MLB will not be played in the Bronx again in 2012. Most Yankees fans felt a combination of surprise, disappointment, sadness and embarrassment after the team was swept by the Detroit Tigers in four games in the recently completed American League Championship Series (ALCS). This reaction was amplified by the comments in the daily press, sports talk radio and internet blogs.
The balanced statement issued by the Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner on Friday was very different than those heard or read in the above listed sites and also different in tone from the emotional responses remembered from his late father, George.
Steinbrenner started his statement with words that reflect the hurt of devoted fans of the club, “we fell short of our singular and constant goal which is a World Series Championship…this was a bitter end to our year.”
While the Steinbrenner family, the franchise and its fans hold to that goal every year, it is unrealistic. Even though the New York Yankees are the most successful organization in professional sports, they have won the World Series 27 times since 1923.
In recent years, the Yanks have been regulars in post-season baseball. Under the direction of three managers, Buck Showalter, Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, the Yanks have been in the playoffs in 17 of the past 18 seasons. If this pattern of continued success doesn’t lead the followers of the club to unrealistic expectations, what can? It was this expectation of success for the Yankees that when not met led to the jeering of Yankees players during the final two games in the Bronx. Privately some Yankees players claimed the booing had a negative effect on their performances at home.
While past success may be forgotten or disregarded each year the Yanks are crowned champions, Steinbrenner included this year’s full record for deserved praise, “We earned the best record in the American League and were one of four teams to advance to the League championship Series (LCS).”
It’s clear that the loss in the ALCS can be blamed on the lack of batting prowess. Even in the victory over Oakland in the five game ALDS, the Yanks hit poorly. The team had an anemic batting average of .211 while the pitching staff of New York had an ERA of 1.76 and held Oakland batters to an average of .187.
The average of the Yankees batters fell to .157 and the team only scored six runs in the four contests of the ALDS. Although Alex Rodriguez only hit safely three times is 25 at bats (.120) in the eight playoff games, he was not who failed offensively.
Curtis Granderson was 3 for 30 (.100) with 16 strikeouts. It was especially disturbing when one contrasts Granderson’s 0 for 11 in the ALCS with the two players who were traded to Detroit in exchange for Granderson in December 2009. Center fielder Austin Jackson batted .353 against the Yanks and reliever Phil Coke pitched in all four contests and earned two saves. He went a total of 5.2 innings without giving up a run. He fanned four, gave up three hits and did not issue a walk.
The others who were absent from the hit parade during the post-season included Nick Swisher, 5 for 30 (.167), Eric Chavez hitless in 16 at bats, Russell Martin, 5 for 31, Robinson Cano, 3 for 40, Gardner, hitless in 8 at bats and Chris Stewart, hitless in 4 at bats. Failure generally breeds a scapegoat and A-Rod has clearly been given that role in the 2012 post-season.
After game four concluded, Girardi attributed the series loss to a lack of hitting among many players, not just one, “We didn’t swing the bats. It wasn’t one guy, it wasn’t two guys, it was a bunch of guys, and it’s hard to win if you don’t score runs.”
He spoke of the unfairness of the all the blame being placed upon Rodriguez, “There were a lot of guys mightily struggling, not a little bit, a lot. He [Rodriguez] is going to be the one talked about the most.”
Another significant factor was the injury suffered by Yankee captain Derek Jeter. Jeter’s loss counted twofold, one of leadership and the second his high level of play. Jeter was one of the very few who hit well in the post-season, .333 in 2012. His return is not expected for five months, which means he will miss most if not all of the 2013 Spring Training.
Steinbrenner promised the fans to continue, “A long standing commitment to provide our fans a championship caliber team year after year.” The period of assessment and decision may not begin immediately, but one can be assured that many changes will be made in an attempt to improve the club before the 2013 season begins. As very few Yankees have contracts that extend beyond 2012, many of this year’s team may not return in 2013.