NEW YORK -- As their suddenly crowded disabled list indicates, the Yankees have new problems that qualify as pressing, perplexing and -- for the moment -- without viable solutions. Just how does a team that traditionally has ridden left-handed starting pitching into October compensate for the absence of its two primary left-handed starters?
In comparison, a potential problem I recognized Tuesday night, when the 2012 summers of CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were not yet compromised, is unworthy of even the faintest fret. It's far off in the future, and even when it arrives, it will not unnerve the men in the manager's and general manager's offices. The guy who establishes the order of introductions at future Old Timers' Day celebrations may gulp, sweat, squirm and even tremble, though.
The issue is: Which Yankees icon should be the final introduction at future Old Timers' Day celebrations?
Not too pressing, right?
Well, one of these years, Derek Jeter will be the captain emeritus and Mariano Rivera, following a 45-save season in 2013, will be retired, too. Pettitte will have recovered and retired. Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill will be available to queue up along the first-base line as well. And who will be the last call?
The potential problem popped into my head when the Yankees reminded their public that the club's 66th Come as Your Were Party comes Sunday afternoon. No. 65 was a grand event, with Williams and Joe Torre in attendance for the first time. No. 66 has comparable potential. No franchise does anything nearly so well as the Yankees do the Yankees, so the celebration Sunday ought to be terrific.
Williams was the final introduction last year, a fitting tribute to a player who graced the franchise's most fabled position for 16 summers. How long was that distinction saved for Mick and/or Joe D.? For a period, the two former center fielders were alternated to keep each relatively pleased.
As long as Messrs. Berra and Ford are involved, Last Call goes to one -- or both. And perhaps, therein lies the solution for the Old Timers' Day celebrations of 2020, 2021, etc. -- create a Last Call tandem. Probably Jeter and Mo, a 3,000-hit shortstop and a 600-save closer.
It's hard to imagine either one asking to be last. DiMaggio assumed he would be last and made it clear he preferred that. But having two likely Hall of Fame players share Last Call won't resolve what to do with other players from the Torre-Girardi era.
Bernie, Paulie, Pettitte and Posada are/were special -- and quite popular -- components of the championship teams. And what of Torre? He ought to have the HOF monogram before too long. Where will he fit in the closing sequence?
Seems like a nice set of problems to have, like six quality starters. But problems can be termed "good" only if they come equipped with good solutions, solution that don't offend.
Ego is essential for success as a player. It works in consort with confidence. And ego doesn't necessarily fade with time. It can be an obstacle in a road paved with good intentions. For years, DiMaggio declined to sign a ball that had Mantle's signature on the sweet spot. Mantle eventually learned to decline when DiMaggio's name already graced a ball.
Yogi and Whitey just sign. In fact, some time ago Whitey willingly accommodated autograph-on-a-ball requests but first asked if he should leave the sweet spot for Mantle of DiMaggio. His ego didn't need to be stroked.
Jeter and Mo are similar people -- happy, confident and comfortable with who they are. Stroking could be unnecessary the first time they and all their contemporaries reassemble in the Bronx for the sake of nostalgia. Maybe the Last Call scenario never will become problematic.
Maybe they'll all be introduced and then -- oh yeah! -- Reggie and Goose will be presented. The Yankees may come to have too many Hall of Famers to fit in one afternoon.
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Some folks view the departure of Nick Swisher after this season as a foregone conclusion. Their logic is that the Yankees, hamstrung to some degree by their existing contracts with Alex Rodriguez and Sabathia, won't want to pay Swisher as they try to push their payroll to a figure that will free them from the luxury tax burden. Moreover, hometown discounts are rare when the Yankees are involved. Swisher might seek more from his wealthy incumbent employer than he might command on the open market.
That's one way to look at it. The other way is this:
This generation of Yankees seems to live by the home run, and Swisher hits home runs. He is well-suited for Yankee Stadium when he bats left-handed and hits for a higher average when he bats right-handed. Others who are more productive and play right field more effectively will become available. But they're not going to play for free in the Bronx. And the Yankees already know Swisher can deal with whatever the Big City presents, except, it seems, the postseason.
He has a .169 average, four home runs and six RBIs in 124 postseason at-bats.
Postseason opponents classify Swisher as "a guy who can be pitched to." But when opponents have pitched to him during his 3 1/2 regular seasons with the Yankees, he has hit 93 home runs. He may seem like a one-trick pony, but home runs are nice trick.
A guys who bats .280 with 40 doubles and a reasonable strikeout rate might benefit the batting order more than 25 home runs and a .250 average. But the Yankees may have needs other than right field to address when this season ends. Whither Pettitte and Mariano? What of A-Rod's run production?
Moreover, Swisher is popular with the public. So he may not be as close to the exit as some folks believe.