Yankee fans are spoiled. Sorry to offend you, but it's true. Watching Yankee fans complain about their lackluster playoff odds is like watching an episode of My Super Sweet 16: even after you get a $67,000 Lexus for your birthday, you tell your mother that you hate her because she didn't give it to you at the right time. Even after experiencing 13 division titles, 17 playoff berths, seven pennants, and five world championships since 1995, Yankee fans are still complaining that the team is too mediocre for their tastes.
So, what do many fans offer as a solution to this mediocrity? Starting from scratch. The grand vision is that if the Yankees just sold off their old, overpriced veterans for young and hungry talent, then suddenly they'll magically turn into the 1995 Yankees with four championships in their near future. The fact is, that couldn't be more wrong. The Yankees are not only not going to be sellers, but that definitely would not happen, even if they did sell. There's a belief that there is a correct way to rebuild a team for sustainability, and that simply is not true.
In late May, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) wrote a piece regarding the rebuild of the Oakland Athletics. In it he described how Billy Beane essentially took the model of "tear down and rebuild" and threw it away. The type of rebuild that he went through was described by David Frost as such:
"I think you have to [try to rebuild and win at the same time]. We have an obligation, to ownership and our fans, to try and win now. There are not many teams in professional sports that can really go out there and credibly say, 'You know what, we're going to punt this season.'"
There is a myth in baseball roster construction that rebuilding via the draft and farm system is somehow more sustainable and admirable, but that simply is not true. How admirable was it of the Royals to rebuild using the draft for nearly thirty years? Or the Pirates? Or the Rays? Or now, the Astros? It's not admirable to punt five to ten years away in hopes that you'll win. It's a strategy, and in some cases, it can work. But to act as if that is the superior method of building a team is ludicrous. That is no exception for the Yankees.
The Yankees are not going to build another dynasty. I'm sorry. But that doesn't mean they have to be mediocre, and that doesn't mean they have to sell. As the Athletics have done, a team can constantly retool itself for competition without having to tear everything apart. And trust me--you don't want to see what would happen if the Yankees truly went through a rebuild. Imagine the media circus. The YES Network's long-term viability would be in jeopardy, many fans would flee or watch other sports, attendance would plummet; and more importantly, there would be many, many years of bad baseball. The Yankees cannot afford that in the market they're in, and the fans do not want it, even if they say they do. The dynasty of the past two decades was created because the team had to be bad for a bit, and even after that it was dumb luck.
Going into this trade deadline, I'm looking for the Yankees to buy. That doesn't mean that they have to stupidly buy, but that doesn't mean they should sell, either. The Yankees are heading into an era that is post-Jeter, an era defined hopefully by a new set of Yankee greats. I don't think the answer to this new era is to sign a bunch of bloated contracts, but I don't think tanking is better, either. This means that there will definitely be stretches of some bad or mediocre baseball, but I'm not that concerned. As Frost said, you can rebuild and win at the same time. Yankee fans will get their $67,000 Lexus but it just may not be on the day they wanted it on.