Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees Share Troubling Similarities
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Watching the disintegration of the 2012 New York Yankees in this postseason, aside from being sort of a joyful exercise for many, has brought back a lot of ugly recent postseason memories for Phillies fans.
The Yankees are down 0-3 to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series primarily because the offense that was second in the major leagues in runs scored during the regular season has scored one run in the past two games. That run came in the ninth inning of Game 3 on a solo home run from Derek Jeter's backup.
It is not as though the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles up in the Division Series, either. But for unexpected heroics from Raul Ibanez, the Yankees would not have reached the ALCS at all. The Yankees are hitting an even .200 as a team through eight playoff games. More shockingly, they are slugging an absurdly low .317.
To Phillies fans, this smacks of getting shut out at home in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals. And it is not far removed from scoring a scant two runs at home in a Game 6 loss in the 2010 National League Championship Series to the San Francisco Giants.
Big payroll teams failing to hit in the playoffs.
That is not all the Yankees and the Phillies have in common these days.
"Four more years" is not just a political chant; Howard will be manning first base for the Phillies for that much longer.
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Phillies fans hope 2012 was an aberration for Halladay.
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Holes Around the Diamond
Will the Captain be 100 percent in time for 2013?
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The Phillies enter the upcoming free agent signing period with needs at the following positions: third base, two outfield positions (assuming Domonic Brown can play; if not, it's the whole outfield) and middle/late relief to get the ball to Jonathan Papelbon.
The Yankees are likely to lose Nick Swisher to free agency. If A-Rod leaves, they need a third baseman. Derek Jeter's ankle injury, serious enough to require surgery and a four- or five-month recovery period, means his status is in question for Opening Day. Plus, Jeter will turn 39 next June.
One must wonder how long he can play a position as physically demanding as shortstop at that age, particularly if he must do so on an unsound ankle.
The Yankees outfield could also stand some reinforcements, unless they believe that Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki can play on into their respective twilights.
And as per the previous slide, the Yankees need at least two starting pitchers, assuming they keep Phil Hughes. Re-signing Kuroda would certainly help.
Troubled Fan Bases
It is not what you can charge for the seats, it is what the people will pay.
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Yankees fans, undoubtedly spoiled by the franchise's successful recent (and distant) history, have shown varying degrees of disinterest in buying playoff tickets in 2012.
When the team is sending fans emails reminding them that tickets are on sale for Games 6 and 7 of the American League Championship Series as that series is underway, well, that is not a great sign.
As for Phillies fans, the end of the sellout streak suggests that the locals' appetite for early crash-and-burns in the playoffs (and now no playoffs at all) is lukewarm.
The Phillies led Major League Baseball in attendance in 2012, yes, because most of those tickets were sold before Opening Day. The team's attendance in 2013 is unlikely to be so large, particularly in the iffy weather of April and May as fans "wait and see" whether the team can rebound from a .500 season.
Wolves at the Door
Phillies fan, meet the next decade.
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The Phillies are in the unenviable position of being in decline as other teams in their division are surging.
Recent epic playoff collapse aside, the Washington Nationals have two of the best young players in the game in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Their rotation is so deep and so young (Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann) that the Nationals sat Strasburg for the playoffs to protect his arm for the future.
The Phillies are also looking up at the Atlanta Braves, who lost in the 2012 Wild Card Playoff game to the Cardinals. The Braves also have a significant nucleus of young talent (Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons).
The Yankees won another division title this year, but despite a disastrous effort from their normal nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees had to sweat this division crown out.
The Baltimore Orioles came within two games of the Yankees, and the Tampa Bay Rays somehow missed the playoffs altogether despite winning 90 games themselves.
As such, the Yankees can afford no regression going forward if they hope to repeat as American League East Champions.