|Point-Counterpoint: Cause of the Yankees Demise||| Print ||
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on September 13, 2008
Hank Steinbrenner, in early August, said injuries were keeping the Yankees from contending. You may think he’s nothing more than a loud-mouth blowhard or George Steinbrenner reincarnate, but Hank has a point worth examining. The Yankees, as of Friday, stand nine games out of first in the AL East and are going to miss the postseason for the first time since 1993.
Injuries are to blame for the Yankees’ demise; it only takes a quick glance at the starting rotation to see that. Chien-Ming Wang, who has become one of the best 15 starting pitchers in the major leagues, has been out since mid-June. The three youngsters the Yankees were counting on to fill out their rotation -- Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain -- have all missed time this season. Carl Pavano, for what it’s worth, has also missed the majority of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. No team can lose 40% of its rotation for extended periods of time and expect to compete.
Nor can it lose an All-Star catcher (Jorge Posada), a solid outfielder (Hideki Matsui), or the best hitter in the major leagues (Alex Rodriguez) and win. These were integral parts of the Yankees offense and, especially, their defense. No one will confuse those three with Johnny Bench, Jim Edmonds, or Brooks Robinson, respectively, but they still are above average.
Yes, there are critics who say that the Yankees, with a $200 million payroll, should have the depth to rise above these maladies. But there is no team, not even the biggest-spending team in the major leagues, that could’ve climbed through this adversity and still contended. Hank was right.
No Surprise in Yankee Decline
Underachievement? Are you kidding? This Yankee team was never that good. If anything, you might call this team overachievers for hanging even vaguely in the wild card race for as long as they did, due to unexpected contributions for Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina both of whom played far better than expected.
Even going into the season, this was a team built on a very shaky foundation. This was an old team where only two players under 30 in the opening day lineup were Robinson Cano (25) and Melky Cabrera (23) and everyone else was a significant injury risk.
And the starting staff was even less stable. After Chien Ming Wang, this staff was made of unproven youngsters (Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain) and veterans who are at the end of their careers (Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina). That wasn’t a recipe for success - even if Wang had stayed healthy.
This was a team who was looking squarely in the eye at an offensive decline, plus a pitching staff which was bound to have a lot of growing pains. In fact, on paper, it looked to be the fourth-best staff in their own division.
Throw in a new unproven manager, the inevitable injuries, and the atrocious defense, (especially the outfield defense of Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon) and even before the first pitch of the season, you could see this wasn’t a playoff team. Fourth was, and still is, a very possible place for them to finish up the year, and no matter how much Yankees fans and pundits wanted to deceive themselves, it’s just about right based on the quality of the product the Yankees put on the field.