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Old-School Yankees Mystique Is Certified Stale

There's old, old-school and then there are the Yanks. It's about to be AARP time up in the Bronx.

By J.R. Gamble February 26, 2013, 03:42 AM EST

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Some say the Yankee dynasty died with George Steinbrenner. At one time, players would give their right arms to don Yankee pinstripes and bask in the riches of yearly playoff runs and the rock star, big-city swag society. If not their arms, big-time free agents, like Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher, at least chopped off their mullets and facial hair as a concession to entering Yankee kingdom.

Times seem to be changing, and Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price let that be known. If the Yankees plan to pursue the reigning Cy Young winner as a free agent in 2015, he’s not having any part of the long-standing “no facial hair” policy. Price says they need to check the rhyme, get with the times and fall back from that policy. If not, all the money on Wall Street couldn’t bring him to the Boogie Down.

“I wouldn’t sign a long-term deal there,” Price told FoxSports.com. “Those rules, that’s old school baseball. I was born in ’85. That’s not for me. That’s not something I want to be a part of.”

It’s crazy to think that the Yankees, once the coolest cats in the MLB club, are now considered square and old school. Last year’s playoffs was the first step for drunk-with-denial Yankee die-hards, in accepting the fact that the Yankees are aging, injured and have more uncertainty surrounding the roster entering spring training than any Bronx Bomber squad in the last two decades.

The only sure thing is that the intimidation, heir of invincibility and automatic 90-win seasons, once a staple of Yankee teams, is gone. Toronto and Baltimore are back. The Blue Jays boast a young, talented lineup with José Reyes, José Bautista and company. They’ve also added NL Cy Young knuckleballer and 20-game winner, R.A. Dickey. Boston is re-tooling and has a dope farm system. The Rays are holstering a gang of bad-ass, young arms featuring Price.

The death of the Yankee dynasty is happening before our eyes.

Price let Yankee fans know what their eyes and hearts are blind to—that those OGs in NY just aren’t popping like that anymore. Plus, why should he change his style for a team that his Rays go toe-for-toe with on the regular? It’s not like the Yankees own them, and the Rays clubhouse is much more boisterous and carefree, a setting more conducive to a young, wild-and-free kind of dude.

“It’s a joke to me, that I had less rules in college than I would on some major-league teams,” Price said. “That’s not my style, man. I couldn’t do it. I’m a grown man.”

From Price’s response it can be assumed that the pinstripe allure is not penetrating the consciousness of younger cats. But the more sobering truth for Yankee fans is that the team isn’t all that either. The farm system is janky, the pitching is shoddy, the catcher’s position is up for grabs and the outfield is in shambles. Jeter’s return from injury at his ripe age is a wait-and-see thing, and the front office has the same approach to the season. They are against any spending sprees for high-priced sluggers like Vernon Wells (LA Angels) or Alfonso Soriano (Chicago Cubs). When an organization starts talking about living in the moment and “seeing what happens” without any concrete plan, bad things usually transpire, chaos swoops in and empires crumble.

Curtis Granderson breaking his right forearm in his first spring training at-bat could be more of an omen for the future of the Yankees and the potentially dismal state of this pivotal season. Granderson is out for 10 weeks, joining the drug kingpin A-Rod, whose jalopy of a body is also shelved until the All-Star break. Sustaining the loss of their best two sluggers would have been tough enough, but the Yankees have also lost a slew of players to free agency and their roster has more holes than a Jamaican shirt in the ’80s.

The Yankees have become a homer-heavy team over the years and led the majors with 245, in 2012. Manager Joe Girardi has had the luxury of fielding well-paid veterans who feast on the short dimensions of Yankee Stadium, slugging their way to division titles. The reliance on the big bop blew up in the Yankees’ faces during last season’s playoffs when the Big Bad Wolfs became The Big Whiffs, setting the stage for an off-season of turmoil, uncertainty and revelation.

Facing the facts is something Steinbrenner’s sons are willing to do. With Grandy and A-Rod out, plus the free agent departures of Nick Swisher (24), Russell Martin (21), Raul Ibanez (19), Eric Chavez (16) and Andruw Jones (14), the Yankees lost 162 of those dingers in a flash. Father George was all about the egotistically driven bottom-line of getting his man, making a splash and winning at all costs. He would have just spent the bread for some more big guns. 

It’s clear: Hal and Hank are trying to stay with the goal of keeping payroll under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold. Despite huge needs this off-season, they’ve modestly added Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner, who bring a mere 31 combined homers to the mix. With the recent disaster to Granderson, the Yankees will have to change the entire philosophy of team. Toss in the loss of closer Rafael Soriano, arm surgery for CC Sabathia, major ankle surgery for Jeter, the wishy-washy return of Mariano Rivera, and a shabby patchwork job by GM Brian Cashman, and it’s clear that the “Era of The Boom Bap” is over.

The prevailing thought is that the Yankees will have to manufacture scores, hit and run, scratch out rallies and put runners in motion like a small market team with no resources. The speed of outfielder Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and—if healthy—Jeter, figures into play more than ever. The Yankees will have to force the issue because, with the exception of Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, all the three-run-homer guys have left the building.

The new, more fiscally responsible Yankee approach is sure to hit Yankee fans like the fire at Happy Land, when it sinks in on Opening Day and everyone’s scrambling to find information on the less-than-stellar names littering the Yankees lineup card.

The fans aren’t the only disgruntled party heading into this Yankee season. A source close to the Yankees told the Shadow League that the Yankees are tiring of Granderson’s feast-or-famine hitting and would trade him for the right deal. Also, if Robinson Cano is truly the Yankees’ future, the source says, then the Steinbrenners aren’t doing a good job with making him feel wanted. And unless the Yankees offer him some mega-deal before he hits free agency at season’s end, there is a possibility that Cano could bounce to a younger, fresher team like the Washington Nationals—a legit rumor confirmed by ESPN’s Buster Olney.

This year is critical for the Yankees and the future of the franchise. It’s been a great run for the old legendary gang of Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte (and Posada who retired before last season), but the changing face of baseball is turning towards new MLB ambassadors like Price.

You can’t stay fresh forever, but this much is clear: the old school, old-timer Yankees need to get their cool back.

 

 

Jr_gamble

J.R. Gamble writes for The Shadow League. He's been covering pro sports as a radio host and journalist since 1996. He's written for The Raleigh News & Observer, Newsday and SLAM Magazine. He has co-hosted Sportsrap Radio with A Tribe Called Quest legend Phife Dawg. Follow him @fanalyst1 & find him on Facebook.

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