There’s an old saying claims “Pride comes before the fall.” While we can point to innumerable examples of this in all sports, the latest one presents itself in the form of the 2012 New York Yankees. Here was a team that, as expected, competed for (and won) its division and made to the American League Championship Series. Despite the loss of the great Mariano Rivera, a “down” year from Mark Texeira, and the ever decreasing skills of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees put together another seemingly special year with the rejuvenation of Derek Jeter and solid seasons from Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson. In addition, Ichiro started hitting like the Ichiro of old after a midseason trade to the Bronx. Despite the age of many of their cornerstone players, it appeared as if the 2012 Yankees had found the fabled Fountain of Youth and would possibly end the year with another Championship.
All of a sudden, though, the magic was gone. Despite winning the Division Series against the rival Orioles, the Yankees had little to be proud of in that series except the pinch-hit heroics of Raul Ibanez and the Game 5 dominance of CC Sabathia. Fans who followed the Division Series knew that the playoff Yankees were not playing with the same finesse as the regular season Yankees. There was no desperation, no drive, and no energy.
Perhaps the nail in the Yankees’ coffin was the sudden loss of Jeter to a broken ankle. Their captain who had finished the regular season with 216 hits and hit .364 in the Division Series (stats courtesy of ESPN) would no longer be setting the stage for them offensively as he had all year long as either the 1 or 2 hitter in the lineup. The 38 year old shortstop may have declined defensively throughout the past few years, but his bat was a constant this year, and it was sorely missed for the remainder of the League Championship Series in which the Yankees hit a lackluster .157 as a team.
Their embarrassing sweep out of the playoffs by the Detroit Tigers has left many of us wondering what the team is going to look like next year. Will Jeter be able to fully recover after having surgery to repair his ankle? Will Alex Rodriguez be traded after his dismal playoff performance (.111 batting average in the LCS) and actions after being benched (getting a woman to give him her number by writing on a baseball during the game)? Will Andy Pettite retire [again]?
The fact of the matter is that the Yankees are old. Once October 22 comes around and Robinson Cano turns 30, all of their starting position players will be 30 or older. There is no youth on this team to give the old veterans a charge. It is obvious that there is a need for a youth movement in the Bronx; obviously, the formula there is not working. Brian Cashman is going to have a very busy winter as he wheels and deals to get the Yankees back on track.
The Yankees, of course, are willing to spend and will buy whatever they need. I expect it to happen, and the 2013 Yankees have, in my opinion, an excellent chance to be back in the playoffs even though they will have a much different look.