Yankees need to deal with more than an A-Rod return

Hal Steinbrenner apologized to fans of the New York Yankees because his team did not do the job. The Yankees spent a half billion dollars on free agent acquisitions and failed to reach the postseason a second consecutive year.

So Steinbrenner, the managing general partner of the richest franchise in sports, is sympathetic to the Yankees fan base. And he did not take a page out of the book from his late father, because George would have instantly leveled the failures on the manager or general manager. or an entire coaching staff would be looking for other jobs.

But there are more issues that pertain to the Yankees as they begin the process of rebuilding for next year. And without Derek Jeter, the emphasis is now on Alex Rodriguez.

The full season suspension will be complete in a few weeks and it seems, from all accounts, that A-Rod will be the center of attention and prime candidate towards assuring that the Yankees will be involved in baseball next October. But that remains to be determined and that will all transpire in 147 days when spring training camp begins down in Tampa Florida.

And don’t expect this huge spending spree from the Yankees upper brass when free agency commences after the World Series. Maybe there will be a shopping spree for another starting pitcher, other than that if the Yankees are to improve it will be a deal or two, though there is not much to offer with contracts locked in on players who were a part of another failure in the Bronx.

So that leads to an emphasis of rebuilding, more so getting younger, because the Yankees roster is the oldest in baseball. And not like the Pirates or the Kansas City Royals, or Oakland, the Yankees don’t have a minor league system of players that are developed to make a jump to the big league level.

Yes the Pirates and Royals with four of the smallest payrolls in the game, were postseason teams as the Yankees went home early again.

Steinbrenner has to be aware of the implications but from his comments the emphasis seems to be, we will go on with Alex Rodriguez and the reality is there is no conception as to how a 39-year old third baseman will handle the daily regime with two bad hips.

And as one baseball observer said, “Alex will have to do it without the ability of using performing enhancing drugs. I doubt he will make it out of spring training,” he said. That may be premature shooting from the lip. Because the Yankees will have to depend more on Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, their new “core” along with Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Alex Rodriguez is owed $60 million. So Steinbrenner has no other alternative than to inform the GM Brian Cashman and the manager Joe Girardi to play him. Unless otherwise known, the reports are A-Rod is getting into playing shape, and to be determined is how a year away from the game will be more difficult to adjust, also taking his age into consideration.

“We did not do the job this year,” said Steinbrenner in a Wednesday afternoon radio interview. “We know what you expect of us and we expect the same thing of ourselves.” That was the message to Yankees fans.

And he did not put the blame on Girardi or Cashman, but that someone is responsible for the failures of 2104. The coaching staff could see some changes, but the overall consensus is the Yankees need to get younger and that is not possible when locking in contracts on aging players of 35 years or older.

A-Rod is in that category and despite his flaws, Steinbrenner is looking at his abilities to make the Yankees better.

“He always comes into camp fit, so we know that is going to be the case,” Steinbrenner said about the return of Rodriguez. “But he is also the age he is at. I don’t have any expectations.”

The expectations of no Derek Jeter, so A-Rod becomes the center of attention for the Yankees. Hopefully more good than bad, and with Alex Rodriguez there is always the drama and another storyline.

There has to be a new leader, not talking Captain, because there is only one Derek Jeter. Perhaps it can be McCann who showed signs of finally adjusting to a new league with his resurgence of the home run in the last few weeks of a dismal season.

A second place finish at 84-78, 12-games behind the division winning Orioles and scoring 633 runs, third fewest in the American League, would not be acceptable if George Steinbrenner was still around, not with a team payroll of $200 million plus.

You can say that the Yankees were in it until the final week of the season, and four games short of that second wild card was remarkable considering how many injuries this aging team had to overcome. Credit Cashman for making some roster moves and Girardi for his leadership.

If the Yankees are to play baseball in the Bronx next October they need a leader and Jeter won’t be there as the job to fill the void at shortstop begins. The leader won’t be Alex Rodriguez, though he will get cheered if healthy and something special comes form his play on the field and at the plate.

Yankees fans want to hear who is responsible for the failures. To them it is a combination of ownership, Cashman and Girardi. In the end the owner took the responsibility.

“I want to make sure that went went wrong was for a reason,” Steinbrenner said. And that begins with more decision making than the return of Alex Rodriguez as the busy offseason has started for the New York Yankees.

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich has covered countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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