There was a sense of stunned reality in the Yankees clubhouse. Everyone understood exactly what happened, but no one seemed to know why or how.
“We have a lot of things to be proud of this year, but the last four games weren’t among them,” Mark Teixeira said. “We just didn’t play well. We didn’t’ play Yankee baseball, and it showed.”
What is Yankee baseball exactly?
“Basically our team is built around power and plate discipline, and obviously what comes in between are the walks and the singles and the doubles,” Brian Cashman said. “We’ve had (postseason success that way). We’ve had the success. I’ve lived it. You know what, we got here for a reason too. Despite how our offense performed here, this team is here for a reason. We’re honored to be in the American League Championship Series. We’re disappointed that we’re not moving forward. We feel that we did not utilize to the best of our abilities our strengths and be able to put that step forward in this particular series. … Is that something that will all of a sudden define what they really are or what this offense really is? No, it’s not going to.”
The Yankees hit just .157 in the American League Championship Series. That’s the second-worst team batting average of all 172 teams to compete in an ALCS since 1969. The Yankees snapped their record streak of 36 consecutive postseason series without being swept (one other franchise, the Cardinals, has even played in the in that many postseason series). The Yankees played 39 innings this series and scored in three of them. Their two runs in the final three games were scored by Eduardo Nunez, a guy who wasn’t even on the active roster for Game 1.
“I’ve got to tell you, the last two weeks were very difficult for everyone,” Alex Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t just one guy struggling. It was a collective group and it was a very unique situation. Since I’ve been here in my nine years I don’t think there was a period where everyone struggled at the same time.”
It happened this series, and really, it happened the entire postseason. Five Yankees regulars — Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin — hit below .200 this postseason. The two guys who replaced them — Brett Gardner and Eric Chavez — went hitless in 24 at-bats.
“There are a lot of good hitters in that room,” Joe Girardi said. “And to be able to shut a lot of them down is very surprising to me. And some of the guys that replaced other guys are good big league players that have had a lot of success in their career. Collectively we weren’t able to get it done.”
That much was clear. It’s going to take me a few hours to sort through everything that was said in that clubhouse, and it’s going to take all of us a few days to sort through what exactly happened this postseason, but the reality was unmistakable. The Yankees didn’t hit, and they paid the price for it.
“They’re better hitters than that,” Cashman said. “You know that. I know that. We’ve seen that. That’s a fact. There’s no dispute I don’t care who wants to argue what to me. What we saw in this series – and during the Baltimore series despite getting past them – on the offensive side isn’t a fair, accurate depiction of the capabilities of those players. It’s just not. … We didn’t want our winter to start just yet. Unfortunately, it’s coming sooner than we wanted.”
I’m sure we’ll dig deeper into these issues in the coming days, but just to quickly hit on some of the more pressing issues at the moment…
“That’s correct,” he said. “I will be back, and I have a lot to prove, and I will come back on a mission.”
Rodriguez said he hold no hard feelings toward Girardi or Cashman for their collective decision to bench him this postseason.
“I know it was difficult for Joe, and I know that Joe didn’t want to sit me,” Rodriguez said. “It’s something that’s not easy for him. But again, if I do what I do, Joe doesn’t have a choice. Neither does Cashman. Neither does anybody. If I am who I know I can be, then they’ll worry about other guys. So my job is to work extremely hard, prepare and help be a force.”
Is Andy Pettitte going to retire?
Pettitte was supposed to pitch tomorrow. Instead, tomorrow will be the first day of another uncertain offseason. Pettitte said he wants to make his decision — retire or come back — more quickly than he did two years ago.
“I would love to think about it maybe for a month or so,” he said. “Think about what I want to do, definitely not jump to a conclusion. But as I was saying, it’s a huge commitment at this stage of my life, where I’m at. … I definitely miss parts of (being home), there’s no doubt about it. But I was sold out and committed to this, and absolutely committed to being here. And I want to make sure if I do this, I’m absolutely sold out and committed to it.”
Does this postseason mean Kevin Long’s job is on the line?
Cashman made it perfectly clear that he didn’t blame the Yankees coaching staff for the team’s postseason performance, and he expects to have the full coaching staff back next season.
“Do I anticipate that? Yes,” Cashman said. “Have we had a chance to sit back, and have I had a chance to talk to my manager about it and everything? No, I haven’t done that. Do I anticipate changes right now? I don’t anticipate that. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be.”
After his fan comments, does Nick Swisher want to be back next year?
Back in the lineup for Game 4, Swisher had the RBI double that drove in the only Yankees run. He also said he wants to be back next season.
“Absolutely,” Swisher said. “… (The last four years were) awesome, absolutely awesome, bro. Best place in the world to play, absolutely.”
Do the Yankees have a clear free agent priority this winter?
“I have preferences and things of that nature,” Cashman said. “But I have not talked to Hal Steinbrenner, and so until I have conversations with Hal about everything, it makes no sense to start pushing who’s important or more important than others. There’s too much pain right now that exists here, and I don’t need to start on that process just yet.”
• CC Sabathia pitched a complete game to get the Yankees into the ALCS. Tonight, he couldn’t pitch out of the fourth inning. “It’s embarrassing to me to be able to come out and not give our team a chance to win,” Sabathia said. “I pride myself on trying to give us a chance and I didn’t do that tonight.”
• What was wrong with Sabathia? “I felt great,” he said. “I just couldn’t command the ball on the inside part of the plate to the righties. … I was terrible today. I didn’t make pitches. Changeup was a non factor. Fastball command wasn’t good. They put some good at-bats together. It kind of is what it is.”
• Cashman said the Yankees will have Sabathia’s left elbow examined this offseason just to make sure there’s no lingering damage in there. They have no indication that there’s something wrong — Sabathia said he’s fine — but the Yankees want to make sure. Cashman said the team has a full list of potential injuries to double check this winter. That’s pretty standard for the team each postseason.
• Two Yankees hitters came out of this series looking especially good: Raul Ibanez and Eduardo Nunez. Ibanez’s clutch hits made a case for another year as a platoon DH/outfielder and Nunez’s past two games — home run, triple, stolen base — made the case for another chance on the big league roster. “I feel confident all the time,” Nunez said. “I hope to make the team (next year), but we’ll see.”
• Ichiro Suzuki also had a pretty good postseason, leading the team with 11 hits and tied for the team lead with five RBI. Would he consider coming back to the Yankees? ?It just ended today, and like I’ve said before, I just want to be that player that is needed and wanted,” Ichiro said. “And that’s all I can tell you today.”
• Perhaps no more puzzling player this postseason than Robinson Cano, who’s had postseason success in the past and ended the regular season as the hottest hitter in baseball. “That one is kind of baffling for me,” Girardi said. “Because we have seen the type of hitter that Robbie Cano is.”
• Sabathia clearly didn’t have it tonight. Why didn’t Girardi pull him after the Cabrera home run in the fourth? “He had Fielder, and he got Fielder out and looked pretty sharp on that,” Girardi said. “I had Eppley up. I wasn’t hesitant, but I have a lot of confidence in CC.”
• Girardi found a time to pinch hit Rodriguez against the lefty who had just entered the game in the sixth inning. Rodriguez wound up 0-for-2. “That’s why I sent him up there, (because) you are guaranteed a spot against him. against the left-handed pitcher,” Girardi said. “He swung the bat good off (lefties) all year long, and it didn’t happen.”
• Bad defensive inning for Mark Teixeira in the third. It wound up costing them a run, but it’s hard to say it cost them the game. “The first one’s a do-or-die,” Teixeira said. “If I back up on it, there’s no chance I get it. I went in to get it, and it got past me. The second one, it’s a ball that 9 out of 10, it hops up right to you and it’s not a big deal. But it just hopped up a little too much, and I missed it.”
• Final word goes to Cashman: “We’re going to keep fighting. The one thing I know that the Yankees stand for and we’ve tried to stand for is, we’re always going to get back. We’re going to promise we’re going to do our best. We’re going to try as hard as we can. Some years obviously we have more success than others, but you can count on us trying to stay in it to win it. That’s all I can say. That’s the Steinbrenner philosophy which is do anything you can to make sure that team is competitive and the fans of New York have a belief that this team has a chance to do something special. That belief existed again this year and we fell short of our goal and we’re sorry about that. We’re going to go fight again next year for it and try to be the last team standing. Unfortunately we weren’t able to finish that off this year.”
Associated Press photos