Scattered thoughts on post-mortem day
It’s become a fairly understood thought, if not a law in sports, that anything short of a championship is a failed year to the New York Yankees. The late George Steinbrenner instilled this mentality when he purchased the team in 1973, and it continues to this day now a few years after his passing.
So as the Boss would look at it (95 wins, home-field advantage, and a 17th playoff appearance in 18 years) this season was a failure. The Yankees got swept aside by the Detroit Tigers in four games in the ALCS, and while most teams would be content with playing in October, the Yankees feel they need to win it all in this glorious month for them to be satisfied. And we as fans accept that.
Blame anyone you want, [aside from the World Series-caliber starting pitching they had] but this was a complete team failure. There’s no doubt they went up to the plate trying to do the right thing and pick up hits and drive in runs, but when all nine guys struggle each night so immensely, this was the only way it was going to end.
The Bombers just barely survived the ALDS against their renewed foe in the Baltimore Orioles, and the A.L. Champion Tigers would not let the Yankees survive any longer on historically bad hitting and late-inning comebacks. Give credit where it’s due – Detroit earned this pennant. But the Yankees lost it more than the Tigers won it in my opinion.
Playing without Derek Jeter will be an excuse many will bring up, but I don’t want to hear it. This team without Jeter was good enough to win, had they played like they did in the regular season. No doubt he has the biggest impact on the lineup, but the two through nine hitters still should have been getting the job done. It’s horrible to think, but in a way this lineup’s RISP fails ultimately cost them their Captain. Had they capitalized on those three bases-loaded rallies in the first nine innings, the extra ones don’t happen, and the Yankees win Game 1 by a landslide and Jeter never fields that ground ball. It could have completely changed the series. But could’ve, would’ve, should’ve – that’s the name of the game in October.
Look, Alex Rodriguez certainly didn’t help the Yankees a ton, but stop treating him as the scapegoat. That’s like asking a dog to stop barking, but the fact remains with his contract aside, Alex had a statistically better postseason than Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Robbie Cano. Making 25 million dollars a year will never make his mistakes excusable, but like I’ve mentioned he’s older and his prime has long past, and it’s unbelievable to think the front office couldn’t have seen this coming when they signed Alex to that mega-deal in 2007.
Unfortunately lost in this debacle is the outstanding pitching the Yankees received almost every game. Had starting pitching been the only factor that matters in the postseason, the Yankees win the World Series. CC Sabathia was dominant in his two ALDS starts, and unfortunately just ran out of gas yesterday and you couldn’t expect him to do it all. Andy Pettitte pitched better than anyone could have thought after taking a year off, and he deserved two more postseason wins added to his amazing resume. Hiroki Kuroda truly paid off as well, owning the Orioles and Tigers bats in the two starts he made. Phil Hughes also pitched a gem in Game 4 of the division series, and it looked like he’d grind another game out in Game 3 of the ALCS before tweaking his back. Too bad there’s no trophy or award they can win, but it certainly was some of the better starting pitching the Yankees have gotten since their late-90’s dynasty run.
Finally, just a quick note on Joe Girardi. As much as we all question him [and if I were GM he would have been fired four times already], his managing tactics were not something to look down on this October. He had an incredibly depleted team throughout the year, and managed to overcome the loss of Mariano, the loss of CC for a month, Andy for three, A-Rod for two – you see what I mean? And yet the Yankees still won the AL East and still looked like a good favorite to win the pennant. Wow.
Overall, this was a failure. The Yankees looked absolutely lost at the plate and never held a lead in the series. But people should not forget how the Yankees proved life does move on after Mariano, and they can survive losing their ace mid-season, and how this aging team can still come together and make a few more championship runs. Whether it’ll happen in 2013 is a big question, but the fact remains this year was very exciting and I’m proud of what the Yankees did – all the way up to the 12th inning of Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS.
Thanks for a wild ride guys.