obligations remaining.
It's here where the Yankees might secretly envy the Red Sox. In unloading Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett in their megadeal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Sox unloaded 259 million in payroll obligations and got the chance to start over.
For now, the Red Sox have 45.6 million in payroll committed for next season -- a figure that admittedly doesn't include several arbitration cases, nor free agents David Ortiz and Cody Ross. By contrast, the Yankees are on the hook for 119.1 million in 2013.
The disparity is best exemplified thusly: while the Red Sox are committed to just 34.4 million in 2014, two years from now, the Yankees have (italics please) twice (end italics) as much committed in 2016, (italics please) four (end italics) years from now.
And remember, the Yankees have vowed to be under the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold of 186 million by 2014.
Ordinarily, a team with virtually unlimited resources and coming off a season in which they had the best record in the league is a team to be envied.
So how come it doesn't feel that way for the New York Yankees?

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.