In retrospect it should have been easy to see this coming. Bernie Williams was one of the most beloved Yankees of the last dynasty run and he was unceremoniously stripped of his starting job in 2006 by Johnny Damon (of the hated Boston Red Sox no less). Though he managed to contribute that season Williams was not guaranteed a spot on the roster for 2007 and thus did not accept a contract that year, effectively ending his career.
This was the first taste of how cut-throat the Yankees would be with the players who delivered them their last run of glory in the late 90’s and early 00’s- corporate and cold-blooded with an eye only for the bottom line. Williams didn’t bow out gracefully like Paul O’Neill or wear out his welcome like David Wells. He just got old.
Now it’s begun to affect the remainder of the players from the last Yankee golden-era. Fans and the media called them the “Core Four” the remainder of a fast fading era in baseball. Mariano Rivera, who seems impervious to age is the only member of this elite group who has yet to really feel the wrath of the Yankee front office, though it could be argued that paying former closer Rafael Soriano was an expensive insurance policy should age finally catch up to Rivera this season.
Andy Pettite, himself undervalued by the Yankee front office after the failed World Series run of 2003, teetered on the brink of retirement for the last three seasons and ultimately kept the Yankees waiting until the last minute this off-season as to whether or not he would return. Ultimately Pettite chose to retire which may have been the smart move considering how his fellow “core” members have been faring.
This same off-season Derek Jeter’s otherwise spotless image took a serious hit during his contract negotiations. Jeter, the Captain, has been the face of the franchise’s success for the last decade but was coming off a down year and the Yankees let it be known that he was over-valuing his worth and all but dared him to test the market.
Jeter and the team eventually kissed and made up but it was clear the Yankees had no interest in over-paying an aging shortstop, even if he was the biggest name in New York sports.
Jorge Posada’s recent troubles are less difficult to decipher: he’s in the last year of his contract, no longer seen as a viable option at catcher, and batting a mere .165 going into last weekend at the DH spot. It’s true Posada shouldn’t be shocked he was dropped to 9th in the batting order considering his performance but it’s also true that Joe Girardi could have handled the situation better.
If managing a Major League team, the Yankees especially, is a matter of tending to egos Girardi should have known dropping the fiery Posada to the bottom of the order would create a problem in the clubhouse where he is seen as a leader, especially considering the somewhat shaky relationship between the manager and the player who replaced him behind the plate for the Yankees over a decade ago.
Jeter found himself pulled into the controversy for defending his friend’s decision to “clear his head”. After a closed door meeting and a few apologies everyone now claims to be on the same page. The story, aside from camouflaging a 6 game skid including a 3 game sweep at home against the Red Sox, reinforces the notion that there is little room for sentimentality in the Yankee front office. Which is fair- baseball is a results based business and executives don’t have the luxury of trading off their legacy as easily as players do. However there should be a responsibility to be respectful to the players who helped build those legacies and sell those tickets when their only sin is getting old.