Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Not their fault, as Brian Cashman made "The Assassin" the most lucrative offer of all the teams pursuing him. But still, the Yankees lost out and were dubbed "losers." Add to that the retirement of Andy Pettitte. So Cashman put his GM brain in action and scrambled to acquire players that he believed could keep this team afloat until better options become available mid-season.
Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were met with angst as most believed that these two were no longer the big-impact pitchers they were in their past, and could never fit the bill of the rotation that took this team to their 27th World Championship in '09. I was one who cried foul at these signings, as I believed that Cashman had jewels in his farm system, like those of the Killer B's, and didn't need to ride his hopes on "washed-up" pitchers. Garcia actually had an admirable season with the White Sox last year with a 12-6 record, but it wasn't enough to convince me and many others that he had the "gusto" to make it New York. And so, I scoffed.
More scrutiny came at Cashman, with his hesitation to sign closer Rafael Soriano as Mariano Rivera's set-up man. Soriano had 47 saves last year, the most in the AL and threw a fastball that dominated even the best hitters in the East. It seemed like a no-brainer that Cashman would sign him; if for no other reason to stack his bullpen to off-set a weak rotation. But Cash was emphatically against the signing, preaching the ridiculousness of paying closer-type money to a would-be set-up guy, and asking the fan base to trust that he would make the right move for the team.
The Yankees front office stood behind him in the beginning, but with Pettitte's retirement seemingly inevitable as the days wore on, and with no other top-brand options left, the front office forced Cash to make the signing. A great PR move would have been for him to say that he was on board with bring Soriano over and that he was happy to have him play for the team. But Cashman made it clear that the signing was not his choice and if left to him, never would have been made.
And now, we fast-forward to the season. The Yankees have played 20 games so far. In those games, Soriano has seen action in 11. In the 10.1 innings he's pitched, he's allowed 12 hits, 9 earned runs, 8 walks, has blown a save and sports a 7.84 ERA. In last night's loss to the White Sox, he gave up the winning 2-run home run to Paul Konerko on a fastball that sailed directly across the middle of the plate, putting the Sox up 3-2. It was Konerko who singled on a line drive to left off of Soriano in Monday's game, giving the Sox an insurance run as the hit scored Brent Lillibridge and put them up 2-0.
Soriano has a few games where he's actually pitched well and those games came early in the series against the Tigers and Twins. But he's faltered since, and has had a hand in the majority of the Yankees losses thus far. Meanwhile, Freddy Garcia has pitched to a 0.69 ERA in 2 starts. He's allowed only a run on 5 hits with 9 strikeouts. Bartolo Colon "stutter-stepped" in his first relief appearance against Detroit, giving up 4 runs in 4 innings. But he has settled in ever since, and in his next 3 games has only allowed 3 runs total, and in all 4 games has 20 strikeouts. In his start against Toronto, he pitched 6.2 solid innings and gave up only 2 runs to secure his first win.
Garcia and Colon have stepped up and given this rotation and team what they needed following an uncertain off-season. Soriano hasn't been abysmal, but he's clearly not pitching like he did last year. This was exactly why Cashman did not want to take a chance on Soriano as a set-up man. He still has a closer's mentality and is not comfortable in a role where he's not saving games. And, what's up with the scowl? Would it be too much to ask of this guy to at least look like he wants to be with this team?
It is still early in the season. For all I know, Garcia and Colon could completely fall apart from here on out, and Soriano could prove worth more than his contract. Could happen. But right now the opposite is true, and Brian Cashman, on the basis of being a shark GM, is WINNING!
Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper
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