ALDS 2011: Last Hurrah for New York Yankees?
On that night, Charlie Hayes caught a pop-up in foul ground near third base and the Yankees became champions of the baseball world for the first time in 18 years.
In the 15 years since, the Bronx Bombers have been in the postseason every year but one (2008), have won two American League Pennants and five World Series titles.
But is 2011 the last hurrah for the Yanks?
An Aging Core
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In 2012, Alex Rodriguez will be 37, Derek Jeter will be 38, Jorge Posada (if he returns at all) will be 41 and Mariano Rivera will be 42.
The stars that have consistently delivered for the Yankees during their nearly two-decade dynasty are aging, and an aging core means a sea of change on the horizon for the club.
Rodriguez had an injury-plagued 2011, and posted just a .276 batting average, 16 home runs and 62 RBI. Jeter had a comeback season of sorts after suffering the worst season of his career in 2010. In 2011 he hit .297 with six home runs and 61 RBI.
But even the numbers Jeter produced in 2011 are a far cry from those he posted in his prime. In 2009, for example, Jeter hit .334 with 18 home runs in the last season the Yankees won the World Series.
Age appears to be catching up, even to the Yankee Captain.
Mariano Rivera is bucking every trend there is to buck. At age 41, he's still overpowering as a closer. Aside from setting the all-time saves record in 2011, Rivera finished with 44 saves, a 1.91 ERA, and a 0.90 WHIP.
But even Rivera will have his limits, and one can only wonder how long it will be before he can't quite cut that fastball anymore.
The Yankees Are Not Adapting to a Changing Game
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New York's team ERA in 2011 was 3.73, ranking them 11th in baseball. While that's not terrible, it's not great either.
What's worse, the Yankees ranked 16th in MLB in opponent's batting average (.256), 18th in quality starts (84) and 19th in WHIP (1.32).
By comparison, the team that led the majors in pitching, the Philadelphia Phillies, finished the regular season with a 3.02 team ERA.
An example of New York's failure to judge talent when it comes to pitching, a flaw that could prove fatal in the seasons to come, is starter A.J. Burnett.
In a game whose dynamics are drastically shifting toward pitching strength, the Yankees are still relying on slugging and home runs. That may get you to the playoffs, but when other clubs are pitching the lights out, winning a world championship becomes more difficult.
The Beginning of the End of a Dynasty?
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The Yankees have been baseball's premier franchise since the mid-1990's, but it appears that their reign may be coming to the end.
This postseason may be the beginning of a dramatic downward trajectory for the Bronx Bombers.