Buster Olney is at it again. HarperCollins has re-released his book, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty. This time with a 50 page addendum. Buster says because of the re-release "that team is at the front of my brain these days." I hate to say it Buster but "that team" you speak of is always at the front of your brain. I understand that this is all in an effort to sell more books and I certainly can’t fault him for that. This economy is rough, everyone needs a extra buck, but when is it enough? When will the comparisons between the current Yankees and the "Dynasty" Yankees end? I am fairly certain Yankee fans realize that Paul O’Neill no longer plays right field and that Tino Martinez is no longer our first baseman. In case Mr. Olney hasn’t noticed the Yankees also have a new manager. Joe Torre is now in Los Angeles and this Yankee fan honestly thought that when he left, so went the comparisons to those teams. Unfortunately for Yankee fans, Mr. Olney has decided to revisit all of those same old issues once again in his recent ESPN Insider article.
Since the article is only made available to Insiders, I can only give you bits and pieces of the article. So here are a few of my favorite quotes:
"We’re almost seven years since the end of the dynasty, and the Yankees
now are paying the price for the spiraling cycle of spending that
followed that loss to Arizona, and for the years in which the
organization mostly ignored its infrastructure and drafted and
developed talent poorly."
This is the one quote I will somewhat agree with. Even if that sentiment is as over played as the whole "Mustache and Thong" story, he is in the ballpark. I agree that they seemed to ignore the "infrastructure" but they had been ignoring and pillaging the farm system long before the "Dynasty" years. The spending, nobody can argue that point.
"The theory has always been that the Yankees are not allowed to rebuild because of their rabid fan base"
I would have agreed with this in 2001, but certainly not in 2008. It’s impossible to know who is correct, but I would like to think that the Yankee fan of 2008 better understands their current situation. Rebuilding is relative to the current product being put on the field. Trying to sell a rebuilding process to Yankee fans in 2000 would have been mighty difficult. With the team that was put on the field from 1996-2001, I think most fans would have agreed that the farm system was being used exactly how it was needed, to obtain the pieces that could help keep them in contention and allow the core players to continue to be successful. The Yankees didn’t have a Phil Hughes or a Joba Chamberlain during that time. The farm system for the most part was filled with "Magic Bean" type players. Plant them, water them and then maybe someday they might turn into something you can use. The Red Sox, our most recent MLB dynasty, will soon face the same issues that the Yankees of 1996-2001 faced. The difference is (in theory at least) the Red Sox are better prepared. Ellsbury, Masterson, Buchholz, Lester, Anderson, Kalish, can all be penciled in to replace guys like Crisp, Schilling, Wakefield, Ortiz and Ramirez. These players, at least so far, seem to be far more than "Magic Bean" players. There comes a point though where all dynasties have to ask themselves the same question: When is it time to start over? Has the core group of players been decimated to the point that we need to start fresh or do we plug in and keep this ball rolling via trades and free agent signings? The Yankees obviously went the route of plugging in and free agent signings and we all know how that worked out. Thus far the Red Sox have been very successful by plugging in Lester, Ellsbury and others, but the true test will come when the Manny, Papi and Tek decide to hang them up or move on. That’s when the tough decisions will have to be made. That’s when the team will have to decide if their "rabid fan base" can handle a rebuilding process.
(Yes, I completely understand the current Sox are in a much different situation than the "Dynasty" Yankees. They are just the most comparable situation. Between the success and fan base, the Sox are the nearest thing. I also understand that the Sox fans have already been tested with that long drought and all, but that all changes once you have tasted the sweet nectar of success)
"The differences between the Martinez-Paul O’Neill years and the current Yankees are apparent."
"In the dynasty years, they would have taken the field with an enormous
mental advantage: They would have been convinced they would win, and
even if they had lost, they would have been convinced that the matter
of success or failure was something firmly within their control."
"But they don’t have that confidence anymore, which is not surprising.
They don’t have many players now who have won consistently at the big
Yes, the water coolers are a lot happier these days and there are far less cigars being smoked after Yankee victories. Seriously though, I am not trying to underestimate the importance of confidence and "mental advantage" but I think he is giving O’Neill and Martinez far too much credit and far too little credit to those players who remain. Do you think Derek Jeter was less important to maintaining that on field swagger and confidence than O’Neill or Martinez? How about the best closer in the game? Are his inspirational speeches and pep talks some how not as good as those of O’Neill and Martinez? The Yankees have had far bigger issues since 2001 than who is leading the pre/post game pep talks or the amount of confidence they take the field with each day. Most of their issues start and end with quality starting pitching and clutch hitting come playoff time.
Did the Diamondbacks of 2001 have a ton of players that "won consistently at the big league level?" No. Damian Miller, Mark Grace, Tony Womack, Luis Gonzalez, Reggie Sanders, Curt Schilling (prior to 2004), Randy Johnson were all sucessful players in their own rights but not in regards to team success. Maybe he was referring to the 2002 Angels and the likes of Bengie Molina, Scott Spiezio, Adam Kennedy, Troy Glaus, David Eckstein, Brad Fullmer, Kevin Appier or John Lackey. Or could he have been talking about the 2003 Florida Marlins? Maybe the 2004 Red Sox? The 2005 White Sox? The 2006 Cardinals? In was not until last season that a team with a core of players "who have won consistently at the big
league level" had hoisted the World Series trophy.
"The Yankees of 2008 are really no different than the Rangers or the
Athletics or the Brewers or many other teams in the majors; they’re
just another team of talent trying to find a way to win more games.
There is no edge, no more mystique and aura, to borrow a phrase. All of
that is history."
To me, that’s the hardest statement to swallow. While the Yankees might be comparable to those teams record wise, that is where the comparison stops.
Ironically enough I first read this book in October of 2004, on my honeymoon in Aruba. (Lots of firsts in October of 2004, including the first major storm to hit the island of Aruba in over 75 years. Insert funny comment here.) The book gives you some pretty good insight into what it was like to be in the Yankee clubhouse and on the field. As well some really informative tidbits about the key players of the "Dynasty." For me though the overall emphasis of the book (much like his comments revisiting the subject) focus on too many insignificant details. Details that will sell books, but that really have no deeper meaning when it comes to winning baseball games. Stop beating that horse Buster, he’s clearly moved on to greener pastures.