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The Unspeakable Tragedy of the New York Yankees

Posted: 03/27/2013 12:11 pm

It's an unspeakable tragedy about which we must, well, speak. It's abomination -- shameful and unjust. It's the world failing to unfold as it has (unfailingly) for so many years.

With Major League Baseball's Opening Day only six sleeps away, the polls are in, predictions have been posted, the sport's sages and seers have spoken -- and you know these guys are never wrong -- and apparently the New York Yankees are, in the words of Ed Grimley, "as doomed as doomed can be."

Doomed. Before the season even starts. DOA. Before the first pitch is even thrown. Destined to be but a shadow of their iconic selves, and possibly even a laughing stock, finishing third, or fourth, or (gasp) possibly even dead-last in the tough American League East Division. Did I mention that this is an unspeakable tragedy? And lest anyone out there think I'm overstating, consider the innocents.

Indeed, if you have the stomach for it, consider that there are three-year-olds toddling around New York today who have never, ever seen the Yankees win a World Series (honestly, I could barely type that sentence what with all the empathetic tears clouding my vision).

Never mind that there are 104-year-olds shuffling about The Windy City who have never seen the home-side win the World Series -- we're talking about the Bronx, New York, where excellence is expected and the enfants are entitled, not north Chicago where an afternoon amid the ivy in Wrigley Field is considered a blessing, win or lose (but probably lose)...

Related: The best 2013 sports photos
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Alas, the Yankees' current 'issues' are innumerable, and include:

Austerity. Finally, after a seemingly endless era of rabid fiscal forthcomingness, the Yankees have made a conscious effort to rein in the money madness that has been their hallmark for about as long as anyone but the graybeards can recall. To that end, the team lost starters Nick Swisher to Cleveland and Russell Martin to Pittsburgh. And, unfathomably, did not replace either.

Age. Face it, the team is getting long in the tooth (if based in Seattle, they'd be the Ancient Mariners) and merciless Father Time is poised to issue the inevitable beat down. Even those who are giving the Yankees a hope of contending this season are basing that slim ray of light on a starting rotation that includes CC Sabathia, 32, and fresh of elbow surgery; journeyman Hiroki Kuroda, 38; and 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, who busted an ankle last year, but still managed to limp back into the lineup.

Injuries. Yep, with age you get injuries. Take Alex Rodriguez (please!). Depending on who you believe, the hard-to-embrace, rapidly declining, ridiculously overpaid A-Rod is either out for a large chunk of the season after his second major hip surgery or he's finished as a Yankee.

Then there's Mariano Rivera, the best closer in the history of the game, who tore up his ACL last year at age 42. Now 43, he swears he will retire at season's end, but not before returning to previous form this year. And while it's unwise to ever count Rivera out, skeptics will only believe he can be the Old Mo when they actually see it.

Which brings us to Derek Jeter. The Captain broke his ankle in Game One of the ALCS and at age 38 is willing himself back into shape, and the lineup. If you can imagine the daily grind on the ankle of a shortstop you can understand that this is a dicey prospect.

Insiders suggest that Jeter, who has limped through much of training camp and may well end up on the DL, is a day-to-day proposition with what the team calls an ongoing "cranky ankle..." Which is to say, he's nowhere near 100 percent healthy. Or anywhere near ready to anchor the infield full-time.

Sadly, injuries are contagious. In spring training, Curtis Granderson suffered a fractured forearm, hit by a pitch in his very first at-bat. And Mark Teixeira was sidelined with a partially torn tendon in his wrist and will be out for the season if he ends up requiring surgery.

It reached the point in recent weeks where General Manager Brian Cashman was sending out feelers to retired players like Chipper Jones. It got a little unsavory there, reeking of desperation, making people wonder if, say, Reggie Jackson might end up back in pinstripes. By all accounts he's a rather spry 66.

Optimists will likely ignore all of the above and say the team is merely in transition, that bridges will be built across these troubled waters and Yankee Pride will win over. Pessimists will call it Yankee Slide, and bury the team that won 95 games last year and finished atop the AL East.

Both factions will admit that the lineup the Yankees will field for Opening Day on Monday against their arch enemies, the Boston Red Sox, bears no resemblance to last year's playoff team that was eventually swept by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.

And one scribe will have the guts to stand up and make readers consider what really matters: the children. And the unspeakable tragedy of the toddlers, those little nose-mining New Yorkers, who have never seen the sky open up over The Big Apple in a World Series Championship ticker-tape parade.

 

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