October 2, 2013
Big off-season free-agent signee Russell Martin opened the 2013 post-season last night with two home runs, sparking a 6-2 win and setting the stage for teammate A.J. Burnett to continue the winning ways as Friday’s starter. If Burnett falters, veterans Jeff Karstans and Kyle Farnsworth will be available out of the bullpen. Also in the ballpark will be another veteran righthander, Randy Choate.
But prior to that game we’ll see notable pinstripe sluggers Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi swing into post-season action on a 10-game winning streak. And Austin Jackson and Phil Coke will be seeking redemption from last’s year’s World Series failure. Even Freddy Garcia, about to earn the nickname “the Ageless One,” will be in on the action. This is a pitcher who won 17 games in the last millennium! (1999). Clearly NYY is continuing its domination that has resulted in 27 World Series titles in its history, as well as a run of post-season appearances in 17 of the last 19 years.
But wait, strangely enough none of those players still plays for NYY. They are all FORMER Yankees and they are now in the post-season playing for PIT, CLE, DET, ATL and STL! And for only the second time in the last 19 years there won’t be any games played in Yankee Stadium(s) in October. That lets me write my annual post-mortem on NYY even before any of the actual post-season series begin (a one-game wildcard match-up is not a series). I think this early post-mortem may become a habit (and by early I may mean by the All-Star Break) and I don’t say that out of my long-held dislike for NYY. It’s just true.
Think about it, NYY has been to the post-season 17 times since the last time PIT had a winning season. But would PIT GM Neil Huntington trade his roster for NYY’s? (And remember, the Pirates roster includes Kyle Farnsworth.) In fact, would any MLB GM trade his roster for NYY’s? Even Jeff Luhnow, HOU’s GM, believes he is assembling young talent, and he knows most of who will be on his roster next year. But there isn’t much young talent in pinstripes and no one knows who is going to be on NYY’s roster in 2014.
We know Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will not be. Robinson Cano may not be (quick, name the current second baseman for LAD….) Hiroki Kuroda reportedly will be in the Japanese League next year. Alex Rodriguez probably won’t be available – at least not for a large portion of the 2014 season. Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Mark Texieira and Brett Gardner may be ready for the start of the season, but does anyone think they will play a full season without getting re-injured? Phil Hughes and David Robertson aren’t injury prone, but their pitching performances in 2014 made every Yankee fan wish they would go on the 60-day DL.
Not only do we not know who will be in the Yankees’ line-up, we don’t even know who will be making out the Yankees’ line-up next year. Joe Girardi’s contract expires October 31 and several reports place Joe either in the ESPN broadcast booth or the Chicago Cubs’ dugout come Opening Day 2014. Can anyone comprehend a manager choosing to leave the Yankees to coach a team that hasn’t won the World Series in 105 years? What in the name of George Steinbrenner is going on here?
Well, I really shouldn’t act surprised. I raised almost as many questions about NYY after they were swept by DET in the 2012 ALCS. http://babesbaseball.com/2012/10/22/leaves-of-grass/. And as I remarked at the All-Star break this year, the bigger surprise was that NYY was actually still in the race for the post-season. They stayed there until losing 5 out of 6 games against BOS and TOR in mid-September, but, seriously, this team was going nowhere this year and by any reasonable analysis will be going nowhere anytime in the near future.
The changing free agent market (impacted by revenue sharing as I discussed last winter – http://babesbaseball.com/2012/12/13/love-your-enemies-part-2-marvin-miller-and-bud-selig/). If you doubt my argument, consider that we just watched a post-season game in PIT and tonight we will watch one in CLE – against TBR. If teams like TBR, OAK and KCR, with the league’s worst attendance in small markets can afford to pay top salaries, that makes it much harder for NYY to sign the top stars as The Boss always did, even if the sons of The Boss decide they are willing to spend the money to do so. Besides, NYY reportedly made Russell Martin a competitive offer and he still chose to sign with PIT in the off-season. Obviously, he knew who had the better chance of making the 2013 post-season: the team that had just finished its 21st consecutive losing season.
Of course, I’m not going to predict that NYY will go 21 years without a winning season, or even that long without making it back to the post-season, but I must admit I like the idea of the picture of A-Rod sitting alone and looking bewildered in the NYY dugout in the 2012 ALCS being the last image of a Yankee post-season for the next 21 years. It’s more satisfying than the shot of Andy Van Slyke sitting alone, crying in centerfield in old Three Rivers Stadium. The latter was drama or even melodrama, but the former is a dark (navy) comedy, a Broadway morality play and a labor/management triumph all rolled into one.
(JSR) © 2013