2011 New York Yankees: Has Age Already Caught the Bombers?
For years, the Yankees would build around the "Core Four" and patch holes at every other position.
Last year marked the end of Andy Pettitte's historic career, as well as Jorge Posada's last season catching. 2010 also saw Derek Jeter hit for the lowest batting average of his career—.270.
The only man in the group seemingly unfazed by age is the 41-year-old Mariano Rivera, although last year he did pitch for the second fewest number of total innings in his 17-season career.
Let's forecast the future of the Yankees, and see how they've set themselves up for life after the "Core Four."
The Addition of Alex Rodriguez
The most notable addition to the Yankees since their 2000 World Series title was Alex Rodriguez.
In 2004, Rodriguez, following his first career MVP, was signed to an unprecedented deal with the Bombers.
Although A-Rod has been a valuable asset to the team, winning two MVPs in his first four seasons with the Yanks, recent years have seen a decline in his average, power and ability to stay healthy.
A career .300 hitter, A-Rod saw his average dip to .286 in 2009 and then .270 in 2010. More notably, his OBP for last season was .341—his lowest since 1995.
Rodriguez also hit 30 home runs in each of the last two seasons—his lowest totals since 1997.
With Texas, Rodriguez played in every inning of every game, except for the last inning of the 2003 season. However, since coming to the Yankees, he's only played 162 games once.
Filling the Team with Young Talent
In order to return to their World Series winning ways, the Yankees spent the off-season following 2008—the first year in which they failed to make the playoffs in 13 seasons—signing CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira.
That following season resulted in a 103-59 record, first place in the AL East, and a 27th World Series title.
Although youth was important to team—Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Fransisco Cervelli also served important roles—the "Core Four" still performed.
Jeter batted .334, Posada batted .285 with 22 homers, Mo had a 1.76 ERA with 44 saves, and Pettitte managed to win four critical games in the postseason—three of which were series clinchers.
Compensating for Age
The 2009 season was spectacular for the Bronx Bombers, but 2010 saw a decline in production from several key players, which ultimately lead to second-place finish in the AL East and the Wild Card. Eventually, the Yankees would lose to the Texas Rangers in the AL Championship Series.
Age may be catching up with the Bombers, but it's not age that is the issue—it's ego.
Just as Posada stepped down from his catching role in favor of the younger Russel Martin, similar consideration need to be made for Derek Jeter, who is currently batting just .259 with a .321 OBP and .325 SLG.
Although A-Rod is still quite productive, as he ages, it may be easier to put him in the DH role more frequently.
While Mariano Rivera is dazzling into his 40s, Jorge Posada, unfortunately, has shown that along with his inability to play defense, he can't really do all that much with the bat either. Thus far this season, he is batting a mere .169.
While the Yankees should cherish the amazing years these aging veterans have given them, they may need to make some tough decisions if they want to keep winning the top priority.
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