Wednesday, May 13, 2009
ATTENTION YANKEES: YOU'RE TURNING INTO THE KNICKS AND RANGERS
Remember ten years ago, the Yankees were going through their latest dynasty, with a group of likable guys who would die on the field if they need to. They were managed by the perfect man who could shield the pressure from the media and their owner. Built by a couple of GM's who, instead of just getting the biggest free agents available, used the farm system and made the right trade or signing that fit with the team.
A lot has changed since then, particularly after 2001, and the Yankees have still been unable to replace the best players of the era. A decade of signing flashy names and veteran pitchers have been unsuccessful in leading the Yankees to a title since 2000 and back to a World Series since 2003. However, all these failures are familiar to the failures that the 80s Yankees had. This year, however, the front office has now gone out of its way to screw the fans over and that is a trait that Jim Dolan has been doing for many years at MSG.
If you look at both the Knicks and the Rangers, both teams have had success in the 1990s as the Rangers won the Stanley Cup and the Knicks made two NBA Finals. Both erred in how they got rid of their best players as the Rangers let Mark Messier walk too soon while he still could have a few good years left (also compounding it by re-signing him when it was clear that his skills diminished) while the Knicks decided to trade away Patrick Ewing and take on big salaries from lesser players, when the more prudent plan would of been to have him play out his final year under contract.
The Rangers spent the next seven years after Messier left signing busts like Valeri Kamensky and Stephane Quintal, trading for a finished Pavel Bure and an overrated Anson Carter, trading away all-star Marc Savard for a draft pick which they used to draft a flat bust Pavel Brendl. From Neil Smith to Glen Sather, the Rangers have failed in personnel moves except three: drafting Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round in 2000, trading for Jaromir Jagr and getting him for half-price and trading for Sean Avery in 2007 which catapulted the team to the playoffs and almost to the East Finals that season. Now with a salary cap, the Rangers have overextended themselves on mediocre talent (aside from Lundqvist) and are trapped in cap hell.
Cap hell is a place the Knicks are very familiar with, but that has stopped them from making moves. For them, it really starts with the 1999 NBA Draft when they picked Fredric Weis over Ron Artest, a man who's only claim to fame is getting dunked on by Vince Carter in the Olympics. They acquired an over-the-hill Glen Rice in the Ewing trade, which they in turn traded for Howard Eisley and Shandon Anderson. Under Scott Layden, the Knicks routinely brought in undersized forwards and guards who could drive the ball (plus they gave Allan Houston a max contract). It seemed like a godsend when they fired Layden, but when Isiah Thomas took the job, he made things worse, as hard to believe as it was. He would acquire plenty of questionable players to put it mild and each guy proved why he had a question on him to begin with, whether it's Eddy Curry's laziness or Stephon Marbury's selfishness.
The worst part about the Isiah era goes beyond their record, as the franchise became an embarrassment off the court. The sexual harassment lawsuit involving Anucha Browne Sanders and the truck party with intern Kathleen Decker made the team a punchline. The Rangers had their run of embarrassment this playoffs when John Tortorella attacked a fan with a water bottle and a stick, then the open letter Glen Sather wrote to the league. The Rangers also got into a lawsuit with the NHL for rights over the team website.
So what does this have to do with the Yankees? Because through all this, Jim Dolan continues to keep prices for both teams among the highest in each league and basically continue to steal our money without caring at all about the team. Granted, he did replace Isiah and maybe the Knicks part in this will change, but Glen Sather is almost locked in for life and the Rangers won't be any better than a second-round team under him. Meanwhile, all of a sudden, the Yankees have opened a new stadium and have priced out their fans. Even though Rangers game report sellouts and the Knicks at least report 19,000 a night, it looks like it's less on any ordinary night. The Yankees report 43,000 every game that is clearly not the case when you watch on TV.
Add to that the fact that guys like Randy Levine and Lonn Trost basically rub in it the fans faces by claiming the reason no ones allowed by the dugout during batting practice because they liken the suites to a house and Trost is quoted as saying "If you purchase a suite, do you want someone in your suite? If you purchase a home, do you want someone in your home?" Of course, he mentions the Legends Suites, not the rest of the field level seating that the same rule applies. Now the Yankees are selling off the rest of the old Stadium to more ridiculously high prices for seats, grass, etc. Another problem the Yankees had was the game against the Red Sox when their security guys and "May I Help You" people told fans that the game was going to be rained out, then when it wasn't, refused re-entry.
There are some differences between the Yankees and the MSG teams such as the fact that there won't be any Glen Sathers staying in power too long. Brian Cashman is under the gun this year, though continues to live off the last years of the Yankee dynasty. His failings as a GM lie mostly with his putrid job of building a farm system. This is one area that is the single biggest reason that Theo Epstein and the Red Sox are better than the Yankees. There are a whole list of trades and free agent signings that the Yankees have missed this decade. Some of the blame does go to George Steinbrenner, but Cashman has held control of the decisions since the end of the 2005 season and the team has periodically been worse since. We don't know how much Hal Steinbrenner will stand, but I can't see Cashman stick around if the Yanks continue to decline.
So basically, the Yankees are a flawed team despite its $200 million+ payroll. They are old at too many positions, are weak defensively, have no bench and depend to heavily on free agent pitchers because they haven't developed many pitchers on the big league level since the mid-1990s. They still have a long way to go to lower themselves to their fellow NY teams. They could start missing playoffs yearly, have lawsuits that disgrace the team (with A-Rod, there's always that chance), or have either the Steinbrenner sons not care or sell to someone else who won't. That's why, Yankees this is your wake up call. Don't turn into the Knicks or Rangers. Either break up this team and start over, or stop trying to win a fantasy league and start trying to win World Series. Being a tweener in this sport is infuriating, and your fans will see through it, at least the real ones who will show up to the park even if they can't afford it.