For the first time since 1993, the New York Yankees will not be part of Major League Baseball's playoffs. A plethora of injuries and ineptitude in the clutch has doomed this year's version of the Bronx Bombers and has left fans, who were hoping to send the original Yankee Stadium out with a bang, humiliated.
While one could argue that if Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Hideki Matsui all hadn't spent extensive time on the DL, the Yankees may yet be in the thick of things, that excuse doesn't buy my remorse.
Despite the injuries, the Yankees have had more than enough talent on the field to overcome them. The real reason this Yankees team has been so mediocre is because of their inability to come up with the big hit. The two biggest culprits happen to be the four and five-hole hitters, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi.
Alex Rodriguez managed to hit into a club-record 11 double plays in the month of August, most of which came in big spots. You know it's bad when your own fans are booing you every time you field a groundball, let alone strikeout or hit into yet another double play.
Jason Giambi has been equally as bad, despite having 29 HRs and 89 RBI as of Sept. 8, it seems as though he's taken a page out of A-Rod's book of hitting meaningless home runs.
A-Rod and Giambi haven't been the only culprits. Derek Jeter is hitting nearly 20 points below his career average, Ivan Rodriguez has been terrible since coming over from the Tigers near the trade deadline, and Robinson Cano—whom many expected to compete for the batting crown—is hitting .264 with 13 home runs. We could play the blame game all day with this collection of players.
Despite the aforementioned under-performers, the Yankees need to look ahead to the 2009 season with optimism.
Championship-caliber optimism. Atop their list of things to do should be to go out and sign free agent to be CC Sabathia. Sabathia is one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and has the fiery persona it takes to survive in New York.
If the Yankees sign Sabathia, they're looking at potentially one of the best pitching staffs in baseball next year, assuming everyone gets healthy and everyone comes back: CC Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, and Mike Mussina (he's earned another year all right).
It Looks precisely like the type of staff that could put together win streaks on pitching alone. Something the Yankees have failed to do time and time again this year.
Despite the lack of timely hitting and the fact the Yankees are on pace to score about 175 less runs this year than they did in 2007, I don't think hitting is something the Yankees necessarily need to be desperate for going into 2009.
Bobby Abreu has an option, which the Yankees will probably pick up. Giambi's contract is up, and whichever way the Yankees choose to go there, I don't think you'll hear much griping. Jorge Posada should be on his way back, which will be a bigger boost than many realize.
Xavier Nady, who has been a pleasant surprise, still has a year left on his contract, and of course, Jeter, A-Rod, and Damon will be back as well, which should be more than enough firepower.
Assuming the rotation shapes up the way we Yankees fans are hoping, and Joba isn't restricted to the bullpen, the Yankees could easily be right back in the race again next year.
Who knows, they may even introduce the new Yankee Stadium to the glory the old Yankee Stadium deserved to exit with.
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