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Red Sox had their turn; are the Yankees next?

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  April 4, 2013 10:45 AM

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NEW YORK When the Red Sox fell apart last season, some fans in Boston were astounded. The Sox had not had a losing record since 1997 and the idea that their team could finish in last place was hard to accept.

Consider all that it took to make that happen: A record-setting amount of injuries, a series of poor choices made in building the team and picking a blasting cap named Bobby Valentine as manager. But it was inevitable, too. Teams in all sports, no matter how successful, get a boulder dropped on them at some point.

The Sox were lucky. The Dodgers absolved them of their sins by taking Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez off their hands and John Farrell was willing to come back and attempt to fix the whole mess. If you look at the Sox payroll, their young talent in the majors and the players in Triple A and Double A, they're in an excellent position for the future.

It may not result in the playoffs this season, but a downward trend years in the making has shifted.

After two days of watching the Yankees, you have to wonder how that will happen here.

Joe Girardi is not the problem. But it's amazing to see a Yankees lineup that goes from Robinson Cano hitting third to Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. If this were 2007, that would be pretty good. But it's 2013.

Derek Jeter may not be back to May and he needs to be able to play shortstop to be of value to the team. At 38 and coming off a broken ankle, can he do that?

Mark Teixeira is not expected back until late May or early June. He remains a capable player, but his OPS+ has declined three years in a row.

Alex Rodriguez may or may not be back this season after hip surgery and could face a suspension as MLB pursues its investigation of the Biogenesis matter. Even if he does return, he's a hugely expensive player in sharp decline.

No team, not even the Dodgers, will take A-Rod. Jeter is not going anywhere and has a player option for 2014.

Curtis Granderson will come back from a broken arm and will certainly improve the lineup. But his 84 home runs the last two seasons also have come with a 364 strikeouts and last year a .319 OBP.

Andy Pettitte, the No. 3 starter, is 40 and has not thrown more than 129 innings since 2009. CC Sabathia remains formidable. But Red Sox batters were remarking on Monday at how much he used his changeup and avoided challenging them with fastballs. Sabathia is signed through 2016 with a vesting option for 2017.

The Yankees have talent in the lower reaches of their farm system. But there is no position player prospect seemingly ready to make a significant contribution this season. Until they get their stars back, the Yankees have to patch up their lineup and hope for the best.

Brian Cashman is one of the best general managers in the game and the Yankees have resources that can change the look of their team in a hurry. But there does come a time, as the Red Sox proved last season, when a step back becomes inescapable.

The Yankees have not had a losing record since 1992 and it would be foolhardy to predict that will happen this season based on two games. But so far a lot has gone wrong for New York and the hole is getting deeper.

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