Yankee Pessimism Needs a Bit of Perspective

Losing out on Cliff Lee hurts Yankees, but it doesn't kill them

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    It's funny how quickly things can change when it comes to the New York Yankees.

    Just two weeks ago, there were plenty of people responding angrily to Derek Jeter's attempts to milk extra cash and years out of the Yankees because of his role in creating so many great memories for the franchise. No man is bigger than the Yankees, they argued, and if Jeter doesn't want to accept his medicine then just hand the job to Eduardo Nunez and move on down the road.

    There was a very different tune heard across the city when Cliff Lee decided to sign with the Phillies. Suddenly one man's choice to play for someone other than the Yankees meant that the sky had fallen over the Bronx. The Red Sox added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, meaning that they were now way ahead of the Yankees who, if you believe some of the voices on sports radio and message boards, there's no chance to compete for a title unless the Yankees trade for Felix Hernandez

    That's too bad because there's very little chance of that happening. Hernandez is signed through 2014 and the Mariners don't have any pressing reason to make a move that will further delay their return to respectability. 

    And, whether the gloomier voices like to admit it or not, there's not much of a compelling argument for the Yankees to sacrifice the kind of treasure it would take to get Hernandez here either. Lost somewhere in the great Lee chase was the fact that the 2010 Yankees won 95 games and went to the American League Championship Series. Assuming Andy Pettitte decides to come back, the 2011 Yankees will look a lot like that team. Yes, the Rangers beat them and no one's suggesting this is a perfect team, but it is hardly a team without the ability to contend for a playoff spot right this minute. 

    That's pretty reassuring when you realize there are still two months before Spring Training and more than three months until Opening Day. The Yankee team as presently constructed will not get any worse between now and then, but it can get better and it can better in a lot more places by wisely reallocating funds earmarked for Lee around the team.

    Everyone assumed that the Yankees' financial largesse was a boon because it would enable them to sign Lee for more money than anybody else. That wasn't true. But their money will still allow them to make moves for players that make the roster deeper than the one that we last saw losing Game Six. Think about bringing back Kerry Wood and adding another bullpen arm while also grabbing a productive righty bat for the outfield. Maybe the rotation hole gets filled now or perhaps it is in July when a prospective contender decides to cut bait or just maybe Ivan Nova proves to be worthy of being a fifth starter in the big leagues. 

    This isn't an attempt to put lipstick on a pig. The questions about A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and even Pettitte make losing out on Lee a big problem for the Yankees. It isn't an insurmountable problem, especially not if Brian Cashman can prove his oft-stated belief that winning isn't only about the money for the Yankees.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.