OK, so with the Mets' season recap in the books, I'll now turn to my boys, the Yankees. I got in some comments about their season in Bes-Ball Talk #3, so some of this may be redundant, but I'll try to keep it fresh and thorough.
This was quite a different season for the Bronx Bombers, than those of the past chunk of years. Forget different, with the Yankees not making the playoffs since 1993, it was downright strange! It was true though, and while disappointing, I can accept this year as injury plagued and transitory. Will they make it back next year? Well that depends on some key off season maneuvers, and some more gelling within the team.
First off, the injures were ridiculous, and for the most part the replacements weren't suitable. On the starting pitching front, we lost Chien-Ming Wang for most of the season due to a freak foot injury, an injury that also downed key reliever Brian Bruney! Then, Joba Chamberlain was converted into a starter, pretty much effectively I might add, but he went down for a month to injury as well. The replacements for these valuable pitchers, ace and possible future ace respectively, were Sidney Ponson and Darrel Rasner! Lets also not forget that the season began with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy stinking it up, at least till Hughes was injured and Kennedy was sent to the minors to grow up. Adding insult to these injuries, at the end of the year, none other than Mr. Injury himself Carl Pavano made it back to help out the staff! Now you know that's bad! Another rookie came along at the end of the season, and Alfredo Aceves impressed us all in his few starts. Figure him as a possible long man next year, if we don't bring back Dan Giese, who did decently in the role.
While not injured, Andy Pettitte had the worst second half of his career. The Yanks had really counted on him being one of the reasons they were going to make the playoffs, thinking he may've put them on his back like usual, but it wasn't to be. Something was off, maybe nagging injuries? Maybe just getting tired. I don't know. All I know was that he blow a lot of games. The opposite to Pettitte was Mike Mussina, who had a fantastic comeback year, winning 20 games for the first time in his career! This and the closing of the Stadium made the end of the season special despite missing the playoffs. I'm really happy for Moose, and if he retires, he should be very proud.
In the bullpen, other than Bruney, everything seemed rather stable, well the disaster that was LaTroy Hawkins not withstanding of course. And, man, did I hate that signing! Anyways, guys like Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez held their own till almost the end when both became a bit shaky, luckily Bruney was back by then to help out. Before the deadline we had Kyle Farnsworth pitching better than he had ever in pinstripes, but he was dealt away for catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Damaso Marte, also acquired at the trade deadline (along with Xavier Nady), was a letdown, however I would still suggest getting him back. Phil Coke was a nice surprise down the stretch, and I'm looking forward to seeing more from this lefty next year. Joba started and ended in the bullpen where he's always been dominant, and Mariano put in a pretty great Mariano year.
Getting back to Joba for second, I really felt that this year would've been better off with him in the bullpen for the duration. Having him transfer over to the rotation, however successful, seemed to be a distraction for everyone else. Sure, he was needed, but having this guy in his eight inning spot, for one more year at least, would've shortened the games. I also feel the Yanks would've tried harder for a trade for a starter towards the deadline had they left him alone, which could've helped. Next year they say he'll be in the rotation, and I'm fine with that as long as they keep true to it and let that issue settle.
Losing Wang was part of a one-two punch knockout, with the second being losing Jorge Posada. This is the clubhouse leader, the motivator, and a rare catcher who can produce big numbers. Coming off his best year ever, it was quite a blow to lose him for 2008. His replacements were backups Jose Molina and Chad Moeller to start and then after the trade deadline I-Rod, who completely bombed in NY. That was quite shocking actually, as it seemed that the Yanks were about to stabilize and make their run.
Nady, the other deadline trade, fared well though, and it seems he will be taking Bobby Abreu's spot in right filed next season. A shame Abreu may not be back though, as he had another solid season. Another loss to the outfield was Hideki Matsui, our most clutch player, for nearly two months! While Matsui is mostly a DH now, there's no discounting that his midsummer loss was huge. Johnny Damon had a banner year though to make up for it a little, however the center field situation was bad. Melky Cabrera lost his job after being unable to hit the ball acceptably, and one of his replacements, Brett Gardner, hit worse. I do like this guy though, he has speed and towards the end he seemed to be figuring out major league pitching.
In the infield, Jeter was injured for a bit, and A-Rod for a bit longer, and neither hit as well as they could. Both were pretty bad in big spots, more glaringly Rodriguez, who scored a record breaking contract last year only to regress this year. Speaking of regression, what the heck happened to Robinson Cano?! This guy went from batting champ runner up to batting chump champion! The loss of Larry Bowa to the Dodgers as well as scoring a nice contract surely affected Cano. He started regaining a bit at the end, so we'll see what happens, if he's not traded beforehand! At first base, Giambi had a decent year to end his contract, not spectacular, but livable, although he too suffered from the non clutch bug.
And pretty much the Yanks didn't have a bench they could really rely on. Morgan Ensberg and Richie Sexson both stunk at different points and both were cut, Wilson Betemit continues to be an OK player, but nothing special, and guys like Justin Christian were eh. The only hope was career minor leaguer Cody Ransom, who seemed to play well in the spotlight. Maybe he'll make the bench for next year.
The most interesting spot wasn't on the roster itself, but with new manager Joe Giradi. Filling Joe Torre's shoes was going to be tough, and unless the Yanks 100% tanked, his job was secure, at least for this year. And it was no doubt a rocky one. He didn't seem to click with a lot of the players, especially some of the vets, surprising as he played with some of them. He definitely had communication problems with guys like Johnny Damon, which is very odd, and more importantly with GM Brian Cashman. His problems with the media were especially troublesome, often clearly coming off as telling half truths or outright lying. I understand him wanting to protect the organization and his players, and he's known to be a more "keep it close to the vest" type of guy, but there are better ways to handle these things. He also didn't handle the line up well, switching things up way too often, even when things were going well. About the only thing he did handle well was the bullpen, which was a huge step up from Torre. Hopefully he learns well from his mistakes, and can come out looking and feeling better.
So overall, there was this sense of inconsistency that loomed over the entire season. I talked about the Mets not getting the big hits, well the Yanks were worse. This hurt them severely at the wrong times. After a very slow start, they came back after the All Star break firing on all cylinders, and upgraded at the deadline with Nady, I-Rod, and Marte, but then fell into a massive season killing August slump. They did kick into high gear again in September, but it was a tad late, and that was basically it.
The final game at Yankee Stadium was an emotional affair, handled with class and majesty. Winning that final game helped as well. I guess, in retrospect this was the difference in the Yankees and Mets seasons. The Yanks, were given a free pass this year by most fans, and when they failed to make it, it seemed to be OK. They still were able to close down the Stadium in an excellent way with a Pettitte win and Mariano save, then still had Mussina's 20th win to play for, which they achieved in the final weekend. The Mets, on the other had, were given this tough task of trying to make the playoffs in the final weekend and closing down Shea Stadium, and when they lost, it took the wind out of every sail they had, and left a bad taste in their mouths.
Both teams have a lot of work to do this winter to make sure they make the playoffs. Especially in their new stadiums. It'll be interesting to see what their respective GMs do, and I'll give my Hot Stove analysis next time. For now, that's Bes-ball.