- Last Updated: 3:05 PM, May 18, 2012
- Posted: 12:58 AM, May 18, 2012
Have you perused your baseball standings lately? Call it “Revenge of the Tired and Poor.”
Nine teams run payrolls of $100 million or more. Of those nine, only two — reigning pennant winners Texas and St. Louis — stand at five games or more over .500. Of the remaining seven, four (Boston, Detroit, the Angels and San Francisco) started yesterday with losing records, the Phillies stood at .500 and the Yankees and Miami lingered just a squeak over .500.
Congratulations, Yankees! You’re not underachieving as dramatically as some of your fellow high rollers!
“It’s fascinating. I’ve thought a lot about it,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said, as the quarterly owners’ meetings concluded at Major League Baseball’s Manhattan headquarters. “ I [look at] the standings every day.
“Each one is so different from each other that I’m not sure that I have an answer, quite frankly. It’s just surprising. Very surprising, no question about it.”
So how in the name of George Steinbrenner do we explain the current lay of the land? How concerned should the Yankees and their fans, specifically, be?
We’ve got to kick off with the acknowledgment that it’s early still, that we’re not even 25 percent finished with the schedule. A year ago at this time, when the Yankees had played 37 games, your teams in playoff position were Tampa Bay, Cleveland, the Angels and Detroit in the American League and Philadelphia, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Florida in the National League; only Tampa Bay, Detroit and Philadelphia wound up qualifying.
Having written that, there are two obvious threads to connect in trying to make sense of what we’ve seen so far:
1) Brains. The Yankees, who fell to the Blue Jays 4-1 last night for their third straight loss, and other heavyweights can’t spend their way out of trouble as effectively as they once did, and that’s because the overall intellect of the sport continues to rise. If anything, in a season when $240 million man Albert Pujols has been a colossal bust and the Red Sox have flushed cash down the toilet on Carl Crawford and John Lackey, the notion of forced economic discipline seems more appealing.
The Rays once again look prescient, cashing in on one-year commitments to free agents Carlos Pena, Fernando Rodney and Luke Scott. And their AL East neighbors Baltimore and Toronto both present challenges while spending in the $75 million to $80 million range. One AL official here at the meetings, from a club outside the East, pegged the Blue Jays as more likely to sustain their success yet predicted that the Orioles would fare considerably better than last year’s 69-93 showing.
Which means the Yankees might have to get this done without the standard Baltimore rest stops on their intra-division schedule.
2) Bodies. According to MLB’s data, by utilizing the 25-man rosters and disabled lists as of yesterday morning, the Yankees have the AL’s oldest team with an average age of 31.09. The only older team in baseball? The Phillies, at 31.24.
The other clubs with an average age over 30 were the Dodgers (30.21), Diamondbacks (30.20), Red Sox (30.12) and Brewers (30.03). The Dodgers, going with the downsized payroll of roughly $95 million thanks to their destructive former owner Frank McCourt, are faring very well. Not so much the other “Cocoon” remakes around the country.
We don’t want to mislead; it’s not like your average player for the Cardinals (29.85) or Rangers (29.71) has to show ID to get into an R-rated film, and the youngest clubs Kansas City (27.15) and Houston (27.76) own losing records. Nevertheless, clubs that rely too heavily on veterans north of 30 often seem to regret it.
The Yankees’ farm system will have to come through with reinforcements in the bullpen, for sure, and perhaps the starting rotation, as well. And some of those youngsters will have to be regarded as interesting trade chips should a quality starting pitcher become available.
In other words, the Yankees’ youth must work in tandem with their brains to work through this uninspiring start. And to leave Selig less surprised at season’s end.Follow @NYPostsports