It’s worth criticizing John Donovan’s piece on SI.com for its take on the Yankees. The article’s primary purpose is to diagnose where the Yankees went wrong during the winter, thus affording them their poor start. This is a worthy purpose indeed, because no one on planet earth could have predicted the Yankees’ record thus far. Donovan’s analysis, however, is bad. His tacit negligence in looking up statistics, as well as his frequent contradictions and logical inconsistencies make this piece truly awful. Let’s take a look.
Hindsight being as eagle-eyed as it is, it’s easy to see just where the present-day Yankees went wrong. They tried to restock their farm system and compete at the big league level at the same time. They pulled away from what they do best — nobody bullies people in baseball with a checkbook quite like the guys in the pinstriped front office, whether it’s in the free-agent market or at the trade table — and that’s costing them now.
Awesome. Everyone complains that the Yankees only win by outspending other teams. The Yankees (relatively speaking) abandon this strategy for one off-season, during which they restock the farm system, and they are getting lambasted for being cheap. Super.
Let’s look, with some of that unerring hindsight, at just some of the ways that the Yankees have burned this baby:
Indeed, let’s. This way I can show every intelligent reader why I am more qualified than you for your job.
1) They counted on Carl Pavano…This guy had one good year, in 2004 for the Florida Marlins. One…Sure, they had laid out for that $40 million contract, and so it probably wasn’t too much to ask for a little return on their money. But since when does spending money guarantee results?
But, wait…you said in the opening paragraph that the Yankees are bad because they didn’t spend money. Now you’re criticizing them for spending money on a player that, at the time, was in incredibly high demand (Baltimore, Detroit, Boston). And if spending money doesn’t guarantee results, as you just said, then why are you partially attributing the Yankees’ downfall to not spending enough? I am curious about what exactly Donovan would have done during last off-season, because so far he’s advocated both spending and not spending. Pick one.
2) They underestimated the importance of getting Daisuke Matsuzaka.
You bid $32 million for the right to talk to Matsuzaka, the phenomenal right-hander from Japan, and you figure you’re doing plenty. As it turned out, the Yanks, in their new conservatism, badly miscalculated. Their offer was nearly $20 million less than Boston’s. And the decision to go low is killing them.
I think Donovan’s dictionary is faulty, because phenomenal means “really really good” or “awesome” or, in a sports context, “game-changing”. Matsuzaka has an ERA+ of 93. 100 is, by definition, average. Matsuzaka has been a below-average pitcher so far. He is 34th in the AL in ERA. Players with better ERAs include Chad Durbin, Carlos Silva, Joe Kennedy, Boof Bonser, Paul Byrd, Steve Trachsel (!), Gil Meche, and Chad Gaudin. I don’t know how else to say it. Matsuzaka has not been worth the $100 million so far. Is it early? Yup, sure is. But to say that the Yankees’ failure to acquire a below-average pitcher is the reason they’re playing poorly is idiotic.
Also, if Daisuke Matsuzaka was on the Yankees, he’d be 8th in ERA among their starters. Yankee starters better than Matsuzaka so far this season include: Carl Pavano, rookie Tyler Clippard, rookie Matt DeSalvo, and Darrell Rasner. To quote baseball analyst John Donovan, “since when does spending money guarantee results?” The Yankees are being criticized again for “going low” on Matsuzaka, therefore making their finanical restraint “kill them”, even though Donovan’s point is that the Yankees should have spent more money during the off-season. But what about the money not equaling results thing? Does this make sense to anyone?
3) They blew it on Igawa, who wasn’t going to be a star anyway.
This is fine. Igawa is bad. But he’s not THE reason the Yankees are playing poorly.
4) They forgot just how old they really were.
The Yankees saw the aging of their roster coming. They were trying to get younger. That’s the whole idea of re-stocking the farm system. It’s an admirable goal, and it’s needed.
Donovan now thinks it was admirable and necessary for the Yankees to re-stock the farm system. Mere paragraphs before, he said the Yankees are bad because they tried to rebuild and not spend money. Pick one.
At 29.9 years old the Yankees are among the majors’ oldest teams, ranking in the bottom third in average age.
The Red Sox’ average age is 30.9. I looked it up. They seem to be doing just fine.
No one could have expected all of those players to struggle as they have. It’s just another example of the extreme bad luck that the Yankees have run into this season.
This is the absolute closest Donovan gets to correctly diagnosing the Yankees’ problems so far. Unexpectedly poor pitching early + random, crazy, unpredictable, lineup-wide slump = bad record.
But many of the injuries have been to older players. Shouldn’t the Yanks have seen this coming?
Again, the Red Sox are old and they are doing just fine. And also, John Donovan, like three sentences earlier you said, and I quote, “the Yankees saw the aging of their roster coming”. Now you’re wondering why they didn’t see this coming. Pick one.
5) They essentially traded Gary Sheffield for Abreu in the offseason.
Sheffield has a career OPS+ of 145. Abreu’s is 135, and that’s including his horrendous and unforeseen OPS+ this year of 66.
So, in choosing between two similarly productive outfielders, would you rather have the 38 year old crank with wrist problems and a violent swing or the low-maintenance 33 year old guy with no injury history? And what if you knew you could trade the 38 year old crank for some decent prospects AND keep the 33 year old guy? I thought so.
6) They thought they could get by without a decent-hitting first baseman.
Damn right they did. Posada, Giambi, Cano, Jeter, A-Rod, Matsui, Damon, and Abreu. Damn freaking right.
The Yanks were right in that they probably could survive without much production at first base — if everyone else was hitting. They’re not.
Super, let’s criticize the Yankees again for the bad luck that the author himself recognized was a random, weird part of the problem.
7) They banked, literally, on Roger Clemens. The pro-rated portion of $28 million (about $18 million) for a guy who impacts one game a week? That’s more like the old-school, spend-at-will Yankees. But that doesn’t automatically make it smart.
Firstly, you used “literally” wrong. And secondly, oh my God, $18 million for a guy who impacts one game a week??? What about, like, your homeboy Matsuzaka, who cost the Red Sox $100 million to be bad (so far)? He also impacts one game a week. Oh, but right, that’s different. Getting locked into a long-term deal with an unknown quantity who only affects one game a week is a MUCH better idea than spending $18 million in the short-term for a low-risk investment. I get it.
There are also more contradictions here about the Yankees’ spending. Donovan chastises the Yankees for spending money on Clemens, which is exactly the type of spending he encouraged earlier in the article. Then he praises them for reverting to their successful, more-freely spending ways. Then he says it’s not necessarily smart for them to spend. Pick one.
Still, it’s hard to believe that the Yankees couldn’t have somehow used that cash in the trade market this summer to bolster the roster for a second-half run.
Somehow I think the Yankees will still be able to afford players at the deadline. Just a hunch though.
But if the Yanks are completely, undeniably out of it by July, their next move is clear: Hold on to what’s left of their money and spend it next winter. They’ll need it, because if they plan on getting back in the game, they’re going to have to start doing business the old way.
Okay, so now the Yankees should “start doing business the old way”, which means spend money. This is despite the fact that you, John Donovan, have repeatedly said that spending does not guarantee success. And also, if the Yankees start spending more money, media hacks like you will start complaining again about how the Yankees’ spending ruins baseball.
This article is garbage. It is quite possibly the worst analysis I have ever read. It is lazy, contradictory, and dismally-researched. I don’t know who is more of an idiot – John Donovan or his editor.
By the way, if you want the real reason why the Yankees have been bad so far, look here.