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Did the “Yankee Way” Hurt Pineda?



By Mike Silva ~ April 1st, 2012. Filed under: New York Yankees.

Back in the fifties, Baltimore GM Paul Richards laid the foundation for the “Oriole Way.” Baseball fundamentals became uniform in every detail between all classes within the organization. Players were patiently refined until fundamentally sound instead of being hastily advanced to the next level. The Orioles became a powerhouse because of it.

Branch Rickey invented the “Dodger Way,” which was the foundation for their success for many years. Bobby Valentine recently told Bob Costas on the MLB Network that he was “sent down to the minors” by Walter Alston a young player for not properly turning a double play. He didn’t botch the play, but didn’t execute it the way the organization preferred. The Dodgers built a reputation for superior player development and consistent winning.

Today we have the “Yankee Way,” but it has nothing to do with executing the process. It’s about an outcome-winning a championship- and how they go about it doesn’t mean a damn thing. The Yankee Way could best be summed up by the post-ALDS quotes from Team president Randy Levine: “We are the Yankees. That is the way The Boss set it up. When you don’t win the World Series, it is a bitter disappointment and not a successful year.”

Never mind the fact they won 97-games by squeezing 20 wins from two pitchers that weren’t factors just two years early. They did this with an awful first-half by Derek Jeter, A-Rod playing only 100 games and Mark Teixeira more resembling a softball player than the AL MVP version they signed in 2009. I thought 2011 was a great season for the Yankees since they seemed to exceed what logic dictated “on paper.”

Brian Cashman seemed to be an outlier in the organization. He understands process vs. result, and how difficult it is to make the playoffs, much less win a championship every year. Even with a $200 million dollar payroll there are pitfalls such as regression, injuries and chemistry that money can’t solve. After seeing how he supported the silliness of Michael Pineda this spring, maybe I was wrong in that assessment.

When Cashman dealt Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, I thought it was another sign that his vision was an organization that churns out young pitching talent to build a sustainable infrastructure of winning. This is how the San Francisco Giants won a title with a limited budget and below league average offense. Imagine how dangerous the Yankees would be with a much larger room for error.

Despite making the All-Star team last season, Pineda struggled in the second half. His ERA ballooned to almost a run more a game, and he was a very pedestrian 4-6 with a 4.40 ERA from July onward. Still, he is just 23-years old. The best part is, unlike Seattle, the Yankees had the luxury of incorporating him into the rotation as a fifth starter. He would be able to face mostly below league average pitchers and probably win 12-15 games if he just went 6 innings/3 runs on most nights.

Instead, the Yankees put together a “rotation battle” and didn’t dispel media speculation that Pineda could start the season in the minors. The fact they traded their best prospect put enough pressure on the kid, they added to it by making his spring training starts take on a “win or go home” mentality. Don’t forget they added a possible future Hall of Famer in the middle of camp to make him look over his shoulder. The kid already knew he needed to produce, he saw all the promising arms around him, he didn’t need to feel the pressure of the organization, as well.

After weeks of this nonsense the result was an MRI and a report of shoulder tendonitis. Perhaps Pineda was hurt all along, hence why his velocity was in the high-80s/low-90s, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he developed the injury by pushing himself too hard, too early. In trying to prove to his new employer, and the media, that he can indeed still throw 96-98 mph, he wound up forgoing the process for results. Spring training is all about process, which is why a smart organization (and media members) would look more towards what the goals of preparing for the season are, versus outcomes.

But outcomes are all about what the “Yankee Way” is all about. If a young Bobby Valentine turned the double play poorly, but the outcome was two outs, he would stay in the lineup. If the rookie did it correctly, but for some reason the base runner beat the throw, then you have failed according the “Yankee Way.” It doesn’t matter that the latter will ultimately lead to more success; the Randy Levine Yankees want results.

People may say the Yankees have always been this way. Of course, that is partially true. The Yankee Way is why they were a failure in the 80s. It’s why they, despite their multi-billion dollar investment in payroll, have won only 1 World Series since 2001. The Yankees biggest run of success in the last 35-years was when Gene Michael and company eschewed the outcome for results. Don’t worry that Derek Jeter made 56 errors as a 19-year old shortstop; there is a long-term plan and potential.

The Yankees have the ability to win now and develop. No other team can say that. They have 12 starting pitchers to potential choose from throughout the season. No other team can say that. The problem is that none of them are set up for success since each and every outing is the seventh game of the World Series. The pressure is so insurmountable that I almost hope that Phelps, Banuelos, Betances, Warren, and Mitchell find their way to another organization since it’s probably their best chance for a sustainable big league career.

There is no escaping failure in baseball. Hitters fail 70% of the time. The best teams fail 40% of the time. Even in their illustrious history, the Yankees have failed to win the World Series well over 70% of the time. The last ten years that failure rate is in the 90% range.

It tells me the Yankee Way is not only a failure; it’s probably a failed philosophy. Maybe if the “Yankee Way” actually involved some sort of plan to develop young arms I could take it seriously. Instead, it comes across hollow, boorish and egotistical.

Did the “Yankee Way” hurt Michael Pineda? Who knows? I don’t think it helped. Does it hurt the organization? There is no doubt in my mind.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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11 Responses to Did the “Yankee Way” Hurt Pineda?

  1. Steve S.

    By his own admission, Pineda was overthrowing the ball in his last start. That caused his delivery to be off, his velocity to be no better and is the likely cause of the injury he sustained.

    And you know what? I’m glad it happened now, in a ST game that doesn’t matter rather than Game 2 of the WS. Hopefully he learned a lesson, that trying harder doesn’t work in baseball, and is often counter productive. He seems like a smart kid, and that lesson will be reinforced by what I suspect will be a long, long stay in AAA this year.

  2. Daler

    Earning a spot isn’t a bad thing. They got dealt damaged goods. They should have seen signs when his 2 half velocity dropped

  3. Steve S.

    His 2nd half velocity didn’t drop. His velocity was consistent throughout the year, and only dropped in his last start of the season, which was an emergency start on 11 days rest, after he had shut it down for the season because he hit his innings cap.

    The Yanks gave his a full physical that included and MRI before the deal was completed. He wasn’t damaged goods.

  4. Brien Jackson

    “…Pineda was overthrowing the ball in his last start. That caused his delivery to be off, his velocity to be no better and is the likely cause of the injury he sustained.”

    You don’t develop tendinitis over the course of 70 pitches.

  5. Chuck Johnson

    “You don’t develop tendinitis over the course of 70 pitches”

    Now would probably be a good time to look up “shoulder tendinitis”.

  6. Brien Jackson

    “Now would probably be a good time to look up “shoulder tendinitis”.”

    I’ve actually *had* tendinitis so…yeah.

  7. Chuck

    “I’ve actually *had* tendinitis so…yeah.”

    Obviously not from playing baseball.

    Let me help you out, here.

    http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/tendonitis/hic_shoulder_tendonitis.aspx

    “Direct blow to the shoulder area or falling on an outstretched arm”

  8. Brien Jackson

    Which didn’t happen in his last start so…what?

  9. Raul

    Do you really think having shoulder tendinitis once qualifies you to know how long it takes to get shoulder tendinitis?

    Seriously, dude.

    Let us hear your expertise on ankle injuries….

  10. Brien Jackson

    “Do you really think having shoulder tendinitis once qualifies you to know how long it takes to get shoulder tendinitis?”

    Having an orthopedic specialist explain it to you seems like a decent enough basis.

  11. Raul

    Fair enough.

    I once heard Neil DeGrasse Tyson explain black holes.
    BRB with a few thoughts…

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