Injuries, power drop leave Yanks with sorry season
Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera have left, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson might not be far behind and Alex Rodriguez could be suspended for all of next season.
Following the New York Yankees' worst year since 1992, there are a whole lot of questions and not many answers. Manager Joe Girardi hasn't even committed to returning.
''I don't know how it's going to be here next year,'' captain Derek Jeter said after Sunday's season finale. ''The manager and coaches are free agents, too. Anything I would say about next year would be premature and speculation.''
New York finished tied for third in the AL East at 85-77, its poorest winning percentage in more than two decades. The Yankees were 12 games back of first-place Boston and six games behind Tampa Bay, which forced a tiebreaker for the second AL wild card.
''The franchise knows what they have to do,'' said Cano, who may seek $300 million or more as a free agent. ''They seem to make the team better every single year. I'm just going to go on vacation and go home and see the family and see where we are.''
For a team that treats early-round playoff games as routine, missing the postseason for only the second time in 19 years was a shock. The only new memories created were tear-filled exits.
''Andy and Mo, goes without saying how special that was,'' Jeter said. ''But on the field, it wasn't memorable.''
New York's high point of 12 games over .500 was reached on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, when a win at Tampa Bay increased the Yankees' record to 30-18. By early August they hit their midseason nadir at 57-56.
Not for a single game did New York put its envisioned lineup on the field. After breaking his left ankle in the AL championship series opener against Detroit last October, Jeter didn't return until July 11 and went right back on the DL with a tight right quadriceps. He came back late in the month but played in only four games before a strained right calf caused a third DL stint. After just 17 games overall this year, his season was cut short on Sept. 11 because of another injury to the left ankle.
Jeter's final totals for 2013: a .190 average, one homer and seven RBIs.
Coming off left hip surgery in January, Rodriguez didn't make his season debut until Aug. 5 - the day he was given a 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball for alleged violations of the sport's drug agreement and labor contract. Playing while his penalty was under appeal, he hit .244 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in 44 games and missed the final four because of sore legs.
''I'm really looking forward to at least one full offseason of hardcore training,'' he said. ''I haven't had that in quite a long time.''
Mark Teixeira partially tore the tendon sheath in his right wrist while with the U.S. team at the World Baseball Classic. The All-Star first baseman made his season debut on May 31, then aggravated the injury June 15 and opted for surgery on July 2. His season amounted to a .151 average with three homers and 12 RBIs in 15 games.
And in his last season before free agency, Granderson hit.229 with seven homers and 15 RBIs in 61 games. His right forearm was broken on Feb. 24 in his first spring training plate appearance when he was hit by a pitch from Toronto's J.A. Happ. Granderson returned May 14, but in his eighth game back his left pinkie was broken May 24 by a pitch from Tampa Bay's Cesar Ramos. The outfielder didn't appear in another big league game until Aug. 2.
Even the replacements got hurt.
Kevin Youkilis didn't play after June 13 because of a lumbar spine sprain. Eduardo Nunez was out from early May until July with a left oblique strain. Francisco Cervelli's season ended April 26 when a foul ball off the bat of Toronto's Rajai Davis broke his right hand. The catcher also was suspended in the Biogenesis drug scandal.
New York used a team-record 56 players as 21 went on the disabled list for a total of 28 stints, causing 1,493 missed days, STATS said.
The injuries and the departures of Raul Ibanez, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez as free agents caused a massive power outage. Home runs dropped from a team-record 245 last year to 144, the Yankees' fewest in a non-shortened season since they hit 130 in 1989. Not counting strike years, it was the largest falloff in baseball history, according to STATS, topping a decrease of 96 for the 1988 Chicago Cubs.
''I think we need more offense overall,'' Girardi said.
Fourteen players are potentially eligible for free agency, including Phil Hughes (4-14), Hiroki Kuroda (11-13 after losing his last six decisions) and relievers Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain.
Jeter is expected to exercise his $9.5 million player option. Cano, the team's best offensive player, may opt to take a higher offer if the Yankees attempt to show fiscal restraint. They'd like to get under the $189 million threshold for the luxury tax next season, which includes space for about $177 million in player salaries.
''I've just got to wait and see to decide if it's stressful or how it is. I cannot really tell you because I've never been in that situation,'' Cano said.
CC Sabathia remains a concern after going 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA, 76th among 81 qualifying pitchers. The ace missed his final turn in the rotation because of a strained left hamstring.
''I know a lot of people have written me off,'' he said.
Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann seems to be a possible target in the free-agent market. The pitching staff could be overhauled.
But if the new guys get hurt, the Yankees might struggle again.
''I don't care who the guys are in that room,'' Girardi said. ''When you put the uniform on, you're a big league player and I believe you have a chance to make the postseason.''