During the regular season, it was business as usual as the New York Yankees collected their 12th AL East crown in the past 16 seasons. Along with the division title, New York had the best record in the American League for the sixth time in nine seasons. It didn’t hurt that the hated Boston Red Sox lost its grip on the Wild Card race and missed the playoffs.
Heavy favorites to win the American League Division Series, the Yankees crushed the Detroit Tigers 9-3 in game one. Detroit jumped on New York early and avoided a furious rally from the Yanks to secure a 5-3 win in game two. The Tigers took game three at home to lead the series 2-1. In game four, the Yankees pounded the Tigers 10-1 to tie the ALDS at 2-2 and forced a “winners take all” Game 5 at Yankee stadium.
Now, the stage was set. You couldn’t have script it any better. We know the routine…It’s the Yankees! There’s no way they could lose this one. Not in their house. Not in front of 50,000 plus fans. The Tigers missed their opportunity to close the Yankees at home and got slaughtered. Yankees got this right???? Well this isn’t a Broadway play and that’s why they play the games.Yankees fans’ greatest fear became a reality when Tigers closer Jose Valverde struck out baseball’s richest player, Alex Rodriguez, to record the final out of the ALDS in New York. They had to watch Detroit celebrate on their turf while their beloved Yankees stare in disbelief. Once again, the team with the biggest pockets failed to produce when it really counted….in the postseason.
Don’t get me wrong, the Yankees did well this season. They won the AL when they weren’t even predicted to do so. Derek Jeter got his 3000 hit and Yankees’ fans witnessed closer Mariano Rivera’s 602nd record-breaking save. The team led the majors in home runs with 222. The pitching was also outstanding this season. There’s only one problem. Their regular season success didn’t translate in the playoffs.
Fading stars with big salaries are killing the Yankees. New York’s top players, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez had a horrible post season. Jeter, who stands to make a little over $14.7 million this season batted .250 in the ALDS. He also was 0-7 with runners in scoring position. That can’t happen when you are the team’s captain. Rodriguez recorded only 2 hits with 18 at bats. That’s a .111 batting average folks! When it’s all said and done, A-Rod will make an even $32 million this year. Did I mentioned that Rodriguez struck out for the final out of the playoffs for the second season in a row? New York can’t rely on players like catcher Jorge Posada who at 40, is in decline. How long can they count on closer Mariano Rivera (41), to close out games?
In sports, money rules but paying ridiculous amounts of salaries to players who are passed their prime is a recipe for failure. Organizations far too often reward players for past achievements with minimum production from those players. The Yankees are the team with the largest bankroll with little to show for come playoff time . The odds of New York winning another division title is good but championships are what they live for. From what I see, they are just champions of the regular season.
By Keith Madyun