Even After Jeter’s Injury, it’s Hard to Empathize with the Still-Loaded Yankees

For a brief moment, it looked as though Raul Ibanez’s incredible heroics were once again about to keep the New York Yankees’ postseason magic going.

And then, just a few innings after Ibanez sent his third record-setting, clutch home run in four games into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees lost a big game and their legendary captain Derek Jeter, for the remainder of the season.

After sleepwalking through eight innings, New York’s missing offense suddenly came to life with a dramatic ninth-inning comeback on a pair of two-run home runs, first from Ichiro Suzuki, and then from Ibanez, to send a game they seemingly had no business winning, into extra innings.

Ultimately though, the Detroit Tigers’ two runs in the top of the 12th inning gave them a 6-4 victory and a 1-0 lead in the 2012 American League Championship Series on Saturday night.

Just after the Detroit scored what proved to be the winning run, Jeter broke his left ankle while trying to field a ground ball and added to New York’s list of injury woes this season.

Although he will return to the Yankees’ lineup next season after an expected three-month recovery, Jeter’s absence leaves New York without its main leader both on the field and in the clubhouse for the rest of this year’s playoffs.

That’s on top of the Yankees having already gone all but the month of April this year without Mariano Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history.

Those losses along with some other key ones this season would figure to give New York a reasonable pass among Yankee fans and the media if New York comes up short of its World Series title aspirations.

But, should it?

Even without the likes of certain future first-ballot Hall of Famers Jeter and Rivera, there’s still a lot of high-priced, world champion-caliber talent left on the Yankees’ roster.

The problem is that much of that offensive talent has severely underachieved this postseason.

Fair or not, a 2012 major-league high salary of $30 million makes Alex Rodriguez a natural whipping boy for the Yankees’ offensive failures in the playoff this year, but it’s hard for anyone to stick up for his .105 average, while he’s gone just 2-for-19, with no runs batted in and an astounding ten strikeouts.

However, there are also many other Yankees who have drastically under-performed relative to their 2012 contracts during the playoffs: Robinson Cano ($14 million) is just 2-for-28 (.071) with no home runs and only four RBI, Curtis Granderson ($10 million), with a lone RBI on a homer, and Nick Swisher ($10.25 million), who has no homers and only one RBI, are each just 3-for-23 (.130), which make the light-hitting 5-for-22 (.227) postseason performance by Russell Martin ($7.5 million) seem worthy of a playoff MVP.

There’s no doubt that the losses of Jeter, Rivera and others hurt, but if the aforementioned names who are all mired in bad simultaneous slumps each play even close to what their salaries and the backs of their baseball cards say they should, the Yankees could withstand the injuries they’ve endured.

And, that doesn’t even count the high-salaried pinstripers who actually have played at a level commensurate with the large sums of money they’re earning this year, like hitters Mark Texeira ($23.125 million), Ichiro Suzuki ($18 million), and pitchers C.C. Sabathia ($24.286 million) – one of the game’s best hurlers, who can still potentially start twice in the ALCS, starter Hiroki Kroda ($10 million) and closer Rafael Soriano ($12 million), who fittingly filled in for Rivera by matching Rivera’s uniform number 42 in terms of how many games Soriano has saved this season.

As they have annually done for many years, the Yankees entered the season by greatly outspending everyone else, with a payroll of nearly $196 million. Normally, that equates to New York holding a huge advantage in being able to easily cover its mistakes like no other team can.

This season, it means the annual payroll kings still possess enough good players to overcome some their most significant injuries – that is, as long as those who are falling well short of living up to their contracts begin to play in up to the standards that are expected of them.

Despite what they’ve lost, it’s still the Yankees. It’s not as if they’re like the team they barely got by in the AL Division Series to reach the ALCS – the scrappy, young, up-and-coming Baltimore Orioles, with MLB’s 18th-highest payroll.

While New York and its fans will surely feel the sting of yet another main cog in the Yankee machine going down, don’t expect the rest of the league and its fans to feel sorry for the “poor Yankees,” especially when the reality is that they’re still very rich.

New York has plenty left to win an unprecedented 28th World Series title, as long as some of those who remain in good health start producing up to their capabilities and in accordance with their big contracts.

About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons). Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship). He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

Get connected with us on Social Media