Sunday, September 28, 2008

There’s Always Next Year…

The New York Yankees completed their season tonight splitting a rain-soaked double-header with the playoff-bound Boston Red Sox. Eliminated nearly a week ago, the Bombers finished 89-73, third place in the AL East – closing with 12 wins in 15 games.

So for the first time since 1994 playoff baseball will be sans the Bronx Bombers.

What went wrong? A lot. The Yankees entered the season with a new manager, relying heavily on young, unproven pitching.

Phil Hughes (0-4, 6.62) and Ian Kennedy (0-4, 8.17) combined to go winless. The California duo made just 17 combined starts. Joba Chamberlain (4-3, 2.60) bounced from the bullpen to the rotation to the disabled list back to the bullpen. While he pitched effectively, the Yankees failed to define his role and 2009 will feature the same ridiculous speculation… starter or reliever?

The staff ace, Chien-Ming Wang, got off to a fast start (8-2, 4.07) but was derailed on June 15th when he injured his right foot running the bases during an interleague game with the Houston Astros.

Jorge Posada Spent Most of 2008 on the DLSpeaking of injuries, the Yankees had high hopes for catcher Jorge Posada (as evidenced by the four-year, $52 million contract). Why not? He hit .338 in 2007 with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs. Well surprise, surprise… the 37-year-old backstop broke down. Posada appeared in just 51 games. He hit .268 with 3 home runs and 22 RBIs.

Left fielder Hideki Matsui was limited to just 93 games. The Japanese Iron Man’s season was cut short with inflammation in his left knee.

Robinson Cano did nothing to warrant the hefty contract extension bestowed upon him during the offseason. With resident baby sitter Larry Bowa with Joe Torre in Los Angeles, the 25-year-old Cano lolly-gagged his way to the worst season of his four-year career. After an abysmal April (.151 batting average), he failed to truly re-establish himself and was finally benched in September for not hustling.

Robinson Cano Struggled in 2008After sitting out the Johann Santana sweepstakes (Santana went 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA for the cross-town Metropolitans), Brian Cashman made two notable in-season moves.

1. RHP Kyle Farnsworth to Detroit for C Ivan Rodriguez. This one made a lot of sense at the time. However, the future Hall of Famer failed to hit with the Yankees and couldn’t get on the same page as most of the pitching staff.

2. RHP Ross Ohlendorf, OF Jose Tabata, RHP Jeff Karstens & RHP Dan McCutchen to Pittsburgh for OF Xavier Nady and LHP Damaso Marte. Cashman appeared to fill two needs with one move (right-handed bat + left-handed arm). Nady, who is under contract for 2009, played well… Marte? Not so much.

Finally, the biggest problem… the Yankees couldn’t score runs. The Bombers were grounded. The Yankees lineup, potent with run producers and power hitters, scored nearly 200 fewer runs in 2008 than in 2007. Anemic with runners in scoring position, New York burdened its depleted pitching staff.

Frustrating? You bet. But there is always next year.

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