Friday, March 27, 2015

How Jealous Should Yankees Fans Be?

If you only read my thoughts on the Yankees from this spring, you might think I was a real Eeyore. Here are some of the negative things I've written about the team the last few weeks:
  • From a running diary of a Spring Training game:
    • "Carlos Beltran steps up to the plate as the Yankees' No. 3 hitter. I'm pretty sure his place in today's batting order is just a result of the team not taking this exhibition game too seriously. Wait, what? That's his projected lineup spot for the regular season??? In 2015???" 
    • "Sideline reporter Meredith Marakovits is talking about CC Sabathia's 'degenerative knee issue.' Michael Kay points out the CC has been calling it his 'bum knee.' Jesus."
  • From a piece about Masahiro Tanaka:
    • "In order to have any shot of making the playoffs this year, the Yankees need Tanaka to be the stud we watched for much of 2014. There are too many question marks behind him (both in the field and in the rotation) for the team to weather an injury to the ace."
  • From a piece about CC Sabathia:
    • "For years, fans and media members called CC a 'horse.' Well, even Secretariat eventually got put out to pasture. It doesn't look like his Verlanderian slide will stop anytime soon. So, no, we shouldn't expect Sabathia to ever approach his old performance."
    • "I guess it's good that Carsten Charles seems healthy, and I love him and hope he performs well this season. Still, it's hard to see the $53 million remaining on the 34-year-old's contract as anything but one of the worst salbatrosses in all of baseball."
While I am excited about a few aspects of the team (the bodacious bullpen, for instance), my dread outweighs any optimism for this aging team. Sure, the Yanks aren't quite as Methuselan as they were last year, but most of their good players are on the wrong side of baseball's age curve.

I can't wait for baseball, but I'm not confident about my team's chances. Sure, Yankees fans are notoriously tough to please, as is evident at the top of the Replacement Level Yankees homepage. Still, I feel like this year might be the Yankees' Rocky V, the team's extended crap-the-bed moment.

It's been so long since the Yankees had a great young prospect or seemingly limitless future that I find myself looking around the league and pining for the rosters of many other teams. Even though the Bombers have a better chance to make the postseason than one-third of the teams in MLB, I can find a reason to be jealous of every single other team. (Yes, even the Phillies.) The Mariners? Oh, God, I miss Robbie Cano. The Pirates? Well, I did try to trade Andrew McCutchen to the Yankees. But those are the clubs that are easy to envy. What about those 10 teams the Yankees are supposed to be better than this season? Come with me, Yankees fans, and let's take a longing look at the supposed dregs of the league:

Baltimore Orioles
The Yankees haven't had a guy like Manny Machado -- young, under team control for the foreseeable future, mouth-droppingly awesome -- since Cano was a pup. I'm jealous of Machado's talent and I'm dreading each of the many at-bats he'll take against the Yankees this season.

Texas Rangers
I started writing a perverse-but-logical argument about being jealous that Rangers ace Yu Darvish had Tommy John surgery last week. If Tanaka had just opted for T.J. last season, he'd already be rehabbing and the Yankees would expect him back at full strength for the start of next season. Since 2015 might be a lost year for the club and Tanaka will probably end up needing the surgery anyways, it would have made sense for him to have it right away. But it's just too fun to watch Tanaka pitch. I mean, I wrote an excited post all about his two-inning spring debut in which I exclaimed, "Tanaka for Cy Young!" Since we can't predict the future, I'll just be happy for the moment that the Yankees' Japanese ace will take the hill this year. Sorry, Rangers fans.

With that being said, I'm definitely envious of Rangers fans because any given moment can turn into an Adrian Beltre cranium-related freak-out.

Sure, it's nice that Beltre also has a better Hall of Fame case than any Yankee. But I'm more covetous that Texas fans get to watch his apparent haphephobia than that they get to enjoy his baseball skills.

Houston Astros
I could say I'm jealous that the Astros will definitely win the World Series in 2017, but I think Sports Illustrated must regret that bold prediction at least a little bit. Even if you temper your expectations for the franchise, the Astros have improved drastically, and their promising youngsters have started to matriculate in the big leagues. I'm definitely jealous of an exciting young team that will have to fight to post a winning record, as opposed to an injury-prone aging team that will have to fight to post a winning record.

Cincinnati Reds
The only reliever I enjoy watching more than "Dealin'" Dellin Bettances is "God" Aroldis Chapman.

Kansas City Royals
Um, they made the World Series last year.

Minnesota Twins
Byron Buxton keeps getting compared to Mike Trout, which seems blasphemous. It also just made me remember that the Angels drafted Trout with a pick they received because the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, making me doubly-jealous and possibly homicidal. Let's move on.

Arizona Diamondbacks
I'm jealous of this...

...which is why I still refer to the teams as the D-Bags.

Atlanta Braves
An. Drel. Ton.

Colorado Rockies
In Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies have two of the most exciting -- albeit fra-gee-lay -- players in MLB. The Rockies seem poised to keep both stars for the foreseeable future. But even if they don't... As Jonah Keri pointed out last week, "With just three playoff berths in 22 years of existence, that kind of sell-off would be a cruel blow to such a rarely successful franchise. But hey, at least Coors Field will still be awesome."

Philadelphia Phillies
Okay, maybe I lied. It's really tough to envy the Phillies, who are really just a worse version of the Yankees. Both teams have viewed the past two decades as an extended Treat Yo' Self, but Philadelphia's major- and minor-league rosters are weaker than those of the Yankees.

If I have to pick something to envy, though, I'll go with what Grant Brisbee wrote about Cole Hamels last week: "He will be a fan favorite who allows the masses to remember a happier time, someone who can remind folks that the pleasure of watching baseball isn't something wholly dependent on championships and postseason success. Sometimes, the pleasure of watching baseball is watching an all-time franchise great doing all-time-great-player things right then and there, to hell with the standings."

Sure, fans of some of those 10 teams might look over at the Yankees and harbor a little jealousy, too. After all, we're one of the richest teams in the game and we haven't experienced a losing season since the Papa Bush Administration. But as a Yankees fan, it's my nature to always want more, even the more that I can't have. So you're damn right I'm jealous of the teams that have Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre, George Springer, Aroldis Chapman, Byron Buxton, Andrelton Simmons, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Cole Hamels. Don't blame me; George Steinbrenner made me this way.

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Follow FranT on Twitter at @frantweet and follow Brian Kavanaugh at @btkav

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