Alomar versus Jeter, and the decline of the Yankees

Have you ever noticed how similar Roberto Alomar and Derek Jeter are as players? Take a look at their career averages per 162 games:

Alomar: .300 AVG, .371 OBP, .443 SLG, 34 2B, 5 3B, 14 HR
Jeter: .310 AVG, .377 OBP, .440 SLG, 32 2B, 4 3B, 15 HR

Jeter played three years longer, had a slightly higher batting average and on-base percentage, and played shortstop instead of second. But Alomar was better defensively at second than Jeter was at short, was faster (474 SB to 358), and grounded into fewer double plays (206 Alomar, 287 Jeter).

In other respects, the two were very similar. Both men were widely regarded as very smart players. Jeter was in 14 All-Star games, and Alomar 12. Alomar won ten Gold Gloves, and Jeter won five (all of Jeter’s were after his 30th birthday, oddly enough). Both men were durable: before nearing the end of his career, Jeter only missed significant time in 2003 (thanks to colliding with Blue Jay Ken Huckaby on Opening Day), and Alomar was out for part of 1997.

The reason I mention all of this is that, while Alomar has been honoured as a player, his reputation is nowhere near as great as that of Jeter. (Jeter’s listed nicknames on Baseball Reference are Mr. November, The Captain, and Captain Clutch. Alomar has no listed nicknames.) While it’s not Jeter’s fault that the media fawn over him, I find it annoying and somewhat disturbing when sports talking heads praise him so much.

As you probably know already, 2014 was Jeter’s last season, and my guess is that he got out just in time. The Yankees are a very old team. Eight of the nine Yankees starters were over 30; the ninth, 26-year-old third baseman Yangervis Solarte, was replaced by 30-year-old Chase Headley. The starting rotation features expensive Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, two pitchers who were injured for much of the year (Michael Pineda and C. C. Sabathia), and a bunch of prospects and suspects. Their closer (David Robertson) has gone to the White Sox; his replacement, Andrew Miller, is a very good pitcher, but has never closed before. The 2014 Yankees won 84 games, but they were very lucky to do so; with their runs scored and runs allowed totals, they should have won only 77.

The problem that the Yankees face is that their business model doesn’t work for them any more. Fifteen years ago, the Yankees had more money than anyone else, and could snap up expensive free agents when their original teams couldn’t afford to pay them. Now, almost everybody has a lot of money to burn, thanks to new television contracts. Not only can smaller market teams afford to keep their stars, they can now afford to outbid the Yankees for players, which is why Robinson Cano is now in Seattle. The Yankees have never needed to rely on their farm system. Nor have they, before now, had to deal with the struggles of young pitchers as they learn how to get major league hitters out. Unless the Yanks sign a whole bunch of new players, or get very lucky, I’m predicting that they will finish last this year.


About davetill

I'm a writer and occasional web designer. I live in Toronto.
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