3:38 PM PDT, March 31, 2013
The once proud-and-loud New York Yankees have been reduced to a Seinfeld punch line as they prep for Opening Day against their arch-nemesis, the Boston Red Sox.
Remember the line when a flabbergasted Jerry gets the news that the Yankees have hired his neurotic pal, George Costanza?
"Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle ... Costanza?!"
Fast-forward to 2013: "Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle ... Vernon Wells?!"
Perhaps the Yankees should start the 2013 season Monday wearing "Hello my name is" tags on their uniform, reflecting a team in disarray and decline. New York's Opening Day roster will include a payroll of $80 million allotted guys on the disabled list, including the embarrassing albatross known as Alex Rodriguez.
These Yankees are far from looking like playoff contenders. More like the fourth-best team in the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. And in a worst-case scenario, they could be looking at their first losing season since 1992.
This is cosmic payback for fans of all those other teams who have suffered through the years and years of pinstripe dynasties. The Yankees have been the Beasts of the East and other territories in major league baseball, winning a record 27 World Series championships and 40 American League titles.
Sit back and enjoy the view this season, Yankee haters. The Yankees are in the elevator and plunging toward the basement.
Wells — who has a .222 average over the last two seasons — and Lyle Overbay are among the veteran retreads in the Yankees clubhouse. The desperate Yankees also made a play for Derrek Lee and Chipper Jones in the offseason. I wonder if Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken got any calls from general manager Brian Cashman?
In Cashman's defense, he is in a tough bind having to fill in the gaps to deal with numerous injuries. Mark Teixeira has an injured wrist. Curtis Granderson has a broken right arm. Derek Jeter has a bum ankle. Right-hander Phil Hughes, the team's No. 4 starter, also starts the season on the DL.
And has anyone checked out the "healthy" guys?
Andy Pettitte will be 41 in June. Mariano Rivera may still be a beast, but he is 43 after missing last year with an injury. Ichiro Suzuki is 39. Jeter turns 39 in June. Ditto for Travis Hafner. Kevin Youkilis turns 35 in two weeks.
A recent analysis by Yahoo Sports calculated that the optimum year for productivity for the Yankees starting lineup was in 2007. Anybody got a hot-tub time machine?
And then there's Rodriguez, a doubleheader liability: An aging, injured star with the most cumbersome contract in professional sports.
The Yankees upped the ante to keep Rodriguez in pinstripes in 2007, after he had opted out of his original deal. They still owe him $114 million, much of which looks to be wasted on a guy who hit .120 in the postseason last fall and is still recuperating from hip surgery in January.
Even more damaging is the issue of performance-enhancing drugs. Already admitting once to using the spiked jungle juice, Rodriguez is now fending off allegations linking him to an anti-aging clinic in Miami suspected of supplying Rodriguez and other players with a little extra pick-me-up.
Assuming Rodriguez was juicing, he should demand a refund. The allegation is also very believable in a sports era where players in every sport are using any edge necessary to remain competitive.
To review, the Yankees are old, injured and strapped financially because of the most ridiculous contract in pro sports.
Their 2013 season comes down to the effectiveness of legal pain medication and recuperative healing powers.
Don't be surprised to see a picture of Costanza, A-Rod and Jeter in that hot-tub time machine.
Copyright © 2014, Orlando Sentinel