From 1996 to 2000, the New York Yankees won four World Series, establishing a modern-day dynasty at a time when such a notion seemed outdated. In winning their 27th championship last week - their first since 2000 - the Yankees prompted talk that they might be poised to begin another dynasty. After all, the Yankees have a strong nucleus of star players, a productive farm system and, thanks to their market size and new ballpark, an almost unlimited budget.
But a closer look suggests that the Yankees may be hard pressed to duplicate their successes of a decade ago. For one thing, increased revenue sharing has helped level the playing field. Throughout this past decade, no World Series winners have successfully defended their title and only two - the Red Sox and the Yankees - have won more than once. Further, the core of the Yankees is getting older and free agency could further weaken the roster.
This winter, the left fielder Johnny Damon and the designated hitter (DH) - and World Series MVP - Hideki Matsui are eligible for free agency and may not be retained. Those losses would leave sizeable holes in the team's everyday line up. Additionally, the left-handed pitcher Andy Pettitte, 37, is a free agent and could retire, leaving an opening in the starting rotation. Then there is the elderly nature of the line up. The catcher Jorge Posada is 39 and the shortstop Derek Jeter is 35. Productive as they have been, they must eventually begin to slow. It could be that Posada will evolve into a DH as the Yanks determine who will be their catcher of the future.
The bullpen closer Mariano Rivera is also 39, but shows no sign of slowing down, and may stay at the top of his game if the Yankees continue to manage his workload as they have done in recent years. Their starting rotation - except Pettitte - is stable and looks like being dominant for a number of years, led by CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett (last year's twin free agent signings) with help from Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.
The bullpen is less certain beyond Rivera, but the Yanks should be able to patch the late innings together, either with the current candidates (Brian Bruney, Phil Coke, Alfredo Aceves), or by supplementing the line up through free agency. The corner infielders, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, are set for the long term, but the second baseman Robinson Cano, who remains something of an enigma, could conceivably be dealt off to address more pressing needs.
After spending more than US$420 million (Dh1.54 billion) last year to land Teixeira, Sabathia and Burnett - to say nothing of another $380m the previous winter to secure Rodriguez, Posada and Rivera long-term - the Yankees might begin scaling back their spending. That would seem to take them out of the running for inviting free agent possibilities such as the outfielders Jason Bay and Matt Holiday and the starting pitcher John Lackey. Having won the World Series after a nine-year drought, the Yanks will not feel pressure - external or internal - to spend wildly for a third off-season in a row.
In fact, a more likely scenario has them tweaking the roster around the edges without any dramatic - or expensive - moves, then marshalling their considerable resources the following winter when the outfielder Carl Crawford and the catcher Joe Mauer hit the free agent market. In the meantime, a 28th title cannot be ruled out. But neither can it be counted on, regardless of the franchise's resources.