This time last year, the New York Yankees were closing their historic stadium on a sad note. They did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons. On top of that, they were forced to watch the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays battle for a trip to the World Series.
So in the offseason, the Yankees did what they do best: spend, spend and spend some more.
General Manager Brian Cashman opened up the Steinbrenners’ checkbooks and signed A.J. Burnett, C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira to long-term deals. The three contracts total $423.5 million. He also traded for Nick Swisher and re-signed starting pitcher Andy Pettitte.
As a result of the signings, among other things, the Yankees have taken the Major Leagues by storm. Since May 14, when the Yankees record stood at 14-14, they are 84-42. Barring a collapse, the Yankees will be the first and only team this season to reach the one hundred-win plateau. They are expected to march through the postseason and win title No. 27, but there are plenty of reasons why they can be beat.
For instance, C.C. Sabathia has not proven himself in the postseason. He is the Yankees unquestioned ace, but for how great he has been in the regular season, he has been just as bad in the playoffs. In the 2007 postseason with Cleveland, Sabathia sported an ugly 8.80 ERA. In last year’s postseason with Milwaukee, he allowed five earned runs in just less than four innings of work during his only start. It is fair to wonder if he will be able to perform on the postseason stage in New York.
In fact, the entire rotation is a question mark. A.J. Burnett has been inconsistent in his first season in pinstripes. In his last five starts, he has given up six runs twice, one run twice and two runs once. This has been the story of his season. Yankees fans wonder if the “good” or “bad” Burnett will show up depending on the start. Andy Pettitte has been a big-game pitcher for the Yankees for years. But in what is, most likely, his last year before retirement, can he fully be counted on? Meanwhile, Joba Chamberlain has had his rhythm interrupted by the Yankees’ plans to limit his innings and pitch count. Chamberlain has not pitched more than four innings in six starts this past month and he has seen his ERA spike to 4.72. The Yankees are now trying to build his arm strength back up, but this should have been done early in the season, not in September.
Good pitching shuts down good hitting. The Yankees’ offense this season has been spectacular, leading the MLB in hits, home runs and RBI. But in a short five or seven game series, the offense can go cold or the opposing pitching can get hot. In their last three postseason appearances, the Yankees have never averaged more than four runs per series. This is a different year, with Teixeira at first and Swisher in right, but A-Rod can still find new ways to disappoint.
The Yankees do not match up well with their possible postseason opponents. It is well known that Los Angeles has been a “House of Horrors” for New York the past couple of years. The Angels have continuously shown that they are not intimidated by the mystique of the Bronx Bombers.
Ever since Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run broke the hearts of the Red Sox Nation in the 2003 ALCS, the Red Sox have out performed the Yankees. They have won two World Series to the Yankees zero and broke the curse when they fought back from a 3-0 deficit to stun the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Any team boasting a top two of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester is a daunting task. Even the AL Central champions Detroit Tigers or Minnesota Twins can sneak up and eliminate the Yankees in a short first round series.
The Yankees have established themselves as the best team in baseball this season. They may very well go on to add to their legacy and win the Fall Classic, but we shouldn’t credit the title to them just yet. They will be the overwhelming favorite when the postseason begins shortly, but it is possible to take them down.