The New York Yankees will not make the playoffs in 2013.
In a recent press conference, Yankees manager Joe Girardi discussed his high expectation for the team in the upcoming season. Girardi said "this team could win 95 games and get to the World Series," according to ESPN.
The expectations of the organization and fan base, fueled by the previous success, are unrealistic. After the lack of splashy offseason moves, an aging roster and offensive production on a downward spiral, the end of an era is near in the Bronx.
Injury and old age have disseminated the Yankees roster. The organization and fans alike are expecting Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera to return from major surgery and continue producing at their accustomed high level but that is highly unlikely.
Rivera is a 43-year-old closer who depends on his legs to pitch. His pitches, especially his devastating cutter, won’t be as effective if he can’t push off his right leg. Jeter is recovering from ankle surgery after his injury during the 2012 playoffs. It’s difficult to picture a shortstop nearing 40 years of age recovering from ankle surgery maintaining his range of motion when he returns.
Looking down the rest of the roster, the majority of the starters are 30 years old or older. As athletes age, they are just simply not able to produce at the same level.
As Buster Olney recently pointed out on Twitter, no team has had a winning season (or made the playoffs) starting a shortstop 39 years old or older since 1973.
The team as a whole, except Robinson Cano, is experiencing a decline in production and it will only get worse with age.
Did you watch the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers? The Yankees struggled badly at the plate. In the final three games of the four-game sweep, the Yankees only had 11 hits and scored two runs.
Alex Rodriguez is the first player that comes to mind when discussing lack of production due to the five years and $114 million remaining in his contract. Rodriguez has failed to hit over .300 since 2008 or hit over 20 home runs in the last two seasons. In the 2012 playoffs, Rodriguez struggled so badly that he was benched in favor of Raul Ibanez.
There is no telling when Rodriguez would return to the lineup. The Yankees have discussed voiding Rodriguez contract according to ESPN, and announced he might miss the entire season after hip surgery.
Lack of free-agent signings
The lack of top free-agent signings is disconcerting. Not only did the Yankees miss out on the Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke sweepstakes, the team signed oft-injured Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner.
Youkilis and Hafner are both past their primes. The Yankees signed Youkilis after Rodriguez underwent hip surgery and will miss a significant portion of the 2013 season.
Youkilis isn't the most durable player around. In his career, he hasn't played over 140 games since 2008. In addition, his production has begun to fall, causing the Boston Red Sox to trade him and Chicago White Sox to not re-sign him.
Hafner is one of general manager Brian Cashman's low-risk, high-reward deals, which in recent seasons have gone well. With that said, the 35-year-old hasn’t played over 120 games in over five seasons and isn't the offensive hitting/on-base machine the Yankees need out of the designated hitter spot.
Youkilis and Hafner are simply not the answer to the Yankees' roster problems.
Fan base hubris
Most Yankees fans point out the team's 27 World Series titles anytime anyone badmouths the team. As successful as the organization has been, past performance isn't predictive of future performance, at least not in baseball.
The fan base, including myself, have been spoiled by the team's performance over the last two decades. Reaching the playoffs every season is the norm in the city with a championship-or-bust mentality, but fans should prepare themselves to be disappointed.
October in New York City will be a long and boring one unless the team makes significant trades to improve the aging roster and lack of production.