Who: Staten Island Yankees
What: Staten Island Yankees versus Brooklyn Cyclones
Where: Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St George, Staten Island, New York
When: Early September 2018
The Yankees have one of the highest ranked farm systems in Major League Baseball (MLB) and the New York Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman has made it clear that this major league team’s future success depends on that factor more than it does on bringing in high-priced free agents in the prime (or after the prime) of their career.
MLB has a luxury tax (officially called the “competitive balance tax”) which is currently set at $197,000,00. The owners of the club, the Steinbrenner family, stated a few years ago that it was their goal to get their spending under that figure and to remain under that threshold in years to come. The only way for the Yankees to do this is to develop young players within their own system and it appears that in 2018, they have achieved this for the first time. This will mean that only the Washington Nationals and the Boston Red Sox will need to pay the tax this year.
As well as reducing the Yankees wage bill, this has begun to show its first fruits at the major league level. Last year, young stars like Aaron Judge emerged. This year, their infield has been stocked with rookies, Miguel Andujar (third-base) and Gleyber Torres (shortstop). The Yankees confidence in this decision has seemed to buckle a little at times this season as they have sought to restock their starting rotation with short-term acquisitions at the expense of some of the younger players at Triple-A (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders) or Double-A (Trenton Thunder). The out-going players have gone on to immediately be part of the rosters of Major League teams (if not yet everyday players).
But the truth is that the Yankees farm system had become very deep and these youngsters may have never got a chance to make it to the Bronx. The Yankees are still probably the fifth or sixth best farm system in the majors.
Ironically, the strongest farm system belongs to the San Diego Padres who have one of the weakest performing major league teams. The balance is surely to have strong feeder teams and a strong major league outfit. This is still a few years down the road for the Padres who will then probably not be able to maintain any level of success because of low income and low-ticket sales.Their future will involve developing young players and then trading them when the wage bill is about to bite.
So how is it for the Staten Island Yankees? Are they reaping the benefits of the Yankees concentration on youth? The short answer is “no”. The Staten Island team play in the New York-Penn League and play at the short season level-A within the baseball system. That means they are the sixth level in the Yankees system, five steps below the New York Yankees themselves.
This year the Staten Island Yankees played 73 of their 75 scheduled games (there would have been more if they had reached the post-season playoffs – which they didn’t). A weak finish saw them drift out from 2.5 games behind the divisional leaders, the Hudson Valley Renegades, to 7 games behind – with 37 wins and 36 losses for a .507 win percentage. Whilst this may not sound too bad – six teams in the other NY-Penn divisions finished with a worse record – the evidence is to be seen on the field.
The truth is that as you sit and watch this team, there is very little to suggest you can see many of these players progressing much further up the Yankees’ ladder or even approaching the major league level one day. The oldest players on the roster are 25, the youngest are 19. There are players on the Yankees’ major league 25-man roster who are younger than the oldest players here.
The team in their final home game of the season against the Brooklyn Cyclones only lost 5-4 but the harsh truth is that they never looked like winning. The Yankees’ batters were out-matched by their opponents pitching. The Yankees’ pitching did not look good.
When discussion take place inside and outside the Yankees’ management about prospects for the future, few of the names on this roster are being mentioned. At best, a few of these guys will move up to the next level of “A”-ball next season. One or two might be given an extra season to show what they can do on Staten Island. Some will face the fact they are going to be released. Unlike the mascot, Scooter the Holy Cow, the players know that if they are not advancing their time here will not be long. Scooter has been dancing on top of the dugouts between innings since the park opened but even other mascots are no longer around. Nobody seems to remember what happened to Scooter’s relative, Huck, in these parts. The same fate awaits the players who don’t make the grade.
In the previous years, I have sat and watched players here who I knew would go on to better things and would be the stars of better teams than this. But only a few made it to Triple-A, even less to the majors.
For the others in their early or mid-twenties, they will find they have no future in MLB and then the difficult choices of their future careers begin. They will have to develop a life outside of professional sports – maybe 5 or 6 years behind their peers.