The Yankees are not winning anymore. They have had two seasons in a row in which they did not make the playoffs. They have let two of their homegrown superstars sail into the distant sea of free agency. There are so many empty seats behind home plate at Yankee Stadium III. The last of the Dynasty Era, Derek Jeter, has finally called it quits. The last symbol of the last great era of Yankee Baseball has retired. The Yankees front office is being cheap now. Hal and Hank Steinbrenner do not care about winning as much as their father did. Brian Cashman is a hack who rode the coattails of Gene "Stick" Michael and is unable to build a good team. They need to give young prospects a chance to shine and stop spending money on washed up old vets. The Yankees need to rebuild. The Yankees need to retool. The Yankees need to build a new core. The Yankees are not winning anymore.
I'm pretty sure that's all the narratives currently floating around the Yankee Universe. There is a high level of animosity geared towards the franchise right now. Surprisingly, this is nothing new. Yankee fans do not take losing and failure all that well. Some call it a deep passion for the team; others call it being spoiled and whiny. Eye of the beholder and all that. The losses and failure have opened up some debate on the concept of what constitutes an acceptable risk. You'll hear many a fan say they would be comfortable with the Yankees being terrible for a few years so they can retool and rebuild. That's a huge risk to take. Just because they believe it happened with the Dynasty Era doesn't mean it will happen again. You'll hear other fans lament the loss of Robinson Cano, saying that matching the Mariners offer for him would have been foolish. Alex Rodriguez is proof enough of what a huge risk that contract could have been. He's old, he's coming off of two hip surgeries, he's about two years removed from the sport due to injury and PED suspension, and he's on the team till 2017. Yikes. That's not to say that Cano would have put the Yankees in a similar situation. It's just a statement as to what is an acceptable risk or not. Once again, it is in the eye of the beholder.
Recently though, the loss of Yoan Moncada has opened up the flood gates. The fan base were pretty unanimous regarding their desire for him, myself included. With Jose Abreu having a Rookie of the Year season with the White Sox and Jorge Soler ready to play a full season with the Cubs, Yoan Moncada represented the Yankees' potential jump into the Cuban market right now. The hype was palpable, to say the least. According to scouts and analysts, he's so talented that he would have been a first rounder in the MLB Draft. All he would cost is money. Fans were absolutely on board with spending the money and taking the risk. Three private workouts and a $25 million offer later, he's heading for Boston. There is no curse in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of men for this kind of travesty. Something like that anyway.
This is far from the worst thing that's ever happened to the Yankees. It's also far from the best thing that's ever happened to the Red Sox. The bottom line is that a nineteen-year-old prospect with no major league experience and an Adonis-like body was signed for $31 million by another team and it sent fans through the roof. Sure, it's only money and the Yankees have a pretty good amount of it. That is what helped make the Kei Igawa thing not a huge crisis. That type of deal would have hampered and crippled a lot of teams. Not the mighty Evil Empire though. It was brushed off as if it were nothing, except maybe when fans discussed Masahiro Tanaka as being an acceptable risk or not. So why was Yoan Moncada such a huge deal? It could be that it was the Red Sox, our most sworn baseball enemy, were the ones that took the risk after all the hype and anticipation. Perhaps it was mainly because Moncada would have propelled the Yankees' farm system to one of the top farm systems in baseball. Or it simply could be that the fan base really hate or do not trust Hal and Hank Steinbrenner. I'm going to roll with door number three on this one.
Change can sometimes be difficult. A wise man, one Garth Algar, once said "We fear change" and that can be very true when sports are involved. For the first time in two decades we are seeing a inconsistent Yankees team. It's not just the inconsistency with making the playoffs, but also how the team's front office seems to function. No one is quite sure what the plan is. From Plan 189 in early 2013 to "throw cash at it" in early 2014, the direction of this franchise has been unclear and it's hard to say if it has become any clearer as we enter the 2015 Yankees season.
Under George Steinbrenner, the message was always "Win now at any cost" no matter how foolish the cost might have been. George Steinbrenner was the type to give Josh Hamilton a six-year deal when he hit free agency. George Steinbrenner was the type to match the Mariners crazy ten-year offer for Cano because he didn't like to lose, be it games or in the free agent market. Most fans would consider these moves to be dumb, yet here they are saying he's rolling in his grave because Hal and Hank will only offer up to $27 million instead of $31 million for an unproven nineteen-year-old prospect. The Boss probably ponies up the extra millions to get Moncada, especially at risk of losing him to the Red Sox. The Boss did not like to lose, even if it potentially hurt the team in the long term.
This has become a "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" scenario with Yankee fans. The fans were use to George Steinbrenner's way of doing things, even if those things were terrible. People called for his head and for him to sell the team back in the 80's and early 90's.
This scene, comedic as it may be, is actually very accurate to how Yankee fans felt back then. A decade or more of losing and tampering. Empty seats galore due to failure. What exactly changed the fans minds on "Uncle George" here? Oh right, the Yankees started winning. Boy did they start winning. It had nothing to do with Steinbrenner either. Sure, his money helped. His temporary restriction from interfering with the team helped a whole lot more, though. Fast forward to now and Giant Steinbrenner Face is the most prominent and noticeable feature in Monument Park, a place that is supposed to recognize the great former Yankee players.
To see fans wishing that George Steinbrenner was back in charge of the Yankees over Hal and Hank is as comical as Frank Constanza yelling at him for trading Jay Buhner. It's also understandable. As mentioned above, change is hard. Hal and Hank are both similar and different than their dad. While The Boss wanted to win no matter the cost, Hal and Hank want to win but not quite at the same expense. To go from the extreme mantra of The Boss to Hal and Hank being like most rich owners in baseball is new, especially when other teams like the Dodgers and Red Sox have started to spend more. Yankee fans are not used to playing second fiddle to anyone in anything. Now that the Yankees are no longer on top, they're back to the 80's mindset of hating Steinbrenner. This time, there's more Steinbrenner to blame than before.
The one thing they do have in common with The Boss is and was the most troublesome thing about their dad: the meddling. Time and time again we hear about Hal and Hank overruling Brian Cashman's decisions. Micro-management is annoying in just about any line of work. Micro-managing leads to the "let's give Ichiro Suzuki a two-year deal" moves. Losing out on Moncada is nowhere near as bad as that Ichiro contract though. It's not even close. It's just more annoying than anything really. It's the same thing that always annoyed the older fans about The Boss. For those who moronically preach the "If the Boss were here..." diatribe, guess what? You're looking at it. We just have to hope that it doesn't take a little over a decade and being forcibly suspended over something insanely stupid for Hal and Hank to learn to not interfere.
Yankee fans do not like or trust Hal and Hank Steinbrenner. Yankee fans used to not like or trust George Steinbrenner. A more cohesive plan would definitely help people accept the two young Steinbrenners more, but in reality the only thing that is going to change their minds is winning and winning a lot. Who knows if just one World Series victory will even suffice anymore, since fans damn near sneer at the 2009 championship and all but ignore the three years of solid baseball and postseason appearances they had after that victory. No, it now needs to be sustainable and long lasting. Essentially, they need to have another Dynasty. That's all Yankee fans seem to accept anymore. So yeah, good luck with that Hal and Hank. Perhaps selling the franchise might actually be easier than trying to satisfy the unsatisfiable.