The word “apocalypse” does not, technically, mean the end of the world. It instead means “uncovering” or the revelation of something. In that truest sense, the New York Yankees have set themselves up for an apocalyptic year in 2014. Because with the signing of Masahiro Tanaka, they have turned their back on any semblance of the financial restraint they showed last year in a quest to possibly get under the luxury tax and are going with the good old fashion weapon of the Yankees of old: money. Lots and lots of money.
Problem is, with the team that that money has bought, it has yet to be uncovered whether that’s going to do it anymore… at least the way the Yankees did it this offseason.
What do I mean by the way the “Yankees did it” this offseason? Well, what I mean is that the Yankees have, for a lack of a better word, assembled a team that recalls the “Jurassic Park at Camden Yards” Orioles of 1998. Having fallen in the ALCS the past two years, Orioles ownership threw a bunch of money at the problem, signing past All-Stars and award-winners… leading to a team that actually had a higher total salary figure than the Yankees. Problem was, these are the past All-Stars and award-winners who they got (not counting re-signings of players like Harold Baines and Brady Anderson):
- Doug Drabek, Age 35 in 1998
- Joe Carter, Age 38 in 1998
- Ozzie Guillen, Age 34 in 1998
- Norm Charlton (bet you never knew he was an All-Star), Age 35 in 1998
The 1998 Orioles average age was 33.3 years old, their most common batting orders had no players that were younger than 30 at the end of the season, and of the eight pitchers that would start 10 or more games that year, only two of them were under 30. The “Jurassic Park at Camden Yards” Orioles underachieved greatly, finishing 79-83, 4th in the AL East, and beginning the long string of under-.500 years that would last until 2012. Carter, Charlton and Guillen were all gone from the team by the end of the year (although Guillen, admittedly, had mainly been gotten as a backup infielder), while Drabek retired at year’s end.
Now, look at what the Yankees did this off-season:
- Signed Brian McCann, who will be 30 in 2014
- Signed Jacoby Ellsbury, who will be 30 in 2014 and has a history of injuries
- Signed Carlos Beltran, who will be 37 in 2014
- Signed Matt Thornton, who will be 37 in 2014
- Signed Brian Roberts, who will be 36 in 2014 and has a history of injuries
- Signed Masahiro Tanaka, who will be 25 in the 2014 season.
Other than Tanaka, the list looks shockingly like what the Orioles did- getting old all-stars. And, like the Orioles of 1998, the Yankees will likely have their line-up made up entirely of players older than 30-years old. Although, to be fair, the Yankees rotation is younger and I’d definitely take a 30-year-old McCann over a 33-year-old Lenny Webster or Chris Hoiles and a 30-year-old Ellsbury over a 34-year-old Brady Anderson. But still, you can’t help get this sinking feeling that maybe, just maybe, the Yankees money-hammer isn’t going to work this time, that the players they have acquired are too old and too injury prone to bring them to the promised land.
Still, It’s not hard to see why the Yankees are doing this. After all, they missed the playoffs last year and were lucky to end up tied for third with the Orioles in the AL East. And, as that happened, their ratings and attendance plummeted, and probably would have been even lower if not for the attention the grand Mariano Rivera farewell tour got. So, what were they going to do? Just spend money on some younger and cheaper players? Let Tanaka go to the Cubs or Dodgers? Pfft. They wouldn’t let that happen, they are the Yankees. And, hey, the money approach has worked before, and it may well work again. And they better hope it does, because if it doesn’t, it could turn into a baseball apocalypse in the Bronx of a somewhat more dire kind.