(Long Island, N.Y.) A trip to Nashville this time of year can be judged in a number of ways. Of course, the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings are taking place and team representatives are burning the midnight oil trying to make either a big signing or trade. When the bags are packed and Tennessee is only visible from the airplane window, then the grades will begin filtering out.
So it behooves one’s front office to go down south with at least a partially loaded deck. Brian Cashman may not pull off a stunner now, but he set himself and the Yankees up pretty good before even walking through an airport security check.
The resigning of pitchers Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera were essential moves for a veteran-laden, win-now team and even though both have seen their best days and are coming off injuries, they mean so much to the entire organization and have off the field value, as well.
The lefthanded Pettitte, 40, came out of retirement to join his old squad and pitched fairly well (5-4, 2.87 ERA season totals) before going down with a fractured left ankle at the end of June. And even though his replacements did an admirable job (after Rivera tore an ACL in May), there is no one better than the 43-year-old Rivera on the mound in the ninth inning of a playoff game. Besides that, these two are all-time Yankee greats and will have their numbers retired one day, huge fan favorites and perfect spokesmen for not only the Bronx Bombers, but baseball in general.
Pettitte returned in September to help the playoff run, but Rivera missed the rest of the campaign, making him even more determined to pitch well in 2013. “I didn’t want to go out like that,” he said. “I didn’t want that to be the last image. It wasn’t an easy decision because there’s more than just baseball with me. But I feel that we have a great group of guys and can compete for a championship.
“I’m not just coming back to play; I’m coming back to win.”
Erasing the four-game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series will not be an easy task, but one that the Bombers should be prepared for. Derek Jeter should be completely healed from the broken ankle he suffered in the ALCS, but now Alex Rodriguez will be out four to six months after he undergoes hip surgery.
So the Yankees are old and brittle, but experienced and talented in the same breath. They do need to make some changes and have to find a starting catcher after Russell Martin signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent. But Cashman can play his hand and take the necessary time because he did some important homework before meeting up with his brethren.
He won’t be singing the blues on the way out of the Music City.