Baseball’s Circle of Life

Vector Isolated Baseball IllustrationAs the overused, but relevant, expression goes, “Father Time Bats 1.000”. Father Time got another hit last week as A Rod “retired” from the Yankees. In reality he got nudged out, and was released with more than a year and $27 Million left on his agreement. He will get paid per his contract through 2017. Basically the Yankees said, “You are too old to contribute anything meaningful, and we’d rather pay you and send you on your way than have you occupy a roster spot”. They provided him an advisory position to soften the blow. They were gracious in his departure, though A Rod’s prior behavior towards them when he was suspended was far less gracious. But the Yankees turned the other cheek and did the right thing.

I am no A Rod fan nor apologist, but it was ridiculous to expect top performance from a 41-year-old. In fact, a 30+ homer performance last season was way beyond expectations. A Rod is a unique character with extraordinary talents and equally extraordinary baggage. But A Rod aside, I think teams will need to view 10-year deals as value received in total over 10 years with little expectation of performance in the latter years. Fans should not boo a 42 year old Albert Pujols or Robinson Cano because the Angels and Mariners respectively signed them with contracts into their 40s. And fans should not resent their money or expect top performance (if any) during their later years.

What makes me encouraged about A Rod’s departure is that it opened the door for call-ups of 2 rookies, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge on the heels of the recent call up of Gary Sanchez. They, along with others, are the Yankees future. I loved seeing Austin and Judge hit back to back homers in the first major league at bats—the first time in major league history. Will they be stars? The next Mickey Mantle (unlikely)? Or the next Bye Bye Balboni? Who knows? But with youth, there is hope. On Sunday I saw a Yankees lineup with 32-year old Jacoby Ellsbury along with 8 position players 26 or under and a 22-year-old pitcher (Luis Severino) who alas got bombed and demoted.

The Yankees weekend was particularly poignant since they “celebrated” A Rod’s departure on Friday, then truly celebrated, the 20th anniversary of the 1996 World Championship team, and on Sunday celebrated a plaque in Monument Park for Mariano Rivera, the greatest reliever of all time and a truly great man. The Yankees know how to celebrate their past greatness.

But now it’s time to turn the page. The selloff of players for prospects in late July was in fact encouraging to true Yankees fans. Every roster slot now unoccupied by a fading player allows the opportunity for a possible future Yankees star. They now have a farm system which is the envy of others and will (hopefully) soon have more World Championships to celebrate with a new crop of stars. They may hang around in playoff contention for a few weeks but, as constructed, the 2016 Yankees don’t have enough talent or pitching, but that’s OK—for now.

The Yankees are the best sports franchise of all time. They remain the standard of greatest for all sports teams. Love them as I do, or hate them. Regardless, fans have to respect their success. I look forward to seeing the younger Yankees develop.

More championships to come.

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