As a sports fan, Baseball was my first love. I can remember being 8 years old, sitting in the basement of my house alongside my father and watching the New York Yankees win the 1996 World Series. There was jubilation all over the television screen, especially on the baby faced, rookie shortstop (and my favorite player) Derek Jeter.
This is the first time in almost twenty years that I’m not excited for Opening Day. In the past, Opening Day meant the beginning of a 5 (hopefully 6) month commitment to my team and favorite athlete, in the hopes of watching them reach the pinnacle of their sport. It meant nights celebrating and arguing with my father over the play and personnel decisions of the club over the course of the season.
Next week the Yankees are going to start their season and The Captain won’t be anywhere in sight. It was a surreal (and emotional) moment watching Jeter walk off the field in Boston for the final time. This was the player that I’d grown up watching, someone I had respected and idolized from afar. He was the only player on the roster that I had complete confidence in regardless of the situation. With him gone, I now have to look for a new player or even players to put my faith in; and from the looks of this roster, I won’t be finding that player anytime soon.
Looking past all my emotions as a “Jeter fan”, the Yankees are just going to be dreadful this year. I’m not too sure who’s really running the organization, but since George Steinbrenner passed away, his sons are on pace to ruin the franchise. The personnel decisions that they’ve made since the Yankees won the title back in 2009 have been scary. The farm system that helped develop the run of excellence through the late 90’s – early 00’s is nonexistent. They’ve traded all of their young talent in the hopes of catching lightning in the bottle with a veteran all-star. The problem with that, most of those “veteran all-stars” have too much mileage for them to be worth the money that they’re being paid. Or they’ve outbid themselves for the services of a disgraced superstar who is owed over $25 million through 2017.
The Yankees currently consist of (mostly) aging veterans who are past their prime and are being paid like superstars. Starting pitcher CC Sabathia, designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, 1st baseman Mark Teixeira, and outfielder Carlos Beltran are examples of some of the many veterans Yankee fans will see play this season. The “youth” on the team consists of outfielders Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, starting pitchers Michael Pineda & Ivan Nova, and third baseman Chase Headley; all of them over the age of 30 outside of Pineda and Nova who are both 28.
I’m not saying the Yankees should have a bunch of baby faced rookies in their starting lineup/rotation but having a crew of aging veterans isn’t going to get you anywhere. I don’t expect the Yankees to win a championship every year; I just want to see them compete. It’s clear to anyone who follows baseball that this would be the perfect time for this team to begin a rebuilding period. Take the next two seasons and develop the talent (whatever’s remaining) from the farm system and slowly begin to develop those players. There’s nothing wrong with acquiring all-star talent to fix the occasional weak spots, but you can’t build a team that way; especially one with championship aspirations.
The road ahead is going to be a tough one for the New York Yankees and their fans. For those of us who grew up during their late 90’s-early 00’s run, it’s going to be a difficult transition from expecting your team to be in the hunt; to praying and hoping that they even make the playoffs. Every fan base goes through this phase, some longer than others (hello Cubs fans), but eventually your team will break through (sorry Cubs fans) and get back in the championship hunt. It’s a crucible of sorts and one that my dad and I are ready to endure; hopefully for only a short period of time.