The Yankees in the ALCS: Symphony of Self-Destruction

That “boom” you heard on Thursday evening was the bottom falling out of the Yankees franchise.  Make no mistake, if you’re into self-flagellation like I am (did I mention that I’m also a Tampa Bay Bucs fan?) and watched game 4 beyond the fourth inning like I did, what you witnessed was nothing less than a collapse, a total systems failure, an implosion.  Perhaps not exactly a meltdown on the order of Three Mile Island or the 2011 “Beer and Fried Chicken” Red Sox, but its up there with the 2004 ALCS disaster and that Charlie Sheen interview.

Depending on your personality type, Girardi’s decision to bench Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson amounted either to his pressing the self-destruct button or pulling the plug on the 2012 season. It was either a premeditated act of carnage or a mercy-killing.  I tend to see it as the former but regardless, the question remains; why?  The likelihood of a reverse-2004 ALCS comeback seemed remote, though I thought that perhaps the game four rain delay might bode well for the Yankees, since Sabathia would have had an extra day of rest.  Instead, Sabathia misinterpreted his catcher’s pitch signals from “pitch inside to Cabrera” to “do your best Freddy Garcia impersonation” and got shellacked in the fourth inning.  There is little doubt that Detroit had the better line-up from top to bottom, and that they probably had the edge in pitching as well, but 0-for-the-ALCS?  A Yankees team batting average of .157?  It almost makes me feel sorry for the Tigers – they weren’t even tested! I’m calling a third-straight National League World Series Championship.

The “why?” is a difficult nut to crack, but with the help of millions upon millions of Yankee fans and foes who’ve been lighting up my text-message in-box over the past 18 hours, we will now explore the “why” through a series of intriguing questions.  Here goes:

Mark, did the “C” in “A-L-C-S” stand for “Circus”?

Yes, yes it did:

  • 5 straight games for the AL team with the best record
  • 4 Yankee runs scored in game one  in the bottom of the 9th inning to tie only to lose game one in the 12th
  • 3 Yankee starters benched at one time or another (A-Rod, “Smilin’ Nick” and Granderson)
  • 2 blown calls by the umpires that cost runs, if not wins, for the Yankees
  • 1 baseball, complete with A-Rod’s phone number, hurled into the stands to the lone remaining A-Rod fan in New York City during Game 2.

If you sing the above to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and simultaneously watch The Wizard of Oz scene where the Wicked Witch sets the scarecrow on fire, and you get drunk, it’s a pretty cool effect.  Those bizarrities combined with Derek Jeter’s broken ankle and the death of Joe Girardi’s father probably turned the difficult task of beating Prince Fielder, Delmon Young, and Miguel Cabrera into an impossibility.

Are the Yankees now the Mets? Is it time for a Godzilla-destroying-Tokyo-style panic? 

No, shut up, that’s stupid.  When all is said and done, the Yankees are the winningest franchise in North American sports history, averaging an AL pennant every 2.8 years, and a World Series championship approximately every 5.  The Mets, meanwhile, have, uh, 1986 I think?  Anyway, who cares. They suck.  This is only the fifth sweep out of 73 postseason series in Yankees’ history.  If  you think we’re now the Mets, move to Russia.

Is A-Rod an evil presence on the Yankees’ staff?

Why yes he is.

Is A-Rod done as a Yankee?

Yes.  Earlier in the season, A-Rod had this to say about the new Marlin’s stadium in Miami

 “So, I’m very proud of the city of Miami and the Marlins to be able to achieve this in my hometown

That’s great, except that he was born in NYC, and made these comments while under contract for the Yankees (to the tune of $29 million for 2012).  He’s also said that he wouldn’t bar a trade to Miami and the Marlins were dumb enough to hire Ozzie Guillen as their manager. How dumb is Ozzie Guillen?

He had this to say about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro:

 “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still here.”

To understand the level of stupidity of that statement, he may as well have expressed admiration for Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler.  My point is that there is a tradition of stupidity at 1 Marlins Place into which A-Rod would fit seamlessly.

But, even if the Marlins were staffed by a bunch of brain surgeons, A-Rod’s departure is all but certain.  Girardi didn’t bench A-Rod because he was trying to get Eduardo Nunez to believe in himself ala-some-after-school-special but rather because at a crucial moment, Girardi had no confidence in him. He’s done. The Yankees will have to pay him to leave but this is a case of addition-by-subtraction.  The Marlin’s apparently want him, lack access to any sort of advanced baseball metrics, and need someone’s whose antics will take the spotlight off of their manager.

Is Curtis Granderson also evil?

No, he just sucks. He is gone as well.  He went 0-for-the-ALCS.  His regular season UZR was -18.1 meaning that playing no-one in centerfield has been an option all season.  The Yankees can either pick up his option for 2013 and trade him for a couple of grounds-keepers and maybe a low-A prospect or simply pay him $5 million to go away.

What does “Smilin’ Nick” have to smile about?

Excellent question.  No one is quite sure about that one.  Nick Swisher’s slash numbers weren’t the worst among Yankees at .250/.308/.417 but “not the worst” is rarely an effective argument to make during contract negotiations.  But, you gotta like demeanor. He smiles when he strikes out (5 times in 12 at bats during the ALCS and 5 times in 15 at bats during the ALDS for a grand total of 10 strike outs in 27 at bats in the post season) and I’ll bet he even smiled when he “called out” Yankee fans for booing his suckiness.  Perhaps he’s really a villain – as Shakespeare noted, “one may smile and smile and be a villain.”  They’re all valid theories.  I’ve got a sinking feeling that he’ll be a Yankee for at least five more years.

I suppose that in the company of your non-Yankee friends (read, Rays’ fans)  you’re going to use Derek Jeter’s injury as an excuse for the Yankees’ poor showing?

Duh.  He’s a future Hall-of-Famer. As the band Poco noted, “when its all you got / call it love”.

Why is everyone giving Robinson Cano a pass on the postseason?

Excellent question! I actually believed for about two seconds going into Game 2 of the ALCS that Derek Jeter’s injury might provide an opportunity for Cano to step up and make this his team.  Clearly I simultaneously underestimated Jeter’s importance and overestimated Cano’s capabilities.

Jeter might not have had the defensive range that he had ten years ago but his decline in UZR underscores the limitations of advanced metrics more than it proves any actual deficiencies on Jeter’s part. The guy’s a winner. His slash numbers for the ALDS were .364/.391/.500. He finished the regular season at .316/.362/.429.  This, by the way, at age 38!  I will guarantee you that Cano’s feet wouldn’t have been propped up on Gatorade coolers if Jeter were in the line-up.  Girardi may assign the line-up and make an occasional pitching change, but that’s Jeter’s dugout.  Clearly, he’ll be impossible to replace.

Meanwhile, Cano went 2 for 22 in the ALDS and 1 for 18 in the ALCS.  Apparently worn out from all that effort, he needed to rest and so sat down and propped his feet up on a couple of spare coolers.  No big deal.  It is all but certain that Cano’s option will be picked up this year and I hope we re-sign him. He’s an above average-middle infielder and he’s got an incredible regular-season bat.  For now, that’s about it.

Is George Steinbrenner turning over in his grave right now, as I read this?

Who cares?

Ever notice how when the Yankees win a World Series, as they did in 2009, no pundit can resist tackling the question “Did the Yankees “buy” a World Series”, but that that question seems to disappear conveniently when they are ousted (as they’ve been the past three years) by teams that spend about half as much as they do on player salaries?

Yes, I have.  Very few people actually understand the finer points of baseball economics.  By the way, if you buy into the “Moneyball Theory” of baseball economics, you aren’t one of those very few.   The Yankees had a system, years back, during those brief years when Steinbrenner the Elder had to stay away from the team. The Yankees developed their “Core Four”, made some smart free-agent acquisitions, and put together a TEAM.  You can chart the beginning of the decline of the Yankees to 2005, when they acquired A-Rod, a total Me-first player, who instantly caused morale problems.  The Steinbrenner Brothers have stated that they want to reset their team payroll to $189 million. As the season played out this year, culminating in their epic collapse, the wisdom of this goal is beyond question.  Not every team can be the Yankees. The Red Sox tried it and failed miserably.  The Angels and Dodgers are trying it, and they didn’t even make the playoffs.  We’re seeing right now that even the Yankees are struggling to be the Yankees. Huge pay-outs create huge egos and huge egos find time to flirt as their team is collapsing.

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6 Responses to The Yankees in the ALCS: Symphony of Self-Destruction

  1. Michael says:

    Good job here Mark. Very enjoyable read

  2. europeanyankeefan says:

    Bad job : im a yankee fan, but please mark don t go to politicals words : castro is not hitler, i prefer fidel to mitt romney !
    I m european , and dont like the way you go !

    • Bullshark says:

      Euroyankee:
      Take another look at both sentences under Ozzie's idiotic quote (praise for Castro). Stalin and Hitler are referenced only to illustrate how dumb Ozzie's statement was.

  3. Mark Panuthos says:

    Just for the record, euroyankee, I'm not stating that Castro was as bad as Hitler, but he's as hated in Miami as Hitler is in the rest of the world.

  4. map2history says:

    Great article! This was freakin' funny, man. I don't think A-Rod's going anywhere though.

  5. Bullshark says:

    Well, believe it or not, the intent behind Girardi's decison was to create some sort of a spark by removing him from the order. Simply put, he was not at all productive in the 1st 3 games I didn't realy have an issue with it. You're 0 and 3 and the definition of insanity comes into play with no change at all. I agree that A Rod is going nowhere with what 5 years how many million remaining, a trade would not make sense just yet. He would fit in great with Miami, too bad.