When I was a kid it was clear to me that when the New York Yankees weren’t the World Series winners, things were not right. Thus, if they’re not the baseball champions of 2012, things are not right. At this moment things are so not right I am led to speculate: who’s going to live in the White House come January? If the Yankees aren’t World Champs, will Mitt Romney serve as President? That’s the way I thought when I was ten years old, and in some part of my brain I still think that way. Baseball runs on a lot of superstitious beliefs, and in some reflexive, irrational area of my mind, the connection between world champions and U.S. Presidents is so ingrained that after Justin Verlander did his usual thing, it seemed like a logical question.
The analysts, pundits and moneyballers are getting on board with their itemized lists of reasons for the Yanks’ end-of-season collapse after playing so thrillingly up until August; I have a few of those myself. But first, here are some reasons that deserve more weight for the losses than they might get.
1. The Disintegration of The Core Four. Jorge Posada: Retired. Mariano Rivera: Torn knee ligament. Derek Jeter: Busted ankle. Andy Pettitte (who was, ironically, coming back to The Core): Fractured Ankle. All the injuries occurred early on, except for Jeter’s, which came at perhaps an even worse time: during playoffs. It’s not that the Core alone carried the team; it’s the psychological toll this kind of disintegration takes on a team, institution, or group of any kind.
2. The Disintegration of A-Rod. The highest-paid player in Major League Baseball–and, some say, the most disliked–seems to have begun a descent that comes to all those who age, even professional athletes. It’s more than just regular aging issues than what it is for regular people. Who knows what having his hand smashed and broken by pitcher “King” Hernandez did to A-Rod’s psyche this season? When he was younger, he probably could have shrugged it off a lot faster; now, it might’ve made him skittish at bat–and we saw the result. Think of Buster Posey, beaten up so badly last year, and bounced right back: he was 19 years old! Alex is 20 years Posey’s senior. Like the rest of the Yanks (who have no such excuse) he stopped hitting, and by playoff time was doing so badly there was no choice for Manager Girardi but to bench him. He was a good sport about it, which did nothing to help the team get over it or win games.
3. Management’s Handling of the Above and Other Bungled Behavior. I can’t possibly know what goes on behind the scenes, but my sensory antenna along with hints and indications tell me, first of all, that Posada’s “retirement” was, let us say, encouraged. There were signs of nastiness coming from Joe Girardi during the 2011 season, for which he tried to atone when the fans vociferously expressed their displeasure. It’s been noted that fans haven’t warmed up to Joe Girardi (to put it mildly) and I suspect neither have the players. He’ll never be able to fill Joe Torre’s shoes, (again putting it mildly); Joe #1 is a warm, hamische guy, while the heart of Joe #2 is impenetrable. When people are closed off and mysterious about what’s going on, my imagination gets going, and in this case I’m convinced a lot of undercurrents move in and around the Yankee locker room that we on the outside know nothing about.
4. My Diminished Enthusiasm. A manifestation of baseball superstition. In my defense, I couldn’t help it once they sent Jorge away. I developed big love for “He’s So Cool Raoul” Ibanez as the season progressed–but I never really got back to my full Yankee mojo.
More Reasons, Facts, Stats, and Trivia Gleaned from ESPN:
This was the first time in 32 years that the Yankees were swept in a postseason series. It hasn’t happened since 1980, in a best-of-five ALCS against Kansas City. The last team to sweep four straight against them was Cincinnati in the 1976 World Series.
The Tigers are the first team to win three straight postseason series against the Yankees. (I give Verlander the
The team’s .188 batting average was the lowest ever in a postseason series. The hitting was abysmal throughout: Robinson Cano was at .075 (3 for 40) with no home runs, including a 29 at-bat hitless streak. Curtis Granderson was 3 for 30 with 16 strikeouts, Nick Swisher hit .167 (5 for 30) with two RBIs, Russell Martin hit .161 (5 for 31) with one RBI and Eric Chavez finished 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts. “It wasn’t one guy. It wasn’t two guys,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It was a bunch of guys.”
On The Other Hand: Detroit’s starting pitchers came into the last game with a combined E.R.A. of .42–the lowest of any postseason series in history. They say it’s pitching that wins ball games–but Yankee batters have a helluva lot more to answer for than their pitchers do.
If I sound harsh, it’s a cover-up. The truth is, I’m in mourning. And I feel sad that so many of the guys suffered injuries that, because of their advancing ages, they just couldn’t recover from quickly; it’s going to take A-Rod for instance the entire off-season to get over that broken hand. I was furious the night Hernandez attacked my guys, and recalling it now is stirring my wrath all over again. I’ve gotta get over it, though, if I’m going to successfully transition to the next thing: rooting for the SF Giants. Even if the dream of a Giants-Yankees World Series is over, SF can still move ahead to face Detroit and Justin Verlander (gulp). When they won in 2009, the city was more fun than Coney Island, so let’s hope for a grand reason to party.
Oh, and as far as the Yankees go, as Mets fans say:
JUST WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR!
Written with assistance from Daryl Hochheiser.
- Tigers sweep Yankees, reach World Series (triblive.com)