George Steinbrenner must be rolling over in his grave.
His New York Yankees were not only swept in their American League Championship Series (ALCS), they were humiliated both on and – thanks to Alex Rodriguez – off the field.
And after witnessing the Bronx Bombers’ 8-1 loss in the series-clincher on Thursday, the impetuous Steinbrenner might have fired his entire Yankees’ staff.
Rained out on Wednesday, Game 4 was moved to Thursday afternoon and the Yankees had to feel good about their chances with ace CC Sabathia on the mound. But their all-star lefty, who had won two American League Division Series (ALDS) contests against the Orioles, wasn’t sharp, and his struggles combined with some shoddy Yankees’ defence and the club’s continued ineptitude at the plate, had the Bombers trailing 6-0 after four innings.
And if it wasn’t evident that this was an aging and beleaguered club before Thursday, then it was painfully clear during Game 4.
Manning third base in place of Rodriguez, Eric Chavez turned a routine grounder into an infield single in the first inning and the normally sure-handed Mark Teixeira butchered two ground balls at first base in the third.
And the Yankees’ offence continued to be historically bad. Fortunate to eke by the Orioles in the ALDS despite hitting only .211, the Yankees were even worse against the Tigers, batting a feeble .157.
After leadoff hitter and offensive catalyst Derek Jeter broke his ankle in the 12th inning of Game 1, the Yankees mustered just two runs in the final three games of the series.
Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson combined for a paltry five hits in 50 at bats during the series. Rodriguez and Granderson, who made a combined $39 million this season, weren’t even in the starting lineup for Thursday’s contest.
Making the Game 4 shellacking even tougher to digest was that Austin Jackson and Phil Coke, two players the Tigers acquired from the Yankees for Granderson in December 2009, were key contributors to the Tigers’ triumph. Jackson homered in the seventh inning and Coke, who recorded two saves in the series, pitched the final two frames.
But perhaps most concerning for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi was how fragmented and listless this cast of millionaires appeared throughout the series.
No one with the Yankees will outright say it, but Rodriguez was once again a distraction. And it seemed like almost every camera shot of the embattled slugger showed him by himself in the dugout.
Of course, no one would blame his teammates if they’ve finally had it with A-Rod, whose narcissism seems to know no bounds. Apparently, he can’t even saddle his personal urges while his teammates are mounting an incredible, late-inning postseason comeback.
In case you haven’t heard, right around the time that his teammates were rallying back from a four-run deficit in the ninth inning in Game 1, Rodriguez was reportedly focused on obtaining the phone numbers of two blonde women sitting in the second row behind the Yankees dugout.
According to the New York Post, Rodriguez wrote a note on a baseball and had a ball boy toss it up to the two women asking them to write their phone numbers on it and toss it back to him.
Rodriguez has refused to discuss the report, but the incident doesn’t seem out of character for the self-absorbed slugger. These types of distractions, coupled with his haplessness at the plate, have likely motivated the Yankees to do everything they can to rid themselves of the controversial third baseman and the five years and $114 million remaining on his contract. The catch, however, is that Rodriguez has a no-trade clause and he vowed to reporters after Thursday’s game that he’ll be back in the Big Apple next year.
You can’t help but think that if Steinbrenner were alive today, he’d probably order Cashman to ship Rodriguez and some of his slumping teammates out of town. Swisher is a free agent and likely won’t be re-signed. Outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez, as well as Canadian catcher Russell Martin are also set to test the free agent market.
The Yankees are in desperate need of younger talent. Jeter faces a long recovery from his ankle injury and at 38, he can no longer be counted on as an offensive game-changer. Teixeira, who missed a month with a calf injury, is an old 32, and aside from Cano, it’s hard to identify a player on this team that has any future upside.
The Yanks’ pitching staff wasn’t the reason they lost the ALCS, but outside of Sabathia, the rotation looks weak. The Bombers can’t continue to rely on veterans like Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, who are 40 and 37, respectively and are set to become free agents.
The good news for the Toronto Blue Jays is that the Yankees will undergo a fairly dramatic transformation this off-season, so the Bombers could take a step back in 2013.
The bad news is that the Yankees hate to lose. And they didn’t just lose to the Tigers, they were swept for the first time in a best-of-seven postseason match-up since the 1976 World Series.
So Cashman will head into the offseason determined and angry, motivated by the bitter aftertaste of his club’s ALCS debacle. He’ll revamp the Yankees roster with redemption on his mind and a boatload of money to spend on free agents.
And come to think of it, that’s just the way Steinbrenner would want him to react.