The New York Yankees have been the most successful team in Major League Baseball by just about any measure. They’ve got longevity with 27 World Series titles and recent success with postseason trips in 17 of the last 18 years, making the playoffs every year of the wild card era except 2008.
Based on what has happened over the last year and in this spring training session, the Bombers are set for their biggest fall in quite some time.
The last time the Yankees suffered a dry spell in the postseason was a 13-year gap from 1982 through 1994 (the last year of that drought was because of a players strike). New York hasn’t suffered many of those lean stretches. In fact, only three such occurrences — 1982-94, 1965-75 and 1913-1920 — can be found.
But the mighty Yankees could have sung a final swan song last year when they set a franchise record of 245 home runs to lead all of Major League Baseball. They come into this season minus 170 of those home runs.
Nick Swisher (24) is now in Cleveland while Raul Ibanez (19), Russell Martin (21) and Andruw Jones (14) are all out of the picture through free agency. To make matters worse, Alex Rodriguez (18), Curtis Granderson (43), Mark Teixeira (24) and Derek Jeter (15) are out with injuries for various amounts of time.
That is a whole lot of production out of the lineup and the Yankees will feel the wrath once the season gets underway. Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay are ready to rule the roost in the AL East.
New York is full of decent pitching that could keep the team afloat. CC Sabathia is good for an automatic 15 to 20 wins while Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes each logged 16 wins. Andy Pettitte is back for another year out of retirement and Ivan Nova brings up the rear. Mariano Rivera is the best closer this game has ever seen and is back to prove that for a final season after recovering from last year’s knee injury.
But when push comes to shove the Yankees don’t have the bats to back it up. Signing the likes of Travis Hafner, Brennan Boesch and most recently Vernon Wells will not be enough to keep them in the running until A-Rod, Granderson, Teixeira and Jeter are good to go.
Manager Joe Girardi will have his hands full trying to put together lineups that produce enough runs to make the Yankees formidable. Having Brett Gardner back in the swing of things will do a world of good along with MVP candidate Robinson Cano (33 HR, 105 RBI). Kevin Youkillis and Ichiro Suzuki will add to the fire power but the long ball threat will no longer be there.
The Yankees led the league in slugging (.453) and were second in runs scored (804) last season. But when you replace sluggers with the likes of Juan Rivera at first base and Eduardo Nunez at shortstop you are in trouble.
The team showed its desperation by trying to lure Chipper Jones and Derrek Lee out of retirement. Obviously general manager Brian Cashman has gotten his orders and the bottom line is more important than the end line.
If the Yankees lose just one more game per week than they averaged last season, they are looking at an extraordinary 24 more losses this year. That will make New York no better than a .500 ball club.
Ken Morse is a contributed writer to the Citizen’s News.