(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
It took 163 games to determine that the New York Yankees were not good enough. And by all means this Yankees team of 2015 was not expected to play a postseason game, but they had their good moments and had everyone believing in July that they were good enough to throw that underdog status about them out the window,
For the third time this season they opposed left handed pitcher Dallas Keuchel. And a better team, the Houston Astros, Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium epitomized why the Yankees were not good enough. As longtime radio voice of the Yankees John Sterling said, “Ballgame over, Season Over” and in reality the Yankees season may have been over after losing that seven game divisional lead to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Shutout 3-0, the 23d time that has happened in their postseason history, Tuesday night was just a continuation of a Yankees baseball season that went the other way the past six weeks.
And three hits in six innings, that’s not good enough in a game that said move on or go home.
“Obviously we’re not good enough right now,” said Yankees GM Brian Cashman, “because we’re not playing so it’s all that matters.” Cashman spoke outside a quiet Yankees clubhouse moments after the Houston Astros advanced to the AL Divisional Series and a meeting with the Kansas City Royals.
Cashman did not see the Astros celebrating on the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium. And it will take a conscious effort and hard work, an offseason of many meetings and much more, if he wants to see the Yankees celebrating in the Bronx on the field and in the clubhouse.
It begins with pitching and the Yankees thought they had it. Masahiro Tanaka was victimized once again by the home run ball and he gave the Astros two opportunities to hit the ball out of the park as Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez went after the first pitch in the second and fourth innings.
And to continue playing deep into October, as Cashman thought his team was capable of doing, there has to be a way to overcome good pitching and getting to the left hander. The Yankees seemed to do that well until the end of July, but the rest of the way it was a mission in futility.
Put it this way, Cashman and his manager know how long a baseball season is. There are the ups and downs of a long season and there are the injuries that hinder every team. Mark Teixeira was on his way to an MVP and comeback type of season, and before a broken leg was the Yankees top home run, RBI, and run producer.
There was the unexpected loss of pitcher Nathan Eovaldi , who as they said was evolving into an ace. But, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda were too inconsistent, and CC Sabathia returned from the disabled list and showed he was not done with two bad knees.
And the Yankees hope to have Sabathia back in spring training, fully recovered from an unexpected bout with an addiction to alcohol. They had the bullpen, especially the backend with Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.
The 40-year old Alex Rodriguez, who had the unexpected and comeback season, may have showed the age caught up to him in the final six weeks of the season. He became the catalyst of an offense that scored a lot of runs until the end of July, but an 0-for-4 night and two strikeouts did not help the Yankees move on.
Rodriguez heard the boos in the ninth inning after another strikeout, and in all fairness not appropriate for the type of comeback season he provided. But he did not come through in the clutch with two outs in the sixth inning, with two on base.
A hit by A-Rod would have made it interesting and give the Yankees some life, but age may have caught up to the Yankees, even if they feel there was an accomplishment of once again reaching a very abbreviated postseason.
“It’s hard to kind of reflect on the year right now,” Rodriguez said in that quiet clubhouse. “I played a lot of games and that’s probably the biggest surprise of the whole year. Just a lot of fun playing with the guys and just feel grateful for the opportunity to come back and re-establish myself as a major league baseball player.”
But it was not the A-Rod or a Yankees team that went beyond expectations this final game. The division was lost to Toronto and with the wild card in place they believed there was time to show they were going deep into October.
“The wheels were flying off as the season went on,” said Cashman. “The longer it went for some reason the worse we started to get, Obviously we lost some key guys but also some guys just did not play the way they are capable of playing.”
Those guys in particular were Jacoby Ellsbury, who was benched Tuesday night because the left hander was on the mound. The other guy, Brett Gardner went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and the Yankees at the plate went down ten times via the strikeout.
So it became an issue with those table setters of Ellsbury, the long term multi-million disappointment and Gardner, who continued their battles of failing to get on base the last two months of a long season.
Cashman said, whether it was fatigue or a slump about Ellsbury and Gardner, “The dynamic Duo were not plating runs.” Overall as a unit, the entire Yankees team went into a collective slump, and at the wrong time of year reflected by going 30-34 in their last 68 games.
And the infield that manager Joe Girardi had on the field for the last game was different. Younger, and where the Yankees need to go if they want to get back to the postseason and go far. Didi Gregorius, a pickup in the offseason got better and has become a valuable replacement for Derek Jeter.
Rob Refsnyder got better in the final weeks and earned the start at second for the wild card game, and Greg Bird was at first, one of Cashman’s untouchables that kept the GM from wheeling and dealing to make the team better,
Said Carlos Beltran, who became the lone consistent hitter down the stretch, “Everybody said we were not supposed to do anything, so I consider what we did was a success.” But it can’t be considered a successful season for the Yankees after going home with a wild card loss, and it is never successful unless they get to the World Series.
“Maybe we were out of gas,” said the injured Teixeira who was on crutches in the clubhouse. “Maybe we were too banged up. We just kind of hit a wall at the end of the year.” Teixeira will play next year in his final contract season, so Bird won’t be at first and that means the Yankees have to wait to get younger.
So the Yankees in the end were not good enough. Cashman will go into organizational meetings with his manager and as Girardi said, “There is a lot of character in that room and it hurts. It’s not a healthy group in that room right now, they are banged up. I am extremely proud of what they have done.”
However it was not good enough. Cashman needs to see how the Houston Astros got young, had a good solid two in the pitching rotation and used speed and the home run ball. The Yankees may have had some of that when they took control of the division but the gas went dry.
“The team we saw earlier wasn’t the team we finished with,” Cashman said. Simply said, the 2015 Yankees were not good enough!
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