For the first time in 32 years, the New York Yankees have been swept out of the postseason. Not since 1980, when the Yankees went down in three straight games to the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series, have the Bronx Bombers met the most inglorious end in baseball.
It takes an even longer reach into the history books to find the last time New York was swept in a best-of-7 series. That would be 1976, when the Yankees scored just eight runs and went down in four straight games to the Cincinnati Reds—the second of two straight titles for the team dubbed “The Big Red Machine.”
The 2012 playoffs exposed some major problems with the composition of the Yankees’ offense, which was downright offensive in October. Max Scherzer and three Detroit relievers combined on a two-hitter as the Tigers routed the Yankees 8-1 in Game 4 of the ALCS on Thursday to close out a four-game sweep of the series.
How bad was the offense? The Tigers scored eight runs in Game 4. The Yankees scored six runs in the entire series.
For the playoffs, New York hit .188 as a team and scored 22 runs in nine games—six of them losses. In the ALCS, it just got worse. Detroit held the Yankees to a .169 average in the sweep and, incredibly, four of New York’s six runs came in the ninth inning of Game 1—a 6-4 loss to the Tigers in 12 innings.
In the wake of the October debacle, there are some people within the organization who simply don’t need to be there for 2013, and at least one guy who needs to return, but in an entirely different capacity.
So who are the guys that need to take the fall?
No one can blame Derek Jeter’s ankle injury in Game 1 of the ALCS for the Yankees’ ultimate defeat in the series, and it would be foolish to jettison the captain.
But Jeter will be 39 next June and his range at shortstop hasn’t been much to write home about for the past five or so seasons.
Andrus, who turned 24 in late August, is almost 15 years Jeter’s junior. He’s already a two-time All-Star and his defensive potential is turning into reality. He led the American League in range factor per nine innings as a rookie in 2009, and matched his career low in 2012 with just 16 errors in 663 chances.
Now if there was only some place to play Jeter …
It is unlikely Cashman would be let go by the organization, not with two years remaining on the three-year deal he negotiated last fall.
Cashman has been the GM since February 1998 and has overseen four World Series titles, 12 division championships and 14 playoff berths in his 15 seasons.
But given the resources at his disposal, Cashman has made some monumentally short-sighted decisions.
He wasn't able to talk Hank Steinbrenner out of basically bidding against himself after the 2007 season to sign Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year contract worth $275 million. Now that Rodriguez is 37 and his bat speed is missing in action, the Yankees have a $114 million albatross around their necks.
Mark Teixeira still has $90 million and four years left on his massive deal signed after the 2008 season. That’s pretty good money for a guy who is paid to be a power hitter, but hasn’t slugged .500 or hit higher than .260 since his first season in New York in 2009.
This roster, which is long on experience but short on speed and youth, is Cashman’s responsibility. He should be held accountable for the October collapse, but that’s not likely to happen.
Nick Swisher drove in a run with a double in Game 4 on Thursday. That was noteworthy because it doubled his 2012 postseason RBI total to two and his total for his Yankee postseason career to eight—in 181 plate appearances. Since joining the Yankees in 2009, Swisher is a .169 hitter in the playoffs, the lowest mark for any player in Yankee history with more than 50 at-bats.
Swisher is eligible for free agency this winter and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported in August that he may be seeking a Jayson Werth deal. That refers to the huge deal Werth signed with the Washington Nationals as a free agent following the 2010 season, reportedly worth $126 million over seven years.
Paying that kind of money to Swisher seems insane, and, because the Yankees have a built-in solution for Swisher’s departure already on the roster, letting him walk makes sense. Brett Gardner could resume regular duty in left field next season with Ichiro Suzuki sliding over to right field, his position for 11-plus seasons in Seattle.
And good luck with that whole $125 million, seven-year thing, Swish.
That almost certainly means there is some truth to the rumor.
Bell, a former All-Star closer with the San Diego Padres, struggled under manager Ozzie Guillen in his first year in South Florida. He was 4-5 with a 5.09 ERA and just 19 saves in 26 chances. He lost the closer’s job to Steve Cishek. He also ripped Guillen in a late September radio interview.
The Marlins still owe Bell another $18 million through 2014 and the club holds an option for 2015.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, seems to be at the end of the line in the Bronx. While it is likely the Yankees would have to swallow a huge chunk of the $114 million still owed to A-Rod, it might be worth taking on Bell’s contract and a big chunk of Rodriguez’ deal just to have Rodriguez out of the locker room.
Bell, meanwhile, would provide some insurance in case Mariano Rivera struggles to make it back from this year’s knee injury. Rafael Soriano saved 42 games this season in Rivera’s stead but may choose to opt out of the final year of his contract.
And shipping Rodriguez to Miami would open up a spot in the lineup for Derek Jeter to move away from shortstop.
Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long never made it to the big leagues as a player, spending eight years in the Kansas City Royals’ system from 1989-96. He joined the Yankees’ staff in Joe Torre’s final season as manager in 2007 and stayed on under Joe Girardi.
The Yankees have led the majors in runs in three of his six seasons in New York, 2007 and again in 2009-10. But Long’s all-or-nothing approach hasn’t done any favors to players such as Curtis Granderson. Granderson made a big deal of thanking Long for his big 2011 season, Granderson’s second in New York.
Granderson hit .262./.364/.552 in 2011 with 41 homers, 26 doubles, 10 triples and 119 RBIs, recording an OPS-plus of 142. But he regressed badly in 2012, even as his home-run total increased to 43.
Everything else, on the other hand, got worse—much worse. He slipped to a triple-slash line of .232/.319/.492. He struck out a career-high 195 times. He hit only 18 doubles and four triples and stole only 10 bases after notching 25 in 2011. His OPS-plus slid to 116, making him just the eighth player in major-league history to hit 40 or more home runs and have an OPS-plus lower than 120.
Ultimately, the offense failed to produce in the postseason. As the hitting coach, Long has to be held accountable for that.