Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote an interesting column recently that referenced the 1965 Yankees in relation to this year's team.
In 1965, a dynastic Yankee core got old all at once and the Yankee organization, which had not been open enough to the black and Latin faces that were changing baseball, suffered a quick and painful drop to the bottom of the league. People spent much of the year assuming players like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris would find their strokes, but it never happened and a long era of futility began in the Bronx.
There are a couple of big differences between these Yankees and those Yankees, however. These Yankees have a winning record through the season's first trimester and these Yankees aren't being hurt by older players.
That's certainly been the narrative of this season, but the idea doesn't hold up when you really take a close look at the team. The Yankees might be an older team, but that's not the reason why the team has underperformed their expectations this season.
Alex Rodriguez hasn't hit the way the team has hoped, but older peers Derek Jeter (drafted 20 years ago Friday) and Raul Ibanez have been two of the team's best hitters to this point of the season. And Rodriguez has still hit better than Mark Teixeira, who is still in the vicinity of his prime at 32 and should be one of the guys carrying the offense instead of dragging it down.
Eduardo Nunez was a magnificent flop this season, putting a quick end to the team's hope of having him be a super sub that would help older players rest their bones this season. Brett Gardner is 28 and injured while Russell Martin is 29 and unable to hit at even a league average level.
Things look pretty similar on the pitching mound. Hiroki Kuroda hasn't been great, but he's been above average.
That's a lot more than you can say for Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, whose combined 10-7 record should be included in any screed decrying the use of wins to make a case that a pitcher has pitched well. Mariano Rivera might be the most famous injured Yankee pitcher, but it is younger pitchers (Michael Pineda, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain) that make up the majority of the disabled list.
Andy Pettitte's brief return has shown that time has not ravaged his left arm, but the club's two hottest pitching prospects -- Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances -- have both moved in the wrong direction this season. They will need to prove they can pitch at Triple-A before there's any chance that they can help the big club.
The upshot of all this is actually positive for the Yankees. If the younger players were all playing well while the veterans were dying on the vine, it would be hard to feel confident that better days were right around the corner.
As it is, though, there's a reasonable expectation that players like Teixeira, Nova and Robertson will offer the team more over the final two-thirds of the season than they have in April and May. If the relative youth goes wild, the rocky moments from these early months will feel like they happened all the way back in 1965.