Bobby Lemaire, Staff Writer
On October 18, the Detroit Tigers, behind the masterful starting pitching of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer eliminated the New York Yankees in a four-game sweep in the ALCS. During the four-game set, the Yankee sluggers including Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher were not able to get the homer happy Yankee offense going.
It didn’t help that they played a majority of the year without future hall-of-famer Mariano Rivera, and team captain Derek Jeter got hurt in the first game of the series, leading him to miss the rest of the playoffs with a fractured ankle. But, this series revealed a lot of things about the Bronx Bombers and the Yankee faithful are not going to be happy to hear it.
The main issue of this team is that they can only hit home runs, and if they don’t do that, their offense comes to a halt. During the regular season, Granderson had led the team with 43 bombs. In addition, Swisher, first basemen Mark Teixeira, second baseman Robinson Cano and catcher Russell Martin each hit over twenty homers, but during the ALCS, not one of them hit a home run.
Without getting runs via the long ball, they needed to get some base hits and drive the runners in the old fashioned way. That didn’t happen either. Only two players, utility man Eduardo Nunez and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, were the only players to have batting averages over .300.
Another major problem that the Yankees have to deal with is the age of their stars. When you look up and down their lineup, you really see how old this team actually is. Two of their most important starting pitchers, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda are 40 and 37 years old respectively. In the bullpen, Rivera is 42 years old and coming off a torn ACL he suffered while shagging fly balls in early May. Pettitte and Kuroda are both free agents, but Kuroda is expected to sign another contract, this time for multiple years. It is not known if Pettitte wants to come back at all.
The Yankees are just as old in the field. Jeter is 38, and even though he is still producing at an all-star level, it is unlikely he will be able to keep these numbers up until he retires. A-Rod is also in the twilight of his career at the age of 37. He is in the midst of a 10-year, 275 million dollar contract that the Yankees are pretty much stuck with. Then, in the outfield, Ichiro and Raul Ibanez, who were the two most productive hitter against the Tigers, are 39 and 40 years old respectively.
What makes the ages of these players a problem is the lack of depth they have in their farm system. Starting pitchers Manny Banuelos and Dillon Betances were supposed to be the future of the Yankees rotation but both pitchers have been struggling, even leading to Banuelos to getting Tommy John surgery. In the field, there are no big names in minors that are making enough noise to get the front office excited.
While all of this is happening, do not expect the Yankees to fall off the map so quickly. Even with the team they fielded, they made it all the way to the ALCS. They can still make the playoffs for a few more years before players start retiring, but when they are gone, things are going to look bleak for Yankee fans, who usually have high and sometimes unreasonable expectations for their team.