David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
We've come to expect two things from the Yankees in October. Either a confetti-strewn parade down the Canyon of Heroes or a Steinbrenner apologizing for why it didn't happen. And after saying sorry, there always was the pledge to bring another World Series trophy to New York the following season.
But not this time.
Two days after the Yankees' final game, a forgettable 14-inning win over the Astros, we got Brian Cashman at the podium -- and no promises. Whereas The Boss would have channeled MacArthur, or his son, Hal, might have leaned on the franchise's championship legacy, Cashman delivered the cold, hard truth.
The 2013 Yankees won 85 games, the fewest for a full season in two decades, and are now staring at financial Armageddon next year with an overpaid, aging roster that is not backed up by the minor-league talent to provide reinforcements.
Hope everyone enjoyed all those farewell ceremonies to Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte last week. Because in the future, there may not be a heck of a lot to celebrate. Unless the Yankees can solve the team's many problems over the course of one winter, and the GM understands just how difficult that will be.
"There's a reality of the situation," Cashman said. "I'm not afraid of the reality. None of the people here are afraid of the reality. We recognize there's some challenges that we have to deal with. And we're up for that challenge.
"But I can't sit here and tell you, 'Yeah, don't worry about it. It's going to be fine.' It's going to take some time. Some of it can be fixed sooner than later. Others might take some time."
What makes matters worse is that some of the Yankees' biggest issues are beyond their control. Cashman suggested the team is ready to give Joe Girardi a blank check to stay on as manager, but if it's not strictly about the money for Girardi, there's nothing else the Yankees can do to keep him away from the Cubs or the broadcast booth.
Same goes for Robinson Cano. If Cano is looking for every last dime in his next contract, the Yankees could always be outbid by some mystery team. Judging by the nearly $140-million gap that caused the in-season negotiations with Cano to collapse, the Yankees most likely will give their free-agent second baseman a last, best offer to shop around before wishing him well in Texas or D.C. or wherever.
And what of Alex Rodriguez? How fitting that Fredric Horowitz, the arbitrator in A-Rod's PED hearing, could be the key to the Yankees' entire offseason, especially as it pertains to their stated intention of getting below the $189-million luxury-tax threshold for 2014. In the unlikely event Horowitz wipes out Rodriguez's 211-game suspension, that puts the Yankees on the hook for his entire $25 million next season. If it's trimmed back to 50 games, that saves them only $7.7 million; 100 games, $15.6 million.
But as much as the Yankees would love to pocket that money, they actually need a productive Rodriguez, who showed over the final two months -- when healthy -- that the hip surgery had restored his missing power of a year ago. Plus, Cashman spent $12 million on A-Rod's supposed replacement, Kevin Youkilis, who was limited to 28 games because of his season-ending back surgery.
As much as the Yankees scrambled for solutions, the whole time it felt like Cashman was only treading water, delaying the inevitable for as long as he could. The GM credited ownership for spending the cash to take on Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano in an attempt to cover up for the crippling number of injuries to key players. But these were short-term patch jobs, and not moves that a franchise can pin championship hopes on. The Yankees were just too damaged -- and continue to be.
"We've been fortunate for a long time to avoid what took place this year," Cashman said. "What happened this year has happened to other clubs. It's derailed them and we've benefited. "The bottom line is you have to put together an organization from top to bottom. This year was my responsibility as general manager. I take full responsibility for that."
That was as close as Cashman got to saying he was sorry Tuesday. But if the Yankees don't retain Girardi and Cano, or make the necessary improvements this offseason, there could be a lot more to apologize for.