("And I played Wells too, BAHAHAHAHA!!!!!" Courtesy of Getty Images)
With little to play for entering last night's game except pride, many around the blogopshere were calling for Joe to pull the plug on the sub-replacement level guys like Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, and Chris Stewart, and play the kids. Knowing that you've got nothing to work with in those 3, it made sense for next season to see what you've got in guys like J.R. Murphy, Zoilo Almonte, and even David Adams and Dellin Betances. Yet there were Ichiro's, Wells', and Stewart's names on last night's lineup card while the young guys stayed glued to the bench.
We all saw how that decision worked out and it wasn't pretty. If you're upset at the call by Joe and don't understand why he did that, the answer is pretty simple.
Joe kept those guys in the starting lineup last night because they're all coming back next year. Ichiro and Wells are already under contract for 2014, per the decisions made by the front office to sign/trade for them. And Stewart, shitty as he is, is more than likely going to be back in camp next spring competing for the catching job. Austin Romine and Murphy may be the heirs apparent, and Francisco Cervelli is a better player, but the Yanks might let him walk to distance themselves from PEDs. They aren't giving the starting and backup catcher jobs to 2 young guys, no matter how much we may all want them to, and Joe and Cash are in love with Stewart's supposed defense. There's a good chance he's at least the backup catcher again next season.
Even with nothing left to play for this season, it's not like the Yankees can just cast Ichiro and Wells aside for 5 games at the end of this season only to bring them back next year. What kind of message does that send to those players? "Hey guys, we know you were so horrible last fall that Joe decided to bench you in the final 6 meaningless games. But now that it's this year, how'd you like to have your starting jobs back?" Not that anybody should be expecting bounce back seasons from Wells or Ichiro next year, but I imagine it's a little difficult to get motivated as a player when you know the team you're playing for doesn't even want you. That's the message that benching them for the kids sends and it's not a message the Yankees can afford to send to players they're counting on to play for them in 2014.
Yes it's completely stupid. It's not a move I agree with and it's certainly not a move I'm trying to defend. Sooner or later the front office needs to realize that the days of relying on declining veterans being "rejuvenated by the pinstripes" are over and are a moronic way to go about building a contending team. But they've already raised the white flag on contending next year with how they went about constructing the team this year. They're pot committed to Ichiro and Wells and they know it. They brought them in intending to get 2 years out of them and they have to honor that commitment because they aren't going to go out and sign or trade for better, younger players this offseason.
As far as Betances is concerned, I don't know what the logic is there. The guy could walk after ST next year and the Yankees aren't even giving him a look over Joba, who they know they aren't bringing back. It's an ass backwards way of thinking, another example of how poorly conceived this payroll ceiling plan was. It's also the only thing that makes any sense to try to explain Joe's decision. In a way, he's still managing for 2014 by playing the Stewarts and Ichiros of the world. He's just managing to protect the pride and attitude of the crappy players he knows he'll still have in his lineup again instead of trying to build the pride and attitude of the younger ones he could have.