If you’re wondering what’s different between the Yankees of 1996–2000 and the Yankee team that’s currently tied for last place with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, here’s one thing to consider. The Yankees then were made up of young, home-grown talent and role players from elsewhere who upped their game when they got to New York.
Perfect example, Scott Brosius:
In 1997, Brosius played 129 games for the A's. He scored 59 runs, hit 11 HRs, drove in 41 runs and batted .203 with a .259 on-base percentage. The following winter, the Yankees traded then spineless-wonder extaordinaire Kenny Rogers to the A's for Brosius. Rogers needed to leave, and the Yanks had an opening at third after Boggs left. Brosius had a glove, that's all the Yanks cared about.
When Brosius got to NY in 1998 these are the numbers he put up:
152 games, 86 runs, 19 HRs, 98 RBIs, .300 BA, .371 OBP
That's how it used to work. Winning bred winning. Success bred success. Torre motivated. Guys over-achieved. Brosius wasn’t alone: O’Neill, Tino, Mariano Duncan (We Play Today, We Win Today. God Damnit!), Girardi, the list goes on. Can you remember the last Yankee acquisition who did better than we thought he would?
Maybe the problem is that Cashman has brought nothing but All Stars in. They come in and we expect the moon. The pressure mounts, and eventually breaks them.
Maybe that’s the true meaning of NY pressure. It happened back then too. Clemens was basically carried to two rings in NY. In 1999 he was 14–10 with a 4.60 ERA. Once he got his first ring, he was very effective, the pressure was off then. Chuck Knoblauch, probably the biggest offensive name brought in during the “dynasty” years, was reduced to a sniveling mess by the time he limped out of town.
Mabye it’s all about expectations. I can tell you this much, if the Yanks bring in Mark Texiera, or Todd Helton, or Carlos Zambrano, or any of the other names rumored to be available, they won’t have the option of failing. In a game where failing 70% of the time is a sign of excellence, that’s a tall order for anyone.
The sad truth here is that Cashman seems to have figured this out. This off season he gave aging superstars their walking papers, and he brought in youth, and a couple of has-beens and never-will-be’s (Doug and Phelps) to fill a need. Clemens is playing the David Cone, hired gun, role. It’s still early, it could still work, but every Yankee loss brings Cashman one day closer to printing out his resume. If he goes, so does this mini-movement, and so does relevancy most likely. One of those names I listed above will be on his way to NY to fail, and pitching prospects will be on their way out.