John Harper of the New York Daily News has a new piece up that ties in nicely with the Johnny Damon fallout from this past week. He details the issues the Yanks have with their aging core and the need to move forward in a clear eyed, unsentimental way. The Yanks are clearly loaded as it is, and poised for a big year even without much production out of Left Field. If there’s one thing that could derail the 2010 New York Yankees, it’s age and injury in key positions. He writes:
Mariano Rivera turned 40 in November. He had another brilliant season in ’09, but he can’t go on like this forever, can he? He’s been so great for so long that any significant decline could have a devastating effect on the ballclub.
Jorge Posada turns 39 in August. His defense, always something of an issue, became a major story when he clashed with A.J. Burnett, leading Joe Girardi to sit him in the righthander’s postseason starts. With Johnson signed as a full-time DH, Posada’s health and performance behind the plate are critical.
Andy Pettitte turns 38 in June and has a history of elbow and shoulder problems. What if it all catches up with him this year?
Derek Jeter turns 36 in June, and while he enjoyed something of a renaissance season in 2009, there’s no denying he’s old for a shortstop.
Alex Rodriguez turns 35 in July, and his hip surely will continue to be a concern, if not an issue.
The point here is that, although they lost Chien-Ming Wang for the season and A-Rod for a month due to hip surgery, the Yankees were very lucky with injuries last season. Even Burnett, forever an arm injury waiting to happen, survived his first year as a Yankee without missing a start.
I couldn’t agree more. I posted a piece a few months ago explaining why I feel Posada is poised for a decline, one which could be steep and precipitous. Years of the wear and tear of everyday catching take it’s toll, and many Catchers don’t have soft landings. Especially those that don’t move off the position. I can’t build much of a statistical case as to why Andy will have a big drop off, all of his peripherals last year were consistent with recent years, with the only exception being his BB/9 rate. But at age 38 you have to wonder when that last bit of margin for error is no longer there. David Cone went from a 20 win season and a perfect game to being batting practice in what seemed to be overnight. Coming off one of his best seasons, Derek Jeter couldn’t be expected to repeat his performance at any age, much less 36. His defensive gains will be something to monitor closely as well. Mo . . . I’ve long since given up waiting for The Great Mariano to decline. I’ll believe it when it happens. At this point I’m no longer expecting him to retire, but to ascend directly into Heaven from the Yankee Stadium mound. But we’ve already got more than we as fans could have ever expected out of the ‘Core 4′ Yankees from the great late-90s championship teams, and Brian Cashman is right to make getting younger a big priority.