Tonight, in what truly is a must-win game for the Yankees, they will turn to their aborted ace, Phil Hughes, while Tampa will turn to their true ace, David Price. For Hughes, this will be the last start of his Yankees career. For Price, it will be another start in what is shaping up to be a great career.
I hope Joba gets to pitch in this game too, because that would really cement the symbolism of all of this. After all, Price was like Joba once. A young flamethrower pushed into the bullpen to help a team make a playoff run. The only thing is, the Rays figured out a way to get him back into the rotation permanently.
When we write the obituary of this Yankees’ season, we will justifiably focus on the sheer volume of injuries. But, as much as the injuries are a reason for the third or fourth place finish this year, the lack of young talent ready to step in also figures in this equation. Now, it is unreasonable to expect for a team to have a David Price ready to step into the bigs, but the Yankees didn’t even have average replacements.
An average AL hitter put up a line of .256/.321/.405 this year. If you look at the entire lineup and take the players who played the most at each position, the Yankees exceeded those figures in a total of 8 spots out of 27. Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner each exceeded all three of those figures. Ichiro hit .261 and Nunez is currently at .257. Every other player was below those averages. Chris Stewart, Lyle Overbay, Jason Nix, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner combined for almost 2,000 plate appearances and none of them finished with an average higher than .256 an on-base higher than .321 or a slugging higher than .405. And not one of those players are younger than 30. So, not only did the Yankees throw away offense on mediocre players, they did it with mediocre and OLD players.
The Yankees did try a few youngsters. Adams and Romine got about 300 plate appearances between them. Mark Reynolds, a youthful 29, got 100. Almonte, Mesa, Boesch, there were some other sprinkles of youth, but for the most part, they stuck with the old guys, even as the showed again and again that they couldn’t do it.
There is something broken in the Yankees’ player development process. They are either not drafting the right guys or they are not developing them correctly or a bit of both. That is the greatest challenge facing this organization right now. If it were my team, I would start by asking Brian Cashman to explain what is going on and to explain what he is going to do to fix it. Then I would have a decision to make, is Brian the right guy to fix it?