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May 24, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Hey, I have a great idea. Let's spend $170 million on a baseball team--but don't spend ANY money on depth. ANYWHERE.

They've got a bench full of almost useless parts. John Flaherty is a no-hit/okay-field catcher, and he's so worthless to the Yankees that they play Posada almost every day, which will inevitably lead to an exhausted Posada at the end of the season, who doesn't contribute much in the playoffs. If they get to the playoffs, that is. Ultimately, they'll release Flaherty, and replace him with someone just as worthless.

In the infield they have Enrique Wilson, who can't hit, can't run, and isn't a spectacular defensive player. And yet Torre seemingly feels the need to pinch run him or Gipson for Giambi late in games, which several times last season led to a crucial situation in extra innings with Enrique Wilson batting instead of Giambi. Todd Zeile couldn't hit at Coors, and he can't hit at sea level, either. He can't field, either, nor can he run. The outfield features Bubba Trammell, who had a good year a couple of years ago, and Chales Gipson, who I'm sure was really awesome in high school. Okay, I'm not sure, but he might have been. Basically, you've got a bunch of players who can't really do anything well. There is a place for maybe one guy like that on a team, but usually he has to play every infield position and maybe an outfield position. Kinda like Randy Velarde was in the early 90's, but he could hit a little. A guy like that frees up space on the bench for guys who do other things. The downside of Velarde was, of course, that he inspired John Sterling to sing "Volare". Thus Velarde.

Basically, the knock against the Yankees in the past few years has been that they waste roster spots on guys like Clay Bellinger. This year they're wasting several spots. And now that they've got injuries piling up, that lack of depth is giving them a crappy lineup. Today they fielded a lineup that consisted of four hitters that are doing well, two hitters that are in huge slumps, one rookie, and two outs.

The Yankees brought in John Flaherty because Torre is convinced you need a good glove with your backup catcher. Why he thinks that, I don't know, but he apparently does. They brought in Bubba Trammell to get rid of Rondell White. They brought in Todd Zeile to platoon with Nick Johnson and Robin Ventura, not realizing that not only do those two players not really need a platoon, but that Zeile isn't really a viable platoon option, anyway. Then you've got Wilson and Gipson. Wilson is understandable, he can play three infield positions, but Gipson is ridiculous. He's basically a pinch runner and a defensive replacement, on a team that doesn't replace it's outfielders in the late innings and really shouldn't be running. The Yankees would have been better served giving that spot to someone who can hit, and do nothing else. Then at least they'd have a DH with Johnson out.

But, they don't. They have an average lineup and an overrated rotation and a bullpen that makes Baby Jesus cry. Tomorrow, Toronto goes for the sweep. Monday, Boston looks to put some distance between them and the Yankees. Soon, it will be June, with Bernie and Nick not back 'till July.

It's going to be the longest June in a long time.