Tag Archives: mariano rivera

All Praise Jesus

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Start all of blasphemous nicknames, biblical references and praise his name… Jesus (Montero) has arrived and he’s as good as advertised.

After a slow start last week versus the Boston Red Sox Montero let his presence be known this afternoon in the Yankees 11-10 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Montero broke an 8-8 tie in the fifth inning with an opposite field blast for his first career home run that brought the fans in the Bronx to their feet and earned him a curtain call. It was a mere appetizer to his main course.

With the score still 9-8 in the seventh inning and Russell Martin standing at first, Montero took a Jason Johnson offering over the left field wall for his second blast of the game and gave the Yankees an 11-8 lead.

As it turns out that last blast was crucial as the O’s scored two late runs before Mariano Rivera shut the door in the ninth inning.

Montero’s big bat overshadowed a poor performance by Freddy Garcia and another strong day for Robinson Cano who is speeding his way into the MVP discussion again. This day was all about Montero.

Montero has been a highly touted catching prospect for the Yankees for the last few seasons and they’ve made him almost untouchable when it comes to trade bait.

When the Mariners were interested in trading Cliff Lee to the Yankees last year they were adamant in gaining Montero and the Yankees did not oblige. His name has been thrown around and about in various other trade rumors but the Yankees were very adamant in keeping him.

Those theories were put to the test this year as Montero struggled in triple a ball and saw a decline in his numbers. There has also been a concern that he may be just an offensive player and doesn’t have the defensive set to be an effective catcher.

Even with these concerns the Yankees, who desperately need hitting out of the DH spot, decided to call him up and give him a shot.

At times he’s looked lost like most rookies, but this weekend he found a little confidence and ripped a few singles against Toronto…

Today however, the guy that that Yankees think he’ll become offensively arrived in stylish fashion.

His two home runs and confidence at the dish were what the Yankees were looking for when they called him up from Wilkes-Barrie. Yankee brass figured that maybe he was getting bored with the minor leagues and needed a new test, if this is a preview of what’s to come then they maybe right.

Part of me is saying that it’s only the Orioles and he needs to face better pitching to see if he truly is ready for prime-time.

The other part of me is giddy as hell. If this truly is a preview of what’s to come from Jesus Montero then count me in as a believer in Jesus.

I can’t wait to see what clever Jesus tie ins they have for this guy when it comes to memorabilia.


Looking Back At Derek Jeter’s Greatest Moments

This Derek Jeter guy has been pretty good.

Lets start from the beginning in 1996 (no its not actually the beginning but it’s the official beginning of the legacy of Derek Sanderson Jeter)…

 

It was October 9th 1996 when the legend of “Captain Clutch” began. Jeter came up to bat in the 8th inning with the Yankees down 4-3 to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS when he drove an opposite field shot off of Armando Benitez over the right field wall to tie the score at 4 that led to a 5-4 victory in 11 innings.

 

(yeah I know Jeffrey Maier interfered but a homer is a homer. Eat that O’s fans.)

 

It led to the first World Series in his MLB career as the Yankees disposed of the Atlanta Braves 3 weeks later.

 

1998: after Jeter asserted himself as one of the league’s premier shortstops with a .324 average, 19 homeruns and 84 RBI, Jeter leads the Yankees to their second title in a 4 game sweep of the San Diego Padres where he batted .353.

 

1999: Jeter led the league in hits and was second in average and runs and also drove in a career high 102. He batted no less than .350 in any playoff series as he led the Yankees to their third title in four years by beating the Atlanta Braves once again.

 

2000: after another stellar season (.339/15/73) Jeter hit .409 with 2 homeruns in the World Series to lead the Yankees past the New York Mets in five games and earn World Series MVP honors. He also won All-Star game MVP honors as well.

 

Jeter's first clutch moment came with a big assist.

2001: no the Yankees didn’t win the World Series that year, but two plays added to his legacy and defined him as a player.

 

Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS: Terrance Long smacked a double into right field that was surely going to score Jeremy Giambi and lead the A’s to a sweep of the Yankees who had just lost two games at Yankee Stadium. Shane Spencer threw a terrible ball into the infield that missed every Yankee on the field and was headed for the A’s dugout.

 

All of a sudden out of nowhere Derek Jeter swoops in, scoops the ball up, tosses it to Jorge Posada who then tags out Giambi and the Yankees win the game and then the series.

 

(My buddy Scully said something funny about that play. He said that the thing people forget about that play is that Jeter was terribly out of position. If he had played in his natural spot then he doesn’t make that play. This is true. Jeter had no business being anywhere near that ball… but he was, and no one is complaining about it at all especially me.)

 

Game 4 of the 2001 World Series (or the Byung-Hyun Kim nightmare series): you couldn’t set this up any more perfect than it was. 9/11, the world watching as the Yankees lifted the city on its back and tried to win another title to uplift the entire city. The clock strikes 12 and for the first time in baseball history there was baseball in November. Derek Jeter has a 3-2 count and drills an opposite field homerun and beats the Diamondbacks to draw the series even at two and gains the nickname “Mr. November.”

 

(Side Note: I’m over the 2004 blowup against Boston, I got past Randy Johnson’s failures, the loss to Florida in 2003, and the fact that we couldn’t beat the Angels for 350 years.

 

Mr. November.

However, I will never, ever get over losing that series to the D’Backs. We had them reeling with the debacle that was BH Kim. The drop back was perfect, the world was finally cheering for the Yankees, we were supposed to win and bring a title home for the city to celebrate and drown out the horror that was 9/11.

 

Even after we lost 15-2 in game 6 I was sure that we would win game 7 especially after Alphonso Soriano drove a Curt Schilling fastball over the wall and gave us a 2-1 with Mariano Rivera coming in. Then all I can remember was a Luis Gonzalez bloop, Bob Brenly jumping up and down with his palms wide open and then 8 years of steroids, Carl Pavano and the follies of A-Rod.

 

Even after the 2009 title the one that got away in 2001 still stings.)

 

2003: Jeter is named the 11th Captain in team history. This is after he dislocated his shoulder trying to stretch out a triple in a game on opening day. He doesn’t know the meaning of taking it easy. Maybe someone should explain that to Hanley Ramirez.

 

2004: you knew our fans were harsh… but we booed Derek Jeter in the midst of a 0-32 slump… come on buddy. This is the Captain, Captain Clutch, the man behind the flip, “Mr. November” and all of those monikers that made us gush over him for years and years… and we boo him because he has a slump?

 

Still cant believe this.

That’s another great thing about Jeter, he understood the fans frustrations. He didn’t mock them or bash them or run down his accomplishments, he went out there and worked it out. He knew Yankees fan expected and demanded a lot and instead of getting mad he fought through it… and did this…

 

Jeter tracks down a pop fly in the top of the 12th inning in a game in May against the Red Sox… he makes the catch but his moment sends him crashing into the crowd leaving him with a bloody face. It was a game in May people… and it doesn’t matter, the legend continues.

 

2006: have I ever mentioned how ticked off I am that he didn’t win the AL MVP award that year? Led the AL in average and runs, had 214 hits, hit .381 with runners in scoring position… and finished second to Justin Morneau. Morneau had a nice year but didn’t finish in the top 5 of any statistical category except RBI where he finished second. He wasn’t as consistent as Jeter was for that entire season and still won MVP.

 

(did I mention that in the voting there were three Minnesota Twins in the top 6 of ? How can a guy win MVP when people think there are 3 guys that were MVP on the same team? Also I still want to pimp slap Joe Cowley for voting him 6th in the MVP ballot because “you could plug another guy in that lineup and that guy would still have his numbers.”

 

Precisely… just like the Twins did last year when Michael Cuddyer batted in Morneau’s spot and had a monster year… idiot.)

 

2009: Jeter hits in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career and bats .334, leads the AL with a .406 on-base percentage  and is second in the majors with 212 hits. He also became the Yankees all-time hits leader with 2722 passing Lou Gehrig and leads the Yankees to their 27th title and garners the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year.

 

(This was the year when it hit me that Derek Jeter was slowly becoming the greatest Yankee of all-time. He was approaching the hit record, games played record, stolen bases record and there was a chance that he could be the only Yankee in the history of the franchise to collect 3000 hits…chew on that for a second.

 

World Series champion for the 4th time.

Not Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, not any of them had 3000 hits all with the Yankees… Jeter would be the only one.

 

By the end of this year Jeter will have played more games in Pinstripes than any other man in history. By the end of his career he may score more runs, have more doubles and total bases too.

 

That’s why the contract talks this offseason were so important and disheartening to Jeter. The Yankees knew how much he means to the organization, what his place in history is and where he stands in the fans eyes. He needed to finish his career here and if it took a few extra dollars then so be it. When it kept dragging on and sports talk radio and the ESPN talking heads put in their two cents about Jeter’s worth it became a question as to whether or not an aging shortstop coming off of his worst season in 2010 was worth $17 million per season.

 

Note, you didn’t hear the same talk about Jayson Werth receiving $126 million for two good seasons in Philadelphia but I digress.

 

Who cares that he will never bat .330 again, or be as good of a defender or any of that. Jeter personified the Yankees in each of his previous 16 years and he deserved what ever he wanted. If he would’ve gotten his 3000th hit as a Kansas City Royal it wouldn’t have meant squat.

 

Jeter is a Yankee. He is the greatest Yankee of my time and possibly ever. Isn’t that worth $17 million a year?)

 

2010: Jeter wins his 4th gold glove. Everyone whines and complains about zone efficiency, range, blah blah blah… sorry had to put that in for the haters.

 

2011: bottom of the third inning on a 3-2 count Derek Jeter takes a David Price slider and crushes it over the wall for his third homerun of the season and his 3000th hit. As he rounded the bases I thought back to every great moment I’ve witnessed from him and smiled from ear to ear.

 

Jeter is probably my favorite athlete of all-time. He is the man’s man whether he’s hustle out a slow grounder, jumping off of his back foot to through a cross body dart to first base, diving in the stands for a foul ball, or picking up Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba or any other babe that he’s had in his dating circle.

 

Mr. 3000.

Throughout his career he’s been bashed in books for his defense, ridiculed by Gary Sheffield for not being black enough, and through it all he’s come through for the Yankees and their fans over and over again.

 

He’s been the quintessential leader, one of the game’s best winners, and has provided me with too many memories for me to even count. Today was more than just another day in the eyes of baseball insiders and announcers and television stations.

 

For us it was just another day in the amazing life of Derek Sanderson Jeter who has made the fans of New York happy as can be from the first time he took the field on May 29th 1995. The best thing that we have three more years of great memories left.

 

And if any of them are like a 5 hit day with a game-winning hit on the same day as your 3000th hit, then all of those $60 million dollars will be worth it.


Baseball Preview Day 1: San Fran’s Rebirth

Yep... those are your World Series Champs.

Four years ago the San Francisco Giants were Barry Bonds team.

At age 43 he was the aging, controversial face of the franchise that was on the verge of breaking sports greatest record all with the cloud of steroids hanging over his head.

He was mercurial, powerful, flawed, eye-popping and everything in between. He was also San Fran’s biggest hindrance as much as he was its main attraction. Even though he smacked balls over outfield fences with Herculean ease and it drew millions of fans and thousands of media personnel, his involvement in the steroid era is what drove the Giants over the edge.

Bonds and his life became bigger than the Giants. No one cared about the individuals that surrounded him, that coached him, or that hit behind him… it was all about him. The homeruns, the walks, the flaxseed oil, the cream, the clear, it was all about Barry Bonds all of the time. It didn’t matter that J.T. Snow was still playing three years after he should’ve retired, or that their rotation wasn’t good enough to contend in the Pac-10 it was the Bonds show 24/7-365.

When Bonds finally did break Hank Aaron’s homerun record in 2007 you could see a shift in the organization almost immediately. In plain view the organization praised Bonds, celebrated him, honored him, behind the scenes however, they were planning on how to move forward.

You see as much as Bonds dragged the Giants through the mud with his pursuit of Aaron and evasion of the feds, the Giants went along with it because of the financial gains that came with such a chase. After the chase was finished the Giants were eager to start anew and it showed.

At the end of the season Bonds was not resigned. All of the murals, signs and everything that had to do with Bonds were quickly removed. The mission was simple, the Giants wanted to get as far away from Bonds as possible and recreate their identity.

The Bonds era was a gift and a curse for the Giants.

They had young guys that they were dying to trot out on to the field, able bodied young men who could bring the heat on the mound and the wood at the plate. Guys like Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain and eventually Buster Posey and Travis Ishikawa. These were there building blocks for the future, the guys that would make the Giants relevant again as a team.

Let’s just say the Brian Sabean was right in his methods.

4 years later there isn’t a quirkier, weirder, more fun group of players on one team the there are with the San Francisco Giants.

One look at the roster and you would think that this couldn’t possibly be a serious Major League contender for a title. Lincecum looks like he belongs in an emo band, Cain looks like a Judd Apatow comedy character, third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s nickname is Kung Fu Panda and his weight last year could’ve verified that and Brian Wilson is… well… Brian Wilson.

The team is more like the Goonies than a professional ball club. The personalities make for fun fodder in the media and on television; however the product on the field more than outshines the 30 million quotables we might hear from these guys this year.

For all of the talk about the Phillies Fab 4 of Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels and Lee, the Giants have a case for the best rotation in the league. Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young winner and at age 26 who might be the best power pitcher in the league at 5-11 165. Cain might be more talented than Lincecum and began coming into his own last fall with 21 1/3 innings of stellar pitching where he only allowed one earned run. Sanchez has a no-hitter under his belt and even though he has spells of inconsistency he can be a sub 3 ERA, sub 1.2 WHIP guy. Finally how about Madison Bumgarner? The brightest star of the World Series last year will get his first full season of pitching under his belt after watching his 8 inning shutout of a gem in Game 4 at Arlington last October. When you think about it Barry Zito was brought in to be their ace 4 years ago at 19 million a season over 7 seasons, now he’s the fifth starter and had no impact on their title run last year at all. If he can finally break .500 and go 5-6 innings consistently then how can this rotation not be considered the best in the bigs?

The lineup is more of a crap shoot, but they have guys that can get the job done when asked. Veteran Aubrey Huff was a perfect fit at first base and had one of his best years statistically last year and with Sandoval in better shape those numbers could go up. The star of the group is Posey though. Posey was a mate may call-up that fit in right away and was a stud at and behind the plate. He led the team with a .305 average and 18 homeruns in the last four months of the season. He became the bat the Giants craved for years and he also matched the hype that came attached to his name coming out of Florida State.

Meet Buster Posey a.k.a. baseballs next great catcher, and the face of the Giants.

His work behind the plate was amazing as well. Even though Lincecum struggled at times last year the Giants led the National League in ERA (3.36), strikeouts (1331) and batting average allowed (.236).

He’s arguably the face of the franchise and is well on his way to be the best catcher in the league.

The best of all of these guys has to be Brian Wilson. His antics are great for TV with his “tanned” beard, his “gimp” looking buddy the machine walking around and his penchant for the ridiculous. His pitching is decent too.

Wilson has established himself as the game’s best closer leading the league in saves last year with 48 and a fastball reaching 100 on the gun. He is this generation’s Mariano Rivera, because once he’s in the game its lights out for the competition.

Watching this group come together last year was a fun experience and a reminder of how quickly an organization can change.

4 years ago they were club Bonds with limited membership. This year it’s a gang of misfits who enter 2011 as World Series champions and have a great shot at repeating. It’s a great turn around a great team to follow.

With the way that they are built they should be good to follow for a long time.


Andy Was Truly Dandy

Save your numbers. Andy Pettite was one of baseball's best champions.

Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, the Yankees were knotted up 2-2 with the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta.  John Smoltz was on the hill for the Braves, one of the games best right-handed pitchers in his generation and part of the Braves three-headed monster of himself, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux that dominated batters throughout the 90’s.

 

On the mound for the Yankees was Andy Pettite, a 24 ear-old second year starter who was coming off of a huge season that saw him step up and become the team’s ace. He was shelled in game one of the series and with the series hanging in the balance you wondered maybe if the stage was too big for him.

 

8 1/3 masterful innings later, we never questioned Andy in these situations ever again.

 

That was the beginning of Andy’s legacy, when the going got tough Andy always pulled through. Except for game 6 in 2003 versus Florida (which still wasn’t his fault as he pitched a wonderful game. The bats just fell asleep that night. Damn you Josh Beckett!) Andy Pettite was Mr. reliable. When we lost one or two in a row he made sure that we wouldn’t lose again.

 

Game 4 of the ALDS in 1999 when the Red Sox had just shelled Clemens in game 3 and had tilted the momentum Pettite shut them up with 7+ dominant innings and dashed their hopes. Game 2 of the ALDS in 2000 when Roger Clemens got beat up by the A’s in game 1, Pettite destroyed them in game 2 with 7 2/3 shut out innings. Same in game 2 of the 2001 ALCS, the 2009 World Series and countless other times. When Andy Pettite took the ball you knew things were going to go the Yankees way.

 

When Andy officially retires from baseball tomorrow I might cry a little bit.

 

Andy was part of the “Core Four.” The group of young minor leaguers in Columbus, Trenton or wherever the hell the Yankees had them at, that led a dynasty in the late 90’s and brought glamour back to the Bronx.

Pettite with help from Derek Jeter helped bring the yankees back to the top of baseball's elite.

While Derek Jeter was the flash, Mariano Rivera was the immoveable object and Jorge Posada was the grit, Pettite held the crew together. He was the one constant even if the numbers don’t back it up. We brought in Clemens and Mike Mussina and El Duque, but through it all Pettite was the one we wanted with the ball when it mattered.

 

Baseball is a stats sport I know and everyone will look at the 3.88 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 2.34 SO/BB ratio and say that Andy was an ok pitcher. That he was the product of being in the right place in the right time with the Yankees. He’s nowhere close to 3000 strikeouts and allowed more hits than innings pitched.

 

Yet Pettite finished his career at 240-138, that’s a .635 winning percentage. He has more postseason wins than any other pitcher in Major League history. He started more postseason games and pitched more innings in the postseason than any other pitcher. He had the most wins of any pitcher from 1995-2009 and led last decade with 148 wins. So save your sabermetrics and crap and look at the bottom line.

 

Andy was a winner. The numbers say it and so does his performance on the field. If he wasn’t a winner then the Yankees wouldn’t have gone with a three-man rotation in the playoffs two years ago with him as the anchor. He wouldn’t have a ALCS MVP or five rings. Was he Walter Johnson or Roger Clemens? No. But did he clean up every one of Roger’s messes in the playoff and save our hides? You bet.

 

All of that however won’t matter when it comes to the hall of fame particulars. Thanks to his lack of glamour numbers (and that HGH mishap) Pettite likely will miss out on being honored on Cooperstown as one of baseball’s best.

 

In reality Pettite is the greatest postseason pitcher to ever play the game and the most clutch (here comes the Schilling brigade). He’s more than worthy of the hall because of his performance when it mattered most and because of his success rate.

 

He was the consummate professional. He never complained, never whined. When the Yankees pumped up their rotation with high priced acquisitions Pettite played is role and was the most consistent of all of them. He was like The Dude’s rug he tied everything together.

Pettite led the majors in wins from his debut year of 1995 up until his last title in 2009 with 240.

Even at 38 last year on a rotation that featured C.C. Sabathia, a horrid A.J. Burnett, and even worse Javy Vazquez and youngster Phil Hughes, Pettite was the one that made the rotation go. He was an all-star and led the league in ERA and was have a CY Young type of year before injuries derailed him once and for all.

 

He could’ve done it again this year, but he finally gave in to committing to his family, which was a decision that’s had him on the fence for some time now. I can’t blame the guy. He’s more than earned the right to call it quits on his terms and be with his family.

 

The number 46 should and will be retired and Andy will be honored with his own statue in Monument Park even if he’s passed up for the hall of fame. That’s fine by me. Andy Pettite was never a flashing lights kind of guy. He did his job and rarely let any of us down. He was dependable and helped to lift the Yankees to the heights that they hadn’t seen since the 70’s.

 

Most importantly I’ll remember and miss him when the Yankees need a lift and need someone to stop the bleeding. That was his best attribute. Numbers be damned, Andy Pettite was the best man on the mound when it truly mattered.

 


Are The Yankees The Next Empire To Fall

Was the Soriano deal a sign of a possible downturn for the New York Yankees?

Did you notice a trend that has happened in sports in the last ten years?

The death of the traditional power.

Think about this for a second; how many traditional sports powers took hits to their pride and luster in the last 10-15 years?

In college football Notre Dame still thinks that they will wake up the echoes in a matter if time and Michigan still considers itself to be the gold standard even when no when, I mean no one, wanted its head coaching job after the ousting of Rich Rod. Throw in Miami and Florida State and four of the games premier programs are in the middle of the pack as far as relevance .

In college basketball its Kentucky who still prides itself on being an elite program but hasn’t made a final four since Tubby Smith’s first year. Arizona, though they have an excuse, and recently UCLA, which is stunning especially after the run they had at the beginning of Ben Howland’s regime, have all fallen to the middle of the pack in recent years.

In hockey its been the Maple Leafs and Canadiens. Did you know once upon a time in the 90’s that the Habs had the same number of championships (24) as the Yankees? Ever since their last cup in 1993 the franchise has been plagued by unfortunate injuries (the Saku Koivu cancer cancer scare), lackluster performances (have they had a player in the top 20 in scoring in the last 20 years?), and scandal (hi Kostitsyn twins). Oh yeah don’t forget the whole Patrick Roy asking out of Montreal fiasco that has probably led to a curse on the team. Not that we’re counting or anything.

Dont get me started on the Maple Leafs. They havent won a title in over 40 years and in the last 10 they’ve resembled the Toronto Raptors more than the franchise that has the second most cups (13) to the Habs.

(Side note: Shouldn’t Gary Bettman step in and help fix this team. The NHL needs to Leafs to be good just like the NBA needs the Lakers, or baseball needs the Dodgers to be important. This is one of the leagues flagship franchises in the country’s capital. The hockey hall of fame is there for goodness sakes. The fact that the Leafs haven’t made the playoffs in seven years and haven’t been relevant since their last division title in 2000 is a little more concerning than the fledgling Phoenix Coyotes, who should still be in Winnipeg. Yep, Bettman is back on my bad side.)

There haven't been many good times in Toronto for awhile.

In the NFL its been the Cowboys, Redskins and Raiders. All of these franchises have slid to mediocrity due in part to their ridiculous owners and their bad habits of spending money while letting the football side of things slip through their grasp.

The Redskins haven’t won a division title since their Super Bowl run in 1991 and have been a running joke since Daniel Snyder took over. They’ve made the playoffs three times with only one win to show for it. However, what’s defined them is their penchant for over paying players well past their prime. Bruce smith, Deion Sanders, Mark Brunell, Jason Taylor, and that’s for starters. Throw in their horrible coaching history lately (hi Jim Zorn, and Steve Spurring) and you wonder why fans want Dan Snyder’s head on a stake a la MacBETH.

For the Cowboys its a combination of Jerry Jones overbearing style and the lack of productivity on the field that has hindered them.

In the 90’s Dallas owned football with three titles and a high-powered offense anchored by three hall-of-farmers. Then after their last Super Bowl win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl 30, the team hasn’t seen a playoff victory.

They’be been plagued by bad QB play, poor decision making by Jones, which includes firing Bill Parcells and trading two number one picks for Roy Williams (I’m sure the Lions still can’t believe that one) and not getting much from heralded draft picks (Mike Jenkins that’s you). Be honest, what do you know about the Cowboys now, a franchise with a rich history from Roger Staubach to Troy Amman, or their ridiculously expensive stadium with a 80 yard flatscreen in the middle of it?

As far as the Raiders go… let’s put it like this; they haven’t been over .500 since getting smoked by the Bucs in Super Bowl 37 over 8 years ago. If you want to know why then take a look at Hue Jackson’s press conference to introduce him as the team’s new coach this past week. Owner Al Davis, looking as decrepit as ever, sat at the table and ranted about Tom Cable’s personal life, comparisons of Jason Campbell to Cam Newton, and seemed more out of his mind than normal.

This is the guy who blew up Lane Kiffin at a press conference years ago, fined Cable for not executing a game plan he wrote out, drafted JaMarcus Russell, and has made so many horrible personnel decisions that no coach or player should come near Oakland. Poor Hue Jackson, I don’t think he knows what he’s getting into.

Before the Boston Celtics climbed back into contention in the NBA they had grown into a punch line. Gone were the days of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and in were Dino Radja and Antoine Walker.

Their most memorable moment during that time came during a Rick Pitino news conference after another loss where he told the media and essentially the fans to get over themselves and that “Larry Bird ain’t walking through that door.” Right he was, though fans would’ve rather had a near 50 Bird than Ron Mercer.

So in essence every sport has seen its top franchise go through the motions and fall from grace in a haze of greed, nativity, or ignorance. Well everyone except baseball.

In the last 15 years the top tier teams in the sport have stayed on top without much static.

Sure past champions like Kansas City, Toronto and Oakland have seen their share of bad times, but their history is nothing like the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers.

(You’re probably wondering what about the Cubs? Flagship franchise? Yes. However, they haven’t won a damn thing in 109 years so they don’t count. Sorry Cubs fans.)

These were the bad times in Boston.

Baseball has largely protected its top franchises by not introducing a salary cap, which allows the Braves, Phillies and Angels to out spend every other team in the league and stay where they are.Sure these teams haven’t made the playoffs every year, but they always bounce back from lackluster seasons.

The Red Sox will be favorites this year after finishing third in the AL East last year in part to overspending for Carl Crawford and giving away the farm for Adrian Gonzalez.

It’s hard for any of these teams fall off of their perch and fall victim to the same plague that’s infiltrated each league over the past 15 years. Or is it?

Last week the New York Yankees announced the signing of former Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano to be the 8th inning setup man for closer Mariano Rivera and eventually replace him.

No big deal, just the Yankees spending their endless funds to fix a problem like not having an eighth inning stopper.

However, GM Brian Cashman didn’t want to spend the money on Soriano and wanted to keep either Joba Chamberlain in the setup role or David Robertson. Owner Hal Steinbrenner overruled Cashman and handled the negotiations himself while Cashman sat in the corner and pouted.

Both sides say everything is fine but I’m not buying it.

Cashman is the game’s best GM and built a dynasty in the 90’s while the young Steinbrenners sat back and watched from The Boss’s luxury box. Cashman knows what he’s doing and what to do to keep the Yankees successful.

What Steinbrenner did was undermine Cashman and used his power to make a decision that may or may not work and also costs the Yankees a first round draft pick. That’s the kind of decision you would see Al Davis make. Uh oh.

Ok so that’s one little thing so what? Well, look at the Yankees future for a second if you will; the Yankees have been able to stay competitive after their dynasty years in the late 90’s and 2000 thanks to their huge budget and the ability to get whoever they want for any price. While they haven’t been winning championships at the rate that they would like, the Yankees are still the class of the AL East and remain the team to beat.

However, look at the current contract situations that the Yankees have:

Mark Teixiera- 8 years/180 million dollars, signed til he’s 37
A.J. Burnett – 5/82.5, signed til he’s 39
C.C. Sabathia- 7/161, signed til he’s 37
Alex Rodriguez- 10/275, signed til he’s 43
Derek Jeter- 3/51, signed til he’s 40
Jorge Posada- 4/52, signed til he’s 41
Mariano Rivera- 2/30, signed til he’s 43

In other words half of the Yankees main players on their roster are all signed well into their late 30’s or 40’s and are owed a boat load of money.

Guys like Rodriguez, Jeter and Posada are already on the downside of their careers and aren’t worth the money.

Not to mention there is the possiblility at other long term deals for Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes looming, which will add more money to their books.

The Yankees are used to shelling out lots of cash but right now there’s too much tied up in players that won’t help them contend in three years and could lead to the Yankees becoming baseball’s Cowboys.

As great as they've been, the deals given to A-Rod and Jeter could lead to the Yankees downfall.

There is no balance with them right now. There’s lots of old guys and not enough youth. Sound like Dan Snyder to you?

Another problem are the deals that the Yankees have made, which cost them two viable parts that they could use right now and both could’ve added some much needed youth to their everyday roster.

Last year they traded Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy for Curtis Granderson essentially in a three team deal. Jackson and Granderson play the same position and Jackson hit for a higher average, stole more bases and had a higher in-base percentage than Granderson. Not to mention he’s five years younger and the perfect leadoff hitter that the Yankees so desperately need.
Kennedy went 9-10 last year for the Diamondbacks with a 3.80 ERA. While his numbers don’t seem too impressive Kennedy got stronger and stronger towards the end of the year. He’s currently penciled in as their third starter while the Yankees have no viable options in their rotation past Sabathia, Hughes, and Burnett. I’ve seen the Leafs give up on a few young guys in the past few years haven’t you?

Lastly the Yankee luster isn’t what it used to be. Guys now a days grow up hating the Yankees instead of idolizing them. No one fawns over Jeter the way they did Mickey Mantle, there’s no appreciation for Posada like there was for Yogi Berry. In the 60’s if a guy like Zach Greinke was on the market he would’ve been a pinstripe in a heartbeat, same for Cliff Lee. Now, they’d rather be a Brewer or a Phillie.

Still, the Yankees can out bid whoever they want to get their man. However, they also set the bar for other teams with just as deep of pockets to follow. How do you think the Sox got Carl Crawford or the Nats (yes, the Nats) got Jayson Werth? It’s the Yankee model; overpay for them and dare someone to leap up and get them.

So now its no longer about the pinstripes and the aura of the stadium and the pressure of the media. If you were Werth wouldn’t you rather take 126 million to play in a small market and not have the pressure of facing 1000 media faces a week wondering what’s wrong with you?

Maybe I’m going crazy, or maybe I see the writings on the wall. I know the Yankees have had to good a run of gluttony and capitalist pleasure to not have it come to a screeching hault. We’ve toed the line of smart and senseless way too long to not have it blow up in our face and I feel were getting to that point.

If the Yankees don’t solve their spending problems and incorporate some youth and practice patience then they may resemble the Celtics of the late 90’s or the Raiders of right now. They run the risk of losing their luster like Notre Dame and could become a legendary afterthought like the Habs.

Call me crazy, but Soriano deal might be the first in a long line of problems for top to bottom from the Yankees. I might be wrong, but I’ve seen it all before.