In the wake of the Yankees early exit from the playoffs , there has been a lot of fingerpointing . Alex Rodriguez , Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher are being excoriated for their collective swoon , which seems to have become an annual affair, manager Joe Girardi is accused by many fans as an unimaginative and uninspiring leader and GM Brian Cashman is being criticized for overpaying stars and for bringing in the underperforming A.J. Burnett. Yes , Yankee fans are not happy and they want changes , big changes.
The New York Daily News and the N.Y. Post are busy as usual stoking the fires. Both had scathing headlines after the Yankees loss to Detroit and the objects of their ire were A. Rod ( all of a sudden he’s become not A. Rod but A-Roid ) and Mark Teixeira . C.C Sabathia has come in for his share of criticism because , after not living up to expectations , he seems to be about to exercise the opt out clause in his contract . Indeed the News had a poll in which readers were asked to play GM and vote whether they would dump OR keep each of the Yankee players. Respondents would , it seems , like to get rid of A.Rod , Teixeira, Swisher , A.J. Burnett , Bartolo Colon , Jorge Posada, Andruw Jones, Joba Chamberlain , and Luis Ayala among others. In the case of two others , the vote was 50-50. Yessir , the natives are restless in the Bronx.
The Daily News poll helps fans to vent their ire but , in other respects , it is useless. With the exception of Jorge Posada who was in the last year of his contract, , these players have been signed to inflated , long-term contracts . The Yankees are stuck with them for the duration since these players are virtually untradeable because of their huge salaries. This is a legacy of the Steinbrenner era when George would outbid every other team in his drive to bring another world championship to New York . It worked splendidly in the late nineties and early 2000’s when the Yankees won four championships and made it to the finals two other times. Since then the Yankees have won only one other title ( in 2009) and their fans who had come to expect a championship banner every year feel hard done by . Worse , the Yankees who have the highest payroll in major league baseball , by far , are stuck with players on the downside of their careers and with little wiggle room to make major changes.
Should a player who is paid like a superstar be expected to come through in the clutch every time ? In the past , I would have replied with a resounding ” NO”. This is, after all, a game and it is unreasonable to expect that A.Rod or Teixeira , will hit a Grand Slam every time they come to the plate with the bases loaded. However , when someone is a superstar , isn’t it reasonable to expect that he will not flop year after year in the playoffs ? This has been true of A.Rod and Teixeira and Swisher for more years than I care to remember.What is the use of their regular season heroics when they go into a swoon come October ? There are some players who actually raise the level of their game in October ( Robinson Cano , Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are some of the names that come to mind ) and the contrast makes these failures all the more glaring. I guess that Jeter , Rivera and Cano are clutch players and we will just have to accept that these others are not .
Which brings me to the issue of opt-out clauses in player contracts ? C.C Sabathia ,who signed for $ 160 million three years ago, has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out of his contact in the off-season and seek to sign for more money either with the Yankees or any other team that wants him . CC, who has four years for $ 92 million still remaining under this contract , may just choose to do so. I hope the Yankees have the cojones to let him walk. He has been a good, but not great , pitcher these past three years and his girth is alarming . I don’t see that he can pitch effectively for four or more years and even , in today’s inflated BB market place , I think he’s vastly overpaid . I say , let him walk.Time to cut the strings or we might have another A.Rod fiasco .
Three or four years ago , A.Rod opted out of his contract which was already the richest in baseball. The Yankee GM , Brian Cashman , wanted to let him go but was over-ruled by Hank Steinbrenner. As a result the Yankees are stuck with A.Rod until age 42. This year , there seemed to be a marked decline in his play even as his injuries mounted . There is some doubt now whether he will ever regain his past form and stay healthy long enough to break the HR record. Which brings me to the point I want to make … these opt-out clauses are one-sided and patently unfair. No matter how poorly a player performs , his contract is fully guaranteed. Yet , if he does well , he can exercise his option and try get more money . Doesn’t seem right to me . Of course , the fault lies with the owners and GMs who , in their desperation to sign these stars , agree to such ridiculous terms . I can’t feel too sorry for them .