These aren’t the Yankees of my youth! Part 1

Brian Cashman has done a masterful job patching the Yankees together this season.

Part one of this two-part series will focus on the moves Brian Cashman and the Yankees brass have made to get the team to the point at which they stand today.

Let me start off by saying I’m a diehard Yankees fan. I bleed pinstripe blue. I love everything that the interlocking NY stands for. But with that being said, I don’t necessarily agree with each and every move Brian Cashman has made during his tenure.

Cashman does deserve his fair share of credit for solid moves over the years, including this season, as the Yankees are only two games out of first place. It’s been an injury-plagued campaign that has exposed a slew of holes, which Cashman has filled with stop-gaps; guys who, let’s face it, are well past their prime but pull something out of the wayback machine when they don those famous pinstripes. Bartolo Colon (6-6, 3.43 ERA) had a remarkable first half for a guy pushing 40 years old and nearly 400 lbs. With the controversial shoulder surgery Colon had last year in the Dominican, he may pitch 2-3 more years. (This has me searching for flights to the Caribbean for an experimental procedure or two. Don’t act like you haven’t thought of it too!) Freddy Garcia, aka The Rock, is streaky as usual, but at 7-7 with a 3.43 ERA, he has been a godsend. But come on, you have to wonder when will their run of fortune will come to an end. Hey, I hope it doesn’t. I hope they both stay healthy, pitch every fifth day, helping the Yanks to a 28th title. Asking too much?

Phil “I’m Hughes in Japan” is back. And after securing his first win of the season the other night against the Jays, with six innings of two-run ball, it looks as if he may be on the way back. It makes me laugh how some people think a 25-year-old with five stellar pitches coming off an 18-win season could be shot! Okay, I know he was disastrous in the 2010 postseason. And I know it looked like that carried over to the beginning of this season. But he’s 25! And after six years of coddling from Cashman and company, cut the guy some slack.

Admit it or not, Hughes and Joba Chamberlain got the raw end of the deal. Pitch counts, moving from the bullpen to the rotation, back and forth, rules and regulations to not expose them to the media. How’d that work out? Chamberlain is out until sometime next year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, who knows the type of pitcher he’ll be when he returns or if the Yanks will even pick up his option for next season. And well, Hughes, in his mid-20s, has to pitch his rear end off each outing just so he can keep his spot in the rotation, all while proving the doubters wrong.

Bartolo Colon deserves a round of applause, too, for his his effort in pinstripes in 2011.(New York Daily News)

The bullpen. A strength at the beginning of the year. A M*A*S*H unit in June, and once again a strength at the end of July. Disclaimer: A lot of this credit has to go to Joe Girardi. David Robertson and his high socks have been money in the eighth inning, a 1.21 ERA in 37 innings while striking out 59! I’m glad the brass stuck with him the past few seasons, as he always had the talent but at times lacked a compass to find the strike zone. All that has changed now that he has a huge purpose, holding saves for Mariano Rivera. Who knows, we could be seeing the Yankees’ closer of the future, if and when Mariano decides to pack it in. (By the way, Mo has a 1.75 ERA in 36 innings with 32 Ks. Vintage Rivera.) Corey Wade has been better than solid. The Rays castoff has been great in the seventh inning, a 1.32 ERA, holding opponents to a .188 batting average, nice! Throw in the kid Hector Noesi, who has the livliest of arms in the entire pen and journeyman Luis Ayala, and most nights you need your starter to go only 5.1 innings. I won’t talk about Boone Logan and Lance Pendleton, and Sergio Mitre, because, quite frankly, I cringe when they come into games. Hold the lead!

The man who is being paid closer money, Rafael Soriano, should be back relatively soon, but where will Girardi stick him? A penchant for throwing fits if all isn’t going to his liking, there is no way I reinsert him as the setup man. He was flat-out bad before his injury (a bruised ego, I assume), a 5.40 ERA in 15 innings while walking 11. This is a guy who, after a solid season in Tampa, wanted the big bucks. Clearly over his Tommy John surgery from 2004 and another in 2008, Soriano couldn’t find a team willing to match his salary demands. Was it the fact he had only one super season? His tendency to lose his cool on the mound? Injury prone? Pick your poison, but the only substantial offer came from the Yanks in the form of a four-year, $35 million deal to be the setup man and closer of the future. And you have to love that out clause at end of every season till his deal expires. Any chance he exercises it this year? Ha! Now, I know Cash really wasn’t on board with this signing from the start, but the Yanks wanted to bolster their bullpen and so they did. What still is to come from Soriano is anyone’s guess. He actually was showing signs of life before his six-to-eight weeks on the DL. So, ease him back into it. Give Soriano a few inserts in the sixth inning to see how he fares. If all goes well, flip-flop him with Cory Wade for the seventh inning. Let’s not write him off just yet.

My favorite trade of the entire Cashman era has to be Curtis Granderson. The Grandy Man is having an MVP kind of year. The most productive left-handed hitter in the majors against lefties, nine of his 25 homers have been against southpaws. A Gold Glove caliber center fielder, Granderson is a four-tool player. Just gotta get that average up! The man is a class act. He is what all young ballplayers should strive to be: a leader on the field, in the the clubhouse and, most importantly, the community. Maybe he’s a seven-tool player. And to think, the Yanks acquired him for Phil Coke, whose move to the starting rotation didn’t work out for Detroit; Austin Jackson, who still has a long way to go; and Ian Kennedy, who is finally pitching well for the D-backs. All in all, a heck of a deal!

I could go on and on about signing Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett (his first year in N.Y. anyway); the Alex Rodriguez trade for Alfonso Soriano; signing Russell Martin away from the Red Sox, who were hot on his heels this offseason; but you know what these guys mean to today’s team. I could talk about Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner, how their grooming through the farm system was just right. How trades all the way back to 2005 for Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small were brilliant at the time. David Justice, Reuben Sierra, Bobby Abreu, Aaron Boone and Damaso Marte in 2009. Each were vitally important at one point or another. And each had a track record of success that carried over to the Yanks. But those last few names were for a different time. When the Boss was around. And the organization wouldn’t think twice about dropping cash for a veteran bat or arm, or sending a prospect or two away in a trade for a guy who would solidify New York as true world Series contenders.

So, what will the New York Yankees do now, as the July 31 trade deadline approaches? And at what cost are they willing to do it?

In Part two, we will look at some trades and signings that haven’t gone so well for the Yanks the past few seasons. And what exactly they are going to do to appease the fans and themselves for this season and seasons to come.

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