LADY AT THE BAT: Kids May Hold Key In Yankees Stretch Run & Beyond

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kids May Hold Key In Yankees Stretch Run & Beyond

"Youth is the order of the day and the Yankees are in pace with the times. As always, young men move up to become the new heroes, This season your ball club will be the youngest and fastest in Yankee history, and determined to make its own history"  --Michael Burke, Yankees President, 1969 Yankees Yearbook

Michael Burke had a motive for his emphasis on youth in promoting the Yankee product as 1969 began. The old guard that included such veteran stars as Elston Howard, Whitey Ford, Bobby Richardson and most importantly, Mickey Mantle, were all retired. The Yankee brand had taken a major hit and Burke knew it. So even though Burke's proclamation was motivated by the need to generate interest which would result in ticket sales, there is still a lot of truth in Burke's yearbook address.

After all, baseball is a young man's game and there's no getting around that fact.

The Yankees of 2015, not unlike the 1969, version are a team in transition. Gone are all of the Core Four players, The big difference, however, is that this version of the Yankees is in a pennant chase and in 1969 they were not. The young players today are making their mark on the pennant race, and their performances could very well determine how far the Yankees play into October.

The rotation consists of four (recently five) starters all under the age of 28. (Ivan Nova has been relegated to bullpen duties for the time being.) Sure, CC Sabathia at 35 has returned and is in the rotation, but concern remains about his knee holding up. The closer, Andrew Miller has just turned 30, but his set up men, Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances are all 28 or under.

The position players are mostly veterans over 30, but that is expected to change drastically in the next couple of seasons with the emergence of players like Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder and Aaron Judge . Second baseman Steven Drew and 4th outfielder Chris Young have contracts that expire following the season, Mark Teixeira's and Carlos Beltran's contracts will expire after 2016 and Alex Rodriguez's contract is done in 2017.

Of course, some of the youngsters are already helping out during this stretch run. Bird has been forced into a regular role, due to the unfortunate injury to Mark Teixeira. What does everybody think of him? Consider if Teixeira had stayed healthy. Would you accept a Teixeira stat line of  493 At Bats, 75 Runs, 125 hits. 27 doubles, 38 home runs and 100 RBI's?  I certainly would. Guess what? That is the combined stat line of Teixeira and Bird through Wednesday's game. Bird is here, having passed 100 at bats and has made his mark, and others who will make their own mark are either on the roster now or expected to arrive as soon as 2016.

All of which proves the Yankees have a plan. Credit Brian Cashman for his restraint at the trade deadline. Cashman is conducting the balancing act of all balancing acts, keeping a contender on the field while maintaining a youth movement, His efforts may pay off sooner than we think.

That's not to say all is well in Yankeeland. The recent play of the Yankees suggests there is a rough transition period going on as we speak. The Yankees have played close to .500 ball since the July 31 trade deadline, much to the consternation of many fans, who had hoped a David Price-type acquisition would had occurred. It didn't. Instead, the Yankees stayed the course and are still vying for a wild card play in game, as the division lead has disappeared in recent weeks.

Certainly, veterans like A-Rod and Jacoby Ellsbury, and possibly Sabathia will play roles in the stretch run, a stretch of seventeen games in as many days, starting tonight at Citi Field. But make no mistake. there won't be any post season run without some key performances from the youth of the Yankees roster. A run in 2016 will also depend heavily on players under 30 and expect that youthful trend to continue for the foreseeable future.

It applied in Michael Burke's tenure and remains valid today. Youth is indeed "the order of the day"

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