David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Joe Torre put in a sympathy call Tuesday night to Joe Girardi. As one Yankees manager to another, Torre wanted to offer his condolences for the injury to Mark Teixeira, who suffered a strained wrist tendon on Team USA's watch.
Now that we've learned Teixeira is expected to miss eight to 10 weeks, he might want to send flowers, too.
"That blew me over," Torre said.
Imagine how Girardi is handling it. And Brian Cashman, who must be feeling like the unluckiest baseball executive alive. He discussed the Yankees' injuries while seated in a wheelchair, only two days removed from ankle surgery, the result of a skydiving accident.
The Yankees seem to be falling just as fast, with no rip cord to pull. The way this year's roster was designed -- heavy on the aging veterans without enough insurance -- what we're seeing now is a dangerous convergence of bad luck and poor planning.
It's not a worst-case scenario yet, but we're creeping closer to that point with Opening Day 31/2 weeks away. Like Teixeira, who at 32 is a youngster for this group, Curtis Granderson was not supposed to be a potential problem spot. The real red flags were Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, based on their age and rehab status.
Who's to say they make it through spring training as highly functioning pieces? Or an entire season for that matter? With Granderson tentatively scheduled to return from a fractured forearm by early May, the Yankees figured they could get by with their in-house alternatives. But for Teixeira, they have none, especially if they keep Kevin Youkilis at third base, which Cashman suggested Wednesday.
"He provides flexibility," the general manager said. "The problem is, if you move Youk, you need a third baseman. Third base is very difficult. First is always an easier position to fill than third."
The Yankees have a potential infielder-in-waiting with Eduardo Nuñez, but they stubbornly refuse to play him anywhere but shortstop, a position he's not trusted at anyway. Nunez has shown he can contribute offensively, and the Yankees aren't exactly swimming in options at the moment.
Cashman keeps talking like all of these problems will eventually be waved away. The Yankees will become whole again, win 95 games and skate into the playoffs for the 18th time in 19 years. The reality is shaping up to be something very different.
As bad as it is to be missing both Granderson and Teixeira for the first six weeks of the regular season, which creates a giant crater in the middle of the Yankees' lineup, that's still relying on a setback-free rehab. Granderson's broken bone isn't that complicated of an injury, so his return should fall somewhere on that timeline. Teixeira's wrist, however, is trickier.
Cashman hinted at the potential long-term danger by comparing Teixeira's injury to the same one suffered by Jose Bautista last season. The Blue Jays slugger hurt his wrist fouling off a pitch on July 16 against the Yankees and was never the same, with never-ending inflammation, failed comeback attempts and ultimately season-ending surgery in August, with a recommended six-month recovery period.
That doesn't mean Teixeira is headed down the same road, but it's not the most encouraging bit of information for Cashman, either. And with the Yankees' luck lately, it's probably best to anticipate the worst. With the franchise trying to tiptoe the line separating the fading embers of the 2009 title and a full rebuild for the future, Cashman is finding the middle ground to be very unstable.
At this point in spring training, there's no sense talking about replacements for Granderson and Teixeira. Those voids can't be adequately filled -- even halfway -- with the fringe players likely available. Cashman has been pushed into survival mode, partly of his own doing, with the team's best prospects too deep in the system to step up and lend a hand.
It's got to be a helpless feeling -- and more so for a GM currently using a wheelchair to get around. With these injuries to Granderson and Teixeira, the Yankees have been rendered powerless. Almost.
"If you start to feel sorry for yourself," Torre said, "there will be a lot of people walking over the top of you."
In the AL East, the other teams are happily lacing up their spikes to do just that. Sorry or not, the Yankees don't look like they're capable of preventing it.