Seven Reasons the New York Yankees Won't Win the 2010 World Series
In 2009, the Yankees had a magical season, with stories that could only be compared to Hollywood in order to describe them.
15 walk-off wins. Over 50 come-from-behind wins. Over 250 home runs hit in the regular season. A new Stadium. A shift from being 0-8 against the Boston Red Sox to being 9-9. 41-18 in the final two months of the season. Derek Jeter passing Lou Gehrig. Alex Rodriguez's 30 home runs and 100 RBIs after hip surgery. CC Sabathia's 19 wins as a first-year Yankee. Mark Teixeira's monstrous second half. Nick Swisher's great attitude. Phil Hughes in the bullpen. Mariano reaching 500 saves. Three genuine classics in the 2009 postseason. A-Rod's 6 home runs and 18 RBIs in the postseason. Damon's double-steal. And a World Championship to boot.
However, this year something has changed.
It's hard to put a finger on it, but when push comes to shove, it really doesn't look good for the defending World Champions.
The Yankees Are Getting Old
This notion was raised last year, and the Yankees basically gave the middle finger to the entire world and said, "Not yet." However, this year the world may be returning the favor.
Let's face it. The core four are pushing 40 (Mariano Rivera is 40), and unlike last year, it is showing, mostly in the form of injuries.
Andy Pettite was having a fine year, arguably the best of his career before he went down with a groin injury. He was expected to return at the end of August. Well, it's now September and he still isn't back.
Posada has missed time this year due to a leg injury and has had to share catching duties with Francisco Cervelli, who, after a hot start, has cooled off dramatically.
Mariano has been hurt. Nick Johnson is out indefinitely. And Alex Rodriguez has cumulatively missed about the same amount of time that he did last year.
One may say, "Hey, but when these guys get healthy, the Yankees will be even better." True, but even when they do get healthy something else will come up because the Yankees are becoming more and more fragile.
Next To CC, the Rotation Is a Mess
CC Sabathia has arguably been the best pitcher in the American League.
He has 19 wins, an ERA hovering around 3.00, over 200 innings logged, and is literally undefeated at Yankee Stadium.
But after him, the entire rotation drops off, big time.
AJ Burnett has been wildly inconsistent. After a two-month span in which he had an ERA around 3.00, June came along and Burnett lost all five of his starts, posting an ugly ERA of 11.00. And after he appeared to get it back together with a nice July, he came back in August and posted an ERA of 7.80. Umm... does anyone else see a problem here?
I've already mentioned this Andy Pettite's injury, and it is actually very sad because he was the Yankees' best pitcher, even better than CC. But then he got hurt. And he's still hurt. The Yankees will be lucky to get him back before the season ends and even then he'll be rusty the rest of the way.
Javier Vazquez was moved to the bullpen because his performance was so awful.
Phil Hughes, after losing the All-Star game for the American League, has come down to Earth with force in the second half, and that inning's limit may be playing a role similar to the one it played regarding Joba Chamberlain.
The Yankees have attempted to make up for this inconsistency with Dustin Moseley, Sergio Mitre, and Ivan Nova. And while Nova has shown promise in his most recent start, more mature rotations like the Rays' and Red Sox' definitely are a notch above the Yankees'.
And it doesn't help that the Yankees' best long relief man, Alfredo Aceves, has been hurt all season.
Derek Jeter Stopped Hitting
It's such a shame. Such a shame because Derek Jeter had one of the best seasons of his career last year, with a batting average above .330 and a third place finish in AL MVP voting behind Joe Mauer and teammate Mark Teixeira. He is a career .314 hitter. His average this year is .266. The past several days he is 4-for-38.
What happened? Is it the age thing? His defense is great as always.
Is it injuries like in 2008? No, Jeter is one of the few players on the Yankees who hasn't been hurt this year.
Then what is it? I don't know, but I do know that it is a problem that has mushroomed and affected the entire Yankee offense.
Now, it may be hard to pin down a boatload of offensive struggles (and there have been a lot of them) to one player, but not really. Jeter is the team leader, the captain, the emotional core of the Yankees. And when he isn't hitting one may start thinking, "is there something wrong with this team?" And to quote Dom Cobb from Inception, an idea is like a parasite, it can come to define or destroy you. It is in the process of destroying everybody in the Yankee offense not named Robinson Cano or Nick Swisher.
Mark Teixeira has only recently started hitting. A-Rod is batting career lows. Brett Gardner has cooled off after a hot start. The idea that something is wrong with the offense has taken hold. But...there is another factor too...
The Yankees' Trades Have Been Just Plain Bad
Curtis Granderson was hurt in May and hasn't been the same since.
Nick Johnson was hurt in May and hasn't been seen since.
Javier Vazquez has an ERA of 4.86. 'Nuff said.
Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns have done pretty much nothing since coming to New York.
Kerry Wood? Does anyone remember what he's done recently?
And to top it off, to get these players, the Yankees traded away arguably their best prospect, Austin Jackson, who is having a fairly good year in Detroit, and one of their best relievers, Phil Coke. Plus, the players they replaced were Mr. Double-Steal and Mr. World Series MVP, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Show of hands, who wants these two back like a bee wants honey?
Injuries, an idea, and bad replacements have brought the Yankees' offense down to Earth. I'm still amazed that they have scored the most runs in baseball. We'll get to that later.
The Bullpen Has Improved, But It's Still a Liability
Joba Chamberlain is not as bad as he was back in June and July when everyone was screaming for him to be traded or to be sent down to the minors. But he still hasn't regained his old form. All in all, the Yankees really don't have a reliable set-up man this year, and it shows.
Aside from Mariano Rivera, the Yankees' bullpen has gone from being one of the best in 2009, full of young talent and zest, to being a weakness. David Robertson has improved after a tough start and is probably the Yankees' best middle-relief man, and that isn't saying much. Boone Logan has a good fastball, but nothing else. Alfredo Aceves is missing, and so is Phil Coke. Oh, and Damaso Marte is hurt.
It seemed like once every week the Yankees would lose games in the 7th or 8th inning after being ahead, the biggest reason why the Yankees have less walk-offs this year than they do last year. This problem has lessened now, but those games will show at the end of the season. Chamberlain was usually the biggest culprit, but everyone has to take some of the blame.
Again, the bullpen has improved lately. But...eh...it still ain't great. And in the postseason, in those close, tight games when the bullpen decides fortunes, it won't be pretty.
The Rays Have Gotten Better
It was nice last year when the Yankees could walk over the weakened Rays and think nothing of it, right? How about now, when the Yankees have a losing record against a team that is young, that runs, that has a closer with more saves than Mariano Rivera, and that has a stronger rotation with less injuries? Not good.
Injuries hurt the Rays in 2009. They lost star Evan Longoria and slugger Carlos Pena in the same year. The Rays have sustained far less injuries this year and they're running more too. Perhaps this is a good thing for the future (it is rumored that Crawford, the Rays' best base-stealer, may come to the Yankees next season), but for now, it's a problem.
Last year, after the Yankees figured out the Red Sox, the AL East was theirs for the taking. But the Rays seem to bring extra energy when they face the Yankees now, and more than half of the time the Rays win. I predict them to win the division and the lack of home-field advantage in the postseason will be the Yankees' undoing.
And even if they make the World Series, they won't have home-field advantage because Joe Girardi screwed up in the All-Star game.
The Magic Just Isn't There
Remember the 15 walk-off wins? The Hollywood endings? All the clutch home runs? The flair? While there are still traces of it this year (the emotional game that honored George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard when Nick Swisher won it in the ninth; the nine grand slams hit), the excitement has declined. The only games the Yankees seem to win all the time are the ones that are supposed to win.
The games that are decided late have been going against the Yankees, which is odd considering their talent. Part of it is the bullpen's fault, yes, but the Yankees are have fewer comebacks, they're getting fewer clutch hits. Even A-Rod's milestone 600th became a chore instead of an excitement.
Why do the Yankees have the most runs scored in baseball? Because they often do it when it is meaningless, when they have already won the game. Recently, this hasn't mattered because they've been playing teams like the Orioles, the Athletics, and the Indians. But their schedule gets difficult in September, and they'll be playing more of those close games in which they're basically just a .500 ball club (15-12 in 1-run games, nothing special and a lot of those were games they were meant to win but almost lost). They need to re-channel that magic to get to and win the World Series. But it hasn't been there all season, save for the occasional comeback.
Maybe the Yankees will prove me wrong. They'll probably make the postseason at least. Heck maybe they will make it to the Series. Maybe they'll give the world the middle finger again and win it. Maybe, maybe not. The only way to know is to wait and see.