LongIsland.com

An (Off)Season of Change?

Written by sports  |  11. October 2007

Yankees Have Many Questions After Being Ousted in ALDS Although they have made the playoffs 13 consecutive seasons, not winning a championship since 2000 is more of an issue with an organization like the New York Yankees. Owner George Steinbrenner expects nothing but the best and being bounced out of the postseason in the first round three straight years will not do. The first course of business is what will they do with Joe Torre, who has been a mainstay on the bench since 1996. Steinbrenner had to be convinced after Detroit defeated the Bronx Bombers in the 2006 American League Division Series to bring back the manager. The Boss has already publicly stated that Torre would not return if the Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians, which they eventually did in four games. "His job is on the line," Steinbrenner said in a telephone interview to Ian O'Connor of The Bergen Record on October 7. "I think we're paying him a lot of money. He's the highest-paid manager in baseball. So I don't think we'd bring him back if we don't win this series." If they decide to go in a different direction, do the Yankees hire from within or go outside the organization? Tony LaRussa's name has been thrown around, as has Don Mattingly, Tony Pena and Joe Girardi. None of them are as good as Torre, and the pressure-cooker that New York is would come into play with someone who does not have the same calm demeanor as Torre. Regardless of who will be the field boss, general manager Brian Cashman has plenty of work to do to shore up some of the spots on the team. Does he bring back Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, and for how long? Both are still very productive players and have come up in the organization. Roger Clemens may have thrown his last pitch and by the way his season went, Cashman won't exactly be calling him every week to find out his decision. The starting rotation may need an overhaul if both Clemens and Andy Pettite decide to retire. Mike Mussina (1 year left at $11 million) is at the end of his career and cannot be expected to do much, so that may be three-fifths who will not be in the mix. Chein-Ming Wang will still be the ace and youngsters Phillip Hughes and Ian Kennedy need to be ready to go every four days. If Rivera is re-signed, do the Yankees leave flamethrower Joba Chamberlain as the set-up man or move him into the rotation? There are arguments on both sides that make sense. Similar to when Mo was the bridge to former closer John Wetteland, Chamberlain can stay as the eighth inning man until Rivera hangs it up. On the offensive side, Alex Rodriguez can opt out of his contract and hit the open market, where he will be able to command even more than the $25 million annual salary he currently receives. The Yankees want him to stay, but have said in the past that they will not negotiate with the third baseman if he does void the last three years. They would like to restructure his current deal and lock him up because the Texas Rangers are still paying a part of the monster contract, which will not be the case if A-Rod uses the option. "The reason I came to New York, first and foremost, was to help this team win a championship," Rodriguez said to reporters in the clubhouse following the team's ALDS defeat. "I must say I have failed at that, as one of the leaders of this team." Does he want to finish the job and solidify his status as one of the greatest players of all time? All great players want that ring to go along with their stats and individual awards and Rodriguez is no exception. He will have to weigh his options to see if the Yankees can make the necessary changes for improvement without having to go through much of a transition. Perhaps the first order of business in Rodriguez's mind is who the manager will be. It makes that decision carry even more weight for the Yankees' hierarchy.

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