The New York Yankees have spent over $300 million on free agents this offseason, but they still lack one thing that their money can’t buy: camaraderie. If the Yankees want to make it back to the top, they are going to need something special to come together in the locker room.
From when the Yankees won it all in 2009 through 2012, the team has averaged 97.5 wins a season. The Yankees relied on the core-four of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera during these dominant years and also garnered support from good clubhouse guys like Nick Swisher and A.J. Burnett. Regardless of individual performance, the Yankees were fun to watch in that four-year span. From Burnett’s pie-in-the-face celebration on walk-offs to the Swisher-Salute for the Bleacher Creatures, the Yankees were able to create exceptional chemistry.
However, the team struggled through 2013 and was only able to scrape together 85 wins during a heavily injury-riddled and controversial season (thanks to Alex Rodriguez). The core-four turned into the core-three since Posada’s retirement after the 2011 season and they were never quite themselves in 2013. Jeter only played in 17 games, Pettitte struggled to post a .500 record of 11-11 and Rivera blew an uncommon seven saves. Swisher joined the Cleveland Indians, Mark Teixeira was out for all but 15 games and A-Rod was, well, A-Rod. The Yankees weren’t exactly a team that could generate wins through sheer will and emotion.
So, can the Yankees get back to having fun and winning at the same time? Only time will tell, but I think they made the necessary adjustments to make sure it happens. Beginning with Brian McCann, the Yankees started the offseason on the right foot. McCann is MLB‘s poster child for a good teammate. Carlos Beltran expressed his relief in finally ending up in pinstripes saying, “I grew up being a Yankees fan,” in his introductory press conference. The Yankees have guys who want to be there, now they have to mesh.
Jeter is returning and he is the perfect man to steer the ship of the new crop in the Bronx, similar to the 2009 team that brought in three star free agents in the preceding offseason. The Yankees’ biggest concern will be to stay healthy. The team is full of veterans who all want to be in pinstripes and I believe the newcomers will fall in line accordingly.