So the last of the Core Four (+ Bernie) is now gone. After farewell tours for Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, the focus won’t be on an individual player, but on the team’s performance.
Or will it?
The past two years, the focus was on two of the most respected players in baseball, and two future certain first-ballot Hall-of-Famers. The farewell vibe was good.
Two players who spent their whole career with one team. Who were leaders on and off the field. Jeter, in particular, was not only the face of the Yankees, but the face of baseball.
The Yanks may have an image problem in 2015. For who now becomes the face of the Yankees? Oh yeah, someone who is returning from a full-year suspension because of steroid abuse.
A-Rod. No Yankee in 2015 will have as much Yankee “tenure” as A-Rod.
Barry Larkin on ESPN mentioned about the lack of cohesivity with the Yanks. It’s one thing to go and sign different players each year to fill in positions. But it’s like trying to find the right piece to complete a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes the pieces don’t mesh.
With the core four and Bernie, you had cohesiveness. The extra pieces (Tino, O’Neill) fit in perfectly. But the Core Four and Bernie came up through the system. They played many years for the same team. They were leaders.
It is hard to find leaders among mercenaries. When your big names all came from other teams, who is the leader? CC, Teix, Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran, A-Rod, Prado …. all brought in from elsewhere. Some, like Ellsbury, Tanaka and McCann, are too new to be leaders, and especially in the case of Tanaka, there is the language/cultural barrier.
Larkin mentioned the need for the Yanks to build from within. This may take years. There is no homegrown product, like a Mattingly, a Core Four (+ Bernie), who is a leader on this team right now. The closest thing to that would be the Yankees’ best player (according to WAR, Wins Above Replacement) of 2014—Brett Gardner.
No offense to Gardner, but do you consider him the face of and leader of the Yankees?
So who is the leader of the 2015 Yankees? Is it a guy who was suspended for all of 2014 and, let’s remember, only played in 44 games in 2013 because of his second hip surgery? A guy (A-Rod) who sued his very own union and in extension, the players themselves? His own teammates?
Here is a problem for next year’s team. The image of the Yanks will be A-Rod, and it won’t be a nice image. There will be attempts to celebrate certain accomplishments that A-Rod is looking to achieve in 2015. After all, he is just six homers from tying the great Willie Mays on the all-time list. He is 61 hits away from 3000. He is 39 RBI from 2000 and 81 runs scored from 2000.
But how “celebrated” will those achievements be? After all, they are tainted.
Is that what the “highlights” of 2015 will be? Celebrating tainted “accomplishments”?
After all, 2013 and 2014 didn’t bring much in the way of accomplishments other than the farewell tours of Mo and Derek. 85 and 84 win seasons. In both seasons, their Pythagorean records stated that they should have finished below .500 in both years. They weren’t exactly a pretty team to watch in both years, especially offensively. Often, they were flat out boring on the offensive side.
Without many true Yankees, or many who have been with the team say, longer than 2009, who becomes the leader? The face of the team?
It may very well be that it may have to be not a player, but the manager.
It may be that Joe has to be even tougher than usual. More the guy who ripped some players on Thursday. How that will play in a clubhouse of aging veterans, many with very few Yankees ties and who are, for lack of a better word, mercenaries, we won’t know. It may not go over well.
So there may be no identity or true leadership, and the face and image of the 2015 Yankees may be A-Rod.
I don’t know about you, but it’s not something I’m looking forward to.
The Yanks need to develop another Core Four + Bernie. It’s way beyond time to fix that farm system and bring up players who know and behave the Yankee way (all they have to do is follow the steps of Jeter and Mo, for example) and become leaders. It’s unfair to expect the on-the-field excellence of Jeter, Mo, Posada, Pettitte and Bernie, but the Yankees need a new image and new leader—from within. Someone who comes up through the system. Someone who becomes a star and is a true leader. Someone who becomes the face of the franchise with a good image.
Someone like Jeter and the rest of the Core Four + Bernie.
Who will it be? How long will it take?
As for now, the thought of A-Rod being the image and face of the Yankees, and maybe their “leader” doesn’t excite me in the least.
What about you?