That thud is the sound of the Yankees recent era of great baseball coming to an end. Joe Torre has been the manager for 12 years and has been the most consistent winner in that time. Sure, the Yankees spent (and wasted) tons of money. But, it's been shown that winning in baseball is about more than just assembling the most high-priced talent. The key to success is pitching depth, with one or two strong starters at the top of the rotation. And, the talent you put on the field has to deliver at the right time.
The Yankees last won the World Series in 2000, winning for the fourth time in five years at that time. After that, they have fallen short:
2001 -- Lost to Diamondbacks in World Series, in one of the greatest World Series ever
2002 -- Lost to eventual Champion Anaheim in ALDS
2003 -- Lost to Marlins in World Series after emotional win over Red Sox in ALCS
2004 -- Crushing defeat to eventual Champion Red Sox in ALCS
2005 -- Lost to Angels in ALDS in 5 games
2006 -- Lost to eventual AL Champion Detroit in ALDS
2007 -- Lost to Cleveland in ALDS
Even though the Yankees are the only repeat playoff team from 2006 and had to dig themselves out of a big hole to get there, they have underachieved vs. fan expectations since 2000. Any of these outcomes are not surprising. It's very tough to win every year. But, the body of work from 2001-2007 shows that this era in Yankee history needs to come to an end. Sometimes you have to step back in order to move ahead, and I think that's what the Yankees have to do.
I actually think that they should keep manager Joe Torre. I think that Joe is a great manager and has shown that he can motivate a team and manage to win. It's hard to point to a lot of bad decisions he made in the years listed above. The Yankee players just didn't get it done often enough. But, I don't know if the Yankees can do this. The Boss (George Steinbrenner) may feel that a new start is needed as the Yankees go younger.
The Yankees have a lot of young talent, some of which was showcased this year (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Ian Kennedy, for example). They have some veterans under contract that they should keep (Derek Jeter). But, they have a lot of players who are at the end of their contract or can opt out of their contract (Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte). They have to figure out what to do with guys like Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreau, Jason Giambi. I think that this group is overpaid, although some of them have had decent stats.
Having learned from my start-up days, I think that the Yankees should sweep as cleanly as they can. Players who are clearly productive (Posada, Rivera, Rodriguez, Pettitte) should be pursued. But, Brian Cashman shouldn't overpay for any of them. The Yankees have a favorable contract for Rodriguez, with Texas subsidizing his huge salary. If A-Rod opts out of that contract, the Yankees should let him go. As a fan, I'd support an exciting young team with some pitching depth, even if they fall short for a year or two. I think that over the past few years the Yankees have stuck too long with sentimental favorites and haven't had enough pitching depth.
The Yankees era of success was built around a core of young home grown players (Jeter, Posada, Bernie Williams, Pettitte, Rivera). These players started appearing in 1994 and 1995 (where the Yankees were the first Wild Card team and lost in 5 games to Seattle in the ALDS after being up 2-0 -- shades of 2004!).
It's time to rebuild that core for the next era. They are already off to a good start.