It has taken some 15 hours since the Yankee 2011 season ended for me to be able to talk about this season and playoff run with thoughtful commentary as opposed to just being a string of curses and swears. To say I am disappointed would be like saying General Custer was a bit undermanned at Little Big Horn. However, it is time to step back and take a hard, soulful look at what it was and what it could have been. This team was not without warts, but I still expected it to go to the Ball. So, here is my take on this year’s failing to advance again…
Overall this postseason the Yankees had only 4 batters hit over .300 and one was Montero with 2 hits in two at bats. Posada, Gardner and Cano all came up big with 20 hits, 7 walks and 14 RBIs in the 5 game series. So, they were on base often enough. But the heart of the order – Teixera, ARod and Swisher totaled 9 hits, 3 for extra bases, and 5 RBIs in those same games. No wonder they lost 3 games by a total of 4 runs. One radio caller today said that Teixera’s new nickname should be Mr. Softee as he is not around in the cold spring weather, is all over the warm summer months and quietly disappears in the fall, just like the ice cream truck. Add to this a pretty ineffective Russell Martin at bat, and you see a very disturbing trend. Now, I understand that you have to go with the horses who got you there but I really think that Girardi could have managed to get the bench more than 4 at bats during the 5 game series. Maybe loyalty is nice trait but when you are trying to win a ballgame, perhaps a change or two was needed.
In the field, they were solid overall, with no real complaints from this end. Granderson made 2 spectacular catches in Game 4 and as a team, they committed only one error in the five games. Not a reason to hang a disappointing playoff end that.
This brings us to pitching. There certainly was some effect by the weather but in rating overall, they come up short. CC Sabathia had a poor (for him) start in the suspended game one and lost game three, also pitching way below expectation. Both Ivan Nova and AJ Burnett came up big in their starts even if Nova had to leave game 5 after 2 innings with some forearm tenderness. Someone mentioned that forearm tenderness is often followed by the words “Tommy John surgery” but it is way, way too early to speculate about something like that. Garcia took the loss in Game 2, giving up 3 earned in 5+ innings, not as good as we might have hoped but a winnable situation. Certainly, the bullpen deserves some praise as they allowed few runs, although one, the homerun off Soriano, cost them dearly. If I told you the pen would give up 2 earned runs in 15+ innings, you would have signed up for that in an instant. Again, this just points back at the fumbling offense as the root cause.
Finally, overall, Joe Girardi did a fairly good job in the post season in the general handling of the club. Sure, there were some curious decisions that were later explained by injury issues but his biggest failing was the sense of total loyalty he had, especially in light of the repeated failures. He stuck with CC too long in Game three and the additional runs scored off him, pushed them to a loss. He stuck with the big 3 – Tex, ARod and Swish along with Martin when he had some capable bats on the bench. In game 5 they had the bases loaded with less than two outs twice and scored a total of one run. The significance of this is amplified by the fact that they lost the game by one run. Martin, who I love dearly, was clearly struggling at the plate and Girardi could have pinch hit Montero or Jones or Chavez in the 7th to get a run in. He didn’t and they didn’t.
So, we go into the off season with a sense of disappointment. Not the disappointing feeling of Red Sox Nation whose team collapsed out of the playoffs before they even began, but disappointment anyway. The front office and Girardi will need to address several issues this winter including dealing with the Posada, the Sabathia opt out possibility, the aging of players like ARod and Jeter and starting pitching overall. I expect there to be a number of changes and new faces on the club next year, including more playing time for the Baby Yankees like Montero and some of the minor league pitcher promotions. Lets just hope they put together a better run in 2012.