Things have just not clicked for the New York Yankees this year. Micromanaging office managers sometimes refer to this as "synergy," as does Jem from Jem and the Holograms when she needs to... never mind. For those of you not in the know, synergy and synergism refers to combining efforts in order to achieve greater effect. It's a much better and way cooler sounding term than "building team chemistry" for what teams want to accomplish because chemistry class sucked and so did everyone who did well in it. In baseball, it's a combination of pitching, defense, and offense that helps to win games. I shouldn't have to explain this to you but there are people who believe in a magical fourth element that somehow glues it all together. Some examples are Derek Jeter's leadership skills, veteran presence, the youthful spark from a rookie, and other such intangibles. There actually is a fourth element though, which I'll get to later. It's not magical though. It actually might be depressing.
I probably bring up the 1998 Yankees as an example more than I should, but really they are the absolute best modern day example of flawless synergy that I've ever seen. Everything worked for them. Pitching, offense, defense, everything. This year we've seen the opposite of that in full force. When the pitching was on, the hitting was off. When the hitting was on, the pitching was off. When the pitching and hitting were both on, someone got injured. When someone got injured, someone else got re-injured. When the pitching was on or off, Chris Stewart could not hit nor could he catch a fastball down the middle of the plate. Yeah, still bitter about that.
Pitching is what kept the Yankees afloat after the offensive boat hit the iceberg. Especially the bullpen. It took a while to fix that hole, but with Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Rodriguez replacing the likes of Lyle Overbay batting cleanup and Chris Stewart batting 5th or 6th, which are both things that happened this year that I never want to see again, the Yankees offense could start competing. The buoyancy of the bullpen and starting rotation then began to falter. Hiroki Kuroda and Preston Claiborne started to come down to Earth at inopportune times. Meanwhile Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia have possibly righted the ship. Possibly. Ivan Nova is still an experiment in progress and Phil Hughes needs to be flung into the Gorge of Eternal Peril for not knowing that his name is Chef Boyardee. Joba Chamberlain can be flung for not knowing the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow.
That has been the Yankees season this year thus far. There has been little to no synergy. Injuries and re-injuries are primarily to blame. Even then we don't know what would have happened this year. There's little point in going back and speculating about how this season would have turned out if all our players were healthy because that's just not how baseball works. All the Yankees can do is focus on the now and use the past as example of what to avoid for the future. This is where the real problem is. It delves into that fourth element that I mentioned before, which I'll call dynamics.
Dynamics cannot create synergy but rather help the Yankees avoid the problems of the past to possibly achieve said synergy. I say possibly because it's impossible to predict what can happen. I certainly did not think Soriano would be hitting as well as he currently is. Dynamics show that pitching Phil Hughes in Camden Yards is probably a bad idea, especially when a pitcher like David Huff has shown you he can possibly go the distance. Dynamics show that having Chris Stewart behind the plate is probably a bad idea when more youthful, less worn down backup only type catchers have a better chance of showing you more offensively and defensively. The lack of dynamics is the most frustrating thing this year, even more so than the injuries. Okay, maybe equally frustrating to the injuries. Injuries come and go and are usually uncontrollable, but continuing to play bad options when there are better, or at the very least potentially better, options available is the Yankees' M.O. and has been for years. It also shows little to no sign of stopping either.
Joba Chamberlain is still on this team. Austin Romine is still taking a backseat to Chris Stewart. JR Murphy has still not been called up and probably will take a backseat to Stewart when he is in September. Ichiro Suzuki is still starting when you now have two outfielders in Granderson and Soriano who make up for their "not quite as good as Ichiro" defense with their "better than Ichiro" hitting. The coming 2014 Yankees' season has a lot of unknowns. People are still calling for them to rebuild and I do not understand this at all. With the way the Yankees dynamics of baseball operations currently works, would you seriously trust this team to rebuild properly?
For the Yankees to rebuild, it requires a totally new outlook on how they conduct business and all signs currently show that it's not happening, nor is it really ready to happen yet. Rebuilding requires tools, time and a general plan. The Yankees don't have the tools, are very impatient, and the unknowns of 2014 are really preventing the Yankees from making any sort of rational plan on what to do. If they are to attempt to rebuild for the future it is going to have to wait. In the present, though, there is nothing preventing them from replacing Joba, benching Ichiro, and giving Romine & Murphy more of a chance. It's most likely not going to happen, though.
Until the dynamics of how this team operates changes, rebuilding should be the absolute last option on the table. There's nothing wrong with replacing a tool here and there, though. And in every sense of the word "tool" am I talking about Joba.