New York Yankees Might Soon Bear Little Resemblance to the Championship Teams
The New York Yankees season is over following their disastrous performance in the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. They never led for a single inning, were shut out in 36 out of 39 innings and saw the entire offense, with the exception of Ichiro Suzuki and Eduardo Núñez, collapse. They only scored a single run by a method other than a home run in the entire series.
It was a complete and utter domination by the Tigers' pitching staff.
The Yankees have recently faced bad postseason defeats. The agony of the 2001 World Series slipping away or the great collapse of the 2004 ALCS come to mind.
And the Yankees have faced behind-the-scenes drama involving Alex Rodriguez and the manager before. Remember how Joe Torre batted the slumping A-Rod eighth in the 2006 Division Series in Detroit or how A-Rod opted out famously during the 2007 World Series while Joe Torre moved on?
The Yankees always found ways to bounce back and in some strange way resemble the teams that won so many titles with dignity in the 1990s and early 2000s.
This year it feels different. And it is an ominous feeling. Yes, the Yankees won 95 games and the Division and made it to the ALCS. For most fan bases, that would be a remarkable achievement.
But the clouds on the horizon in the Bronx are pointing to a disappointment for 2013 that is far worse than losing a playoff series.
Going into 2013, the Yankees need to resolve their Alex Rodriguez situation. The team seems more concerned with making him the scapegoat of the team rather than putting their best team on the field by the end of the series.
Alex Rodriguez is fading fast as a player to the point where paying him $3 million for one season might be the limit a team should do. Instead the Yankees are on the hook for $20 million plus—for the next five.
Paying all of that for him to play elsewhere would be insane. So would pretending that the situation is fixable. And so would be taking on the Heath Bells and Vernon Wells of the world to off set the deal.
The team and A-Rod made their bed and now they have to lie in it.
As for the team entering the next year, Robinson Canó is one of the elite players in the game. He will be the centerpiece of the team and the lineup. And Eduardo Núñez at age 25 can play well and, as seen in the ALCS, can hit a little bit as well. Beyond those two, there is nothing but question marks all over the lineup.
Mark Teixeira will be a year older and his production has been gradually declining since the 2009 World Championship. Eric Chavez has been a nice story, but he will be 35 and has a history of injuries. Brett Gardner played a dozen games in 2012 and could be a nice fourth outfielder.
Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones and Russell Martin can all be free agents and none will be exactly missed.
Raúl Ibañez and Ichiro Suzuki are also free agents. They performed in the post season, but Ibañez will be 41 and Ichiro will be 39 next season. And both gave the Yankees a nice burst of energy at the end of the season but can not be counted on that for the full year.
And the pitching staff is overly reliant on pitchers over 30.
How will the Yankees do in 2013?
Andy Pettitte will be 41. Hiroki Kuroda will be 38. CC Sabathia, as brilliant as he can be, will be 32. Rafael Soriano will be 33. Teams that lean too heavily on aging pitchers tend to pay.
And while Michael Pineda will be 24 years old, there is no way to forecast how he will pitch after missing an entire season.
Plus the links to the great championship years are getting fainter and fainter. This might have been Mariano Rivera's final season if not for his injury. At age 42, he has already lasted longer than any reliever could ever wish. Any inning thrown in 2013 would have to be looked upon as a bonus.
As for the captain, Derek Jeter, there are different problems. Jeter will be 39 next year. Most teams do not have a starting shortstop approaching 40. Omar Vizquel pulled it off, but Jeter never had Vizquel's range even in his prime. Even fewer teams would have a 39 year old shortstop coming off of a broken ankle.
When Cal Ripken was 39, he had already moved to third base two years earlier and his streak was over for more than a year. When Robin Yount was 39, he had been retired for over a year.
Putting Jeter back at shortstop, especially with Nunez on the team, would smack of being stubborn and overly respectful to Jeter.
The team could be old and injury prone with very little help coming from the farm system. There could be inner strife in management and more and more empty seats seen in the new colossus in the Bronx.
And the notion of the Yankees being able to fill all their holes with free agents is overrated. Signing the big priced free agents often causes more problems than it solves. And the Yankees have been avoiding the big ticket free agents recently. As I wrote in a previous article, the free spending Yankee days may have ended with the death of George Steinbrenner.
And what free agent would turn the Yankees' fortunes around? Injury-prone Josh Hamilton? Up-and-down pitchers like Zack Greinke or Kyle Lohse?
There is a good chance that the 2013 team might not be a contender. If fans booed the 2012 team, imagine if the Yankees do not put a winning product on the field.
And they do not have to look any further than their rivals for a precedent.
The Boston Red Sox went from a 90 win team in 2011 to a 93 loss team in 2012. Along the way they saw injuries to critical players, internal struggles regarding the direction of the team, apathy from the stars, a laughably thin pitching staff, controversy with the manager and an aging roster filled with gigantic contracts.
The Mets looked like they were built solidly to contend for many years to come, especially in the mid-2000s. They won the Division in 2006 and nearly made it to the World Series. In 2007 and 2008 they stumbled down the stretch but were consistent winners.
Then the team got old and brittle and tried to patch too many holes with free agents who did not fit. They haven't had a winning season since entering Citi Field.
The Philadelphia Phillies were putting together the greatest team in the city's history. They posted nine straight winning seasons and, starting in 2007, rattled off five consecutive division titles, back-to-back pennants and the 2008 World Championship. With the greatest pitching staff since the Braves of the 1990s, they were going to contend for the rest of the decade.
But starting from the moment Ryan Howard collapsed during the final out of the 2011 Division Series, the Phillies' fortunes have crumbled. It took an 18-12 finish to reach a break even .500. The team was never a factor, falling 14 games under .500 at one point in July. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee are slowly becoming multiple albatrosses on the payroll.
Since the 1994 strike, the Yankees have put one of the best teams on the field year in and year out, only missing one post season along the way.
But all great runs come to an end. And this particular Yankee squad does not seem to have many reinforcements ready.
For fans who complained about too much attention put on Northeastern teams, your dream season might happen in 2013.
Careful, Yankee fans. You might have something to really boo next year.
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