Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Pinstripe Way

As a die-hard Yankee fan, I have to laugh off the haters out there that claim the Yankees buy championships. Now the Yankee empire is certainly capable of spending big money for free agents, or trading for stars who command bigger salaries.

But it's the cultivation and maturation of players you watch their whole career that makes you so attached to your particular team.

I remember Mariano Rivera coming up as an electric starting pitcher in 1995.

I remember Andy Pettitte, as a 24-year old, beating John Smoltz 1-0 in Game 5 of the '96 Series.

I remember Jorge Posada's solo Home Run at 9:11 PM in game 3 of the 2001 World Series.

And Derek Jeter continues to make memories along with the rest of them.

Now you can make arguments that the Yankees, unlike other teams, have the ability to pay their own stars when they reach a certain level of seniority while other teams don't. That's a more valid argument than the purchasing of pennants, but it's still all about the commitment of the organization to develop their own guys.

EXHIBIT A - Robinson Cano

A born-and-bred Yankee is now in his 6th season, complementing Jeter up the middle at Second Base. He plays slick defense every day, and carries a .308 career average (and rising).

This year he's been moved to the 5th slot in the lineup, so his bat protects A-Rod.

EXHIBIT B - Phil Hughes

The 23-year old "5th" starter was integral as the 8th inning guy last year. Now he's been moved back to his natural role of starting pitcher and is a sensational 5-0, 1.38 ERA in 6 starts.

Hughes was a 1st Round pick by the Yankees, as was...

EXHIBIT C - Joba Chamberlain

He flip-flopped with Hughes and is now the set-up man for Rivera again, a role he burst on the scene to in 2007. He looks to have the stuff and the closer demeanor. He saved two games last week while Mariano was a little sore and tight, and Joba seems like the heir apparent in that role.

EXHIBIT D - Brett Gardner

After the Yanks' 2009 Championship, they waved goodbye to outfielders Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera (sigh), and made a commitment to a different kind of Yankee.

Gardner's gritty style and speed game (16 SB - 2nd in AL) give the Yankees a different dimension than his slugging predecessors. But he's hitting .333 for good measure.

So witness the young home-grown Pinstripers who follow in the footsteps of the iconic ones. And that doesn't even count cult-favorite backup catcher Francisco Cervelli.

Maybe 12-15 years from now, Exhibits A through D will comprise the next generation Core Four. And to watch that progression is what being a baseball team's fan is all about.

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