Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cry Me A Bronx River

Sour grapes don't please the palate very well, especially when you're the New York Yankees.

What will arguably turn out to be one of the most ballyhooed deals in Major League Baseball,'s 2016 offseason, Boston Red Sox traded four minor league prospects - including two who are among the top prospects in the country, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech - for the Chicago White Sox's ace and possibly the best pitcher in the American League, Chris Sale. Yankees' GM, Brian Cashman, had this verbal reaction to the trade:

“That was a big one, that’s a blockbuster, that’s a wow. Obviously they got a lot and gave up a lot. Boston is like the Golden State Warriors now of baseball. They got their [Kevin] Durant, their [Draymond] Green, [Klay] Thompson and [Steph] Curry. It was a big one.’’

Permit me to say that I could come off as totally biased and emotionally react to Cashman's words because I am a lifelong Warriors' fan. However, Cashman in this one quote offers so much to the context of this deal to where anyone with an objective mind can logically challenge and tear down his take with ease.  There are various reasons why his analogous reach can be summarily picked apart:


Cashman is the GM of the New York Yankees. For him to take issue with this trade - not to mention the Red Sox's free-agent moves of the past three years - smacks of hypocrisy. For decades under the Steinbrenner regime, the New York Yankees have pillaged and plundered financially-strapped teams and outbid similar financially-laced ones for the players they wanted because they had the deep pockets, the prestige of the Yankee legacy, and the prime regional stage to do so. They have even undercut the Red Sox to obtain players that they knew would give the Red Sox a seismic advantage in the American League East. Here's proof. The Yankees have made a living on the pick of MLB's litter, and this is especially true of Cashman's tenure. For him to complain in a back-door manner about the Red Sox's bold move is equivalent to the pot taking pot-shots at the kettle.

Cashman is the GM of the New York Yankees. Which means that, being the Red Sox's oldest, fiercest, and most detestable rival, he can take issue with anything the Sox does (or attempts to do) that takes shine off of the Yankees. A good year for the Yankees would be to reach the playoffs and for the Red Sox to finish anywhere from second to last in their division. A great year for the Yanks would be to win the World Series and for the Red Sox to lose to them somewhere along the way in humiliating fashion in the postseason. A loss to the Red Sox is always a win for the Yanks. Conversely, a win by the Red Sox at the winter owners' meetings is a reason for the Yanks to shed crocodile tears. Much ado about nothing.

Cashman is looking at the wrong team. If his analogy was even accurate, it would not even apply to the Red Sox. A more appropriate team on which to focus his comparison is the Chicago Cubs. They are loaded from the top to the bottom, starting with their GM, Theo Epstein, who ironically was the Sox's GM once upon a time. The Cubs have the stellar starting rotation, reliable bullpen, far-from-depleted farm system, and young talent up and down the lineup locked up for the next several years. They are the envy of the other 31 clubs...and even more so now with a world championship under their belt.

Free agency has not always been Boston's friend. Every recent free agent signing or trade by the Red Sox did not result or has not resulted in the King Midas effect. (For reference, see "Sandoval, Pablo".) Ultimately, the burden of proof is on the Red Sox to show in 2017 that their offseason moves were successful ones. Success for them can only be defined as late-October baseball. So the starting rotation of David Price (former Cy Young winner), Rick Porcello (the reigning Cy Young winner), and Sale (perennial Cy Young runner-up) - now have the pressure on them to make Sox GM Dave Dombrowski look like David Blaine come next fall.

This doesn't look like Oracle Arena to me...
Missed opportunities by Cashman. One of the players involved in the Sale trade, Moncada, had caught more than Cashman's eye during spring training in 2015, until he decided that the expatriate Cuban's price was too rich for the Yankees blood or there was a fly in the ointment someplace. The Red Sox then signed him for $63 million, which means Boston took a page out of Boss Steinbrenner's playbook...a page that Cashman might not realize is missing. After making the Warriors analogy, Cashman was asked about whether he regrets the Red Sox involving Moncada being dealt for Sale: "We put our best foot forward and that was it. That was a decision that involved a lot of personnel and what our comfort level was, and you have no regrets. At the end of the day, their bid was higher." Sounds a lot like what other teams would say when the Yanks were acting like and stomping with the big dogs. Which brings me to the next reason...

The Yankees can't hang. Their farm system simply does not have the prized prospects,     obtained through the draft or via salary dumps trades, to compete with the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Cubs. Their prospects usually are traded to get what the Red Sox just got: top-line talent stockpiled, locked, and loaded to compete for successive division titles and playoff runs. But when the cupboard is bare, you have to go to Plan B...or C...or D, which is not the Yankee way under the Steinbrenner dynastic ownership. Plan A is supposed to work. And speaking of drafts...

The Golden State analogy simply does not work. Any substantive parallel drawn between the Red Sox and the present-day Warriors will not pass muster in large part due to the Warriors' draft-day success. Before the Durant signing, the last free-agent deal or trade of any marked significance was the Andre Iguodala deal before the 2013 season...3 years before KD. Everyone else Cashman references who is still on the team was passed over by no less than 6 teams in the draft: Curry (#7 in 2009), Thompson (#11 in 2011), and Green (#35 in 2012). This is no slight to Shaun Livingston, but very few teams paid him any mind when the Warriors signed him in free agency in 2014 after having a remarkable season with the Brooklyn Nets, statistically and otherwise.

The Red Sox did call up significant prospects in the past three years, but had more than their fair share of blockbuster trades and free agent signings during that same period. The Dubs' literal once-in-a-generation big splash of KD does not equate to the multiple splashes of Porcello, Sale, Hanley Ramirez, Craig Kimbrel, and Yoenis Cespedes to add to a nucleus of Big Papi, Dustin Pedroia, John Lackey, and Jon Lester during that same 3-year period. Golden State could very well be viewed as the Boston Red Sox of basketball. But one can deftly argue that some current (Spurs, Clippers, Cavs) and past teams (Kobe/Shaq Lakers, Garnett/Pierce/Allen Celtics, Olajuwon/Drexler/Barkley Rockets) can and could have beat them to that title.

So here's a question: If the Red Sox are the Warriors, who are the Yankees supposed to be?

“We are in the pack of contenders looking to take Golden State down,’’ Cashman said.

Cool story, Brian.

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