Almost two months ago, the New York Yankees had a 10-game lead in the American League East and looked like they were cruising into the postseason.
The pitching rotation was consistent, Rafael Soriano was making people forget about Mariano Rivera, future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki was being added to the team and the batting lineup was doing enough.
The mood surrounding the Yankees was so peaceful that manager Joe Girardi was repeatedly asked about how he would give sufficient rest to some of his star players as the Yanks geared up for a World Series run.
Fast forward to the present and the Yankees are fighting for their postseason spot and are in a similar position to last year’s Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox had a similar cushion last season before imploding in the final two months, and ended up missing the postseason.
The fallout from that was significant, as manager Terry Francona was fired, GM Theo Epstein resigned from his post and the Red Sox clubhouse was turned upside down as the blame game started.
While there may not be anything as gossip worth as the “Chicken and Beer” episode in the Red Sox clubhouse, there could be significant changes to the Yankees and their front office if they miss the postseason.
Here are some things that I project happening should the New York Yankees fail to reach the postseason:
Farewell Nick Swisher
Since coming over from the White Sox, Nick Swisher has been a fan favorite and a solid contributor on the field.
When you factor in his all-round disappointing season as well as his ghastly postseason numbers in pinstripes (16-100 with a batting average of .160), Swisher does not look like he’s in the long-term plans for the Yankees.
Throw in his seemingly unrealistic contract expectations, and we could very much be seeing the last of Nick Swisher in a Yankees uniform.
Possible Curtis Granderson Trade
Perhaps no hitter has epitomized the Yankees season better than Curtis Granderson.
Plenty of power, flair and production, but when it counts it comes up small.
Granderson does have an impressive 35 home runs, but along the way he has somehow turned into the Yankees version of Mark Reynolds. Every time it seems as if Granderson is swinging for the fences and as his .235 batting average and 168 strikeouts point out, he misses more times than he hits.
His form has been so bad of late—his three-hit game the other day withstanding—that Joe Giradi has considered benching him. Personally I’ve lost count on the amount of times Granderson has come out in a big situation and struck out.
With Granderson’s contract coming off the books at the end of 2013, the Yankees must decide if it’s worth keeping him around one more year or trading him and perhaps acquiring some assets.
Granderson’s current contract is quite reasonable, but it is his next contract that might scare off the Yankees, as he will be in line for a massive contract.
Most likely the Yankees give him one more chance, but if the right deal can be struck the Yanks must go for it.
Kevin Long May Be Given the Pink Slip
A season-long trend, and something that has been harped on by almost every Yankees beat writer and fan has been the team’s collective struggles with runners in scoring position.
Whether it’s a team-wide mentality of swinging for the fences or some other reason, they have been times, particularly in this slump, that the Yankees haven’t been able to buy a hit with RISP.
The blame for these problems can be spread around, but a great deal of it should go on hitting coach Kevin Long.
A lot of people may disagree, as the Yankees have always had great offenses during Long’s tenure, but that is more a product of the Yankees payroll than Kevin Long.
While people like to point out Long’s work with Granderson as a reason for the Yankees keeping him around, he actually didn’t do anything but turn Granderson into nothing more than a home run hitter.
Case in point, in two of his three years in New York, Granderson’s OPS has been less than his career average.
When you consider the mess he made with Derek Jeter early last year and the fact that the most expensive hitting lineup in the league can’t get a simple hit, Long’s time at the Yankees could be almost over.
Joe Girardi Will Be Fired or Given One More Year
Despite leading the Yankees to the World Series in his second season, Joe Girardi has his head on the chopping block right now, and if the Yankees miss the postseason, he could be sent packing.
The manager has oft been criticized for his in-game decision making and his dedication to his binder. And while I believe he has done a decent job this season, missing the postseason twice in five years does not bode well for his job security.
Remember the Yankees made the postseason 13 times in a row before Girardi’s inaugural season, in which they missed the playoffs.
The younger Steinbrenner is quite different to the Boss, who likely would’ve fired Girardi immediately if he missed the postseason, so there is hope for Girardi if the Yankees miss the playoffs.
If he does stick, however, he will definitely be on his final chance.
Do the Yankees Stick With a $189 Million Payroll Plan?
It’s been the elephant in the room for the last year or so, but should the Yankees fail to reach the postseason, will Hal Steinbrenner move forward with his desire for a maximum payroll of $189 million?
With the Yankees best player, Robinson Cano, due for a large contract in 2013 and big money already tied up to Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and others, can the Yankees really afford to cut the payroll and remain as a World Series contender?
In my opinion, if the pinstripes aren’t in the playoffs this season, that whole $189 million plan should be scrapped unless Brian Cashman can somehow offload the contracts of A-Rod and Teixeira.
All things considered I still believe the Yankees will make the postseason and many of the above points will be forgotten. By the facts remains the many of the New York Yankees face crossroads with their Yankee futures.