How will you remember the 2012 Yankees? It’s a question that’s staring me down like something you have to answer for your senior year high school yearbook.
I’d like to believe in the whole “Win the World Series or the season is a failure” concept, but even I know that is an impossible expectation even if it sounds good and makes the Yankees organization sound good for supposedly living by it. But you can’t win the World Series every year. You can only hope you get to October and then from there get good pitching, some timely hits, a few lucky bounces and avoid the injury bug.
On Tuesday night, I was at a bar with my roommates and Game 4 of the 1996 World Series was on YES. The Yankees trailed 6-0 before Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Cecil Fielder and Charlie Hayes were able to make it 6-3 in the sixth. The Yankees tied it up in the eighth on a three-run home run from Jim Leyritz, and the bartender actually changed the channel to NBA preseason basketball in the middle of Leyritz’s at-bat. But as much as I wanted to see that home run off Mark Wohlers for the 593rd time, I also didn’t want to see it. I wanted to be reminded of what October was like when the Yankees were going to find a way to win, but I also didn’t want to be reminded of what October was like when the Yankees were going to find a way to win.
The 2012 Yankees wouldn’t have come back against Denny Neagle. They wouldn’t have even scored against him. The 1996 Yankees lost the first two games at home of the World Series and then had to go to Atlanta, to the home of the best team in baseball over the last two years, and they came out alive. The 2012 Yankees lost the first two games of the ALCS at home against the 88-win Tigers and then had to go to Detroit and try to send the series back to the Bronx. They shouldn’t have even gotten on the plane.
The 2012 Yankees season ended before they made Anibal Sanchez look like Cliff Lee and before Justin Verlander shut them down without his best stuff and before Max Scherzer repeated his 2011 postseason performance against them. The 2012 Yankees season ended when Derek Jeter couldn’t get up from the field and when the Yankees couldn’t win a home game in which they scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie it. Seriously, how do you lose that game? No team in any sport loses a game in which they comeback in improbable fashion at home. Ever. It doesn’t happen. But I guess it’s a lot easier to happen when Nick Swisher 007 is playing right field.
I wasn’t as upset as I should have been when the Yankees lost Game 2 or Game 3 because of how upset I was after Game 1. After Game 1, I left the Stadium in the early hours of Sunday morning, devastated and depressed. I knew the season was over. Even though there was still technically a lot of baseball left to be played, I knew without Jeter and without winning Game 1 following the comeback that the season was over. I went into Phase 1 of the Yankees Elimination Process when Nick Swisher misplayed that ball in right field and it carried over to Sunday before Game 2. Phase 1 is when you know the season is over, but it’s not over yet. You probably experienced Phase 1 after Game 6 in the 2004 ALCS or after Game 3 in the 2006 ALDS or Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS or Game 4 of the 2010 ALCS. Sure things can change, but you know the inevitable isn’t far away.
Depending on when you enter Phase 1, the time between Phase 1 and Phase 2 can do crazy things to your emotions. You start to believe that even with the odds stacked against you that you can come back and the season can be extended. You can talk yourself into a comeback of epic proportions the way I did after Game 3 when I started asking, “Why not us?” to anyone I encountered throughout the day leading up to Game 4 like I was Curt Schilling eight Octobers ago. The time between Phase 1 and Phase 2 is full of false hope and that’s the last thing you need before Phase 2 sets in. Phase 2: The season is actually over.
Phase 2 can’t begin until the final out of the season is made. Even after CC Sabathia got rocked and the Tigers were still scoring runs against the Yankees bullpen in the final innings of Game 4, I was stuck in limbo on the outskirts of Phase 1, but oh so close to Phase 2. Phase 2 is when there are no more outs or innings or games. It’s over and it’s not coming back until April.
Phase 3 is the final phase and the phase I’m currently in. It’s the phase when there hasn’t been a game for a few days, so it feels like the All-Star break. But then there aren’t games for a few more days then a week then two weeks and then you realize there won’t be real, meaningful baseball until April. Usually this phase becomes easier because it is negated by the NHL season, but because Gary Bettman thinks a fourth lockout during his tenure as commissioner is a good idea, Phase 3 and the winter are going to drag on.
How will I remember the 2012 Yankees? As a failure. The 2012 Yankees won’t be remembered as a failure because they didn’t win the World Series. They will be remember as a failure because they didn’t even show up to get to the World Series.
I will remember the 2012 Yankees for the Goof Troop. That’s Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson. If you don’t think Mark Teixeira belongs in the Goof Troop because he had nine hits in the postseason then you’re lost. He had one extra-base hit, no home runs and zero RBIs. Let me remind you that he makes $23.5 million to be a power-hitting first baseman and a presence in the middle of the lineup. If he wants to be given a free pass for being a singles hitter then maybe he should give back some of his money away and he can hit with Brett Gardner at the bottom of the order. And if you believe that he makes up for Jason Giambi-like transformation with his defense then maybe you missed his defense in the postseason.
But for as bad as Teixeira was power-wise, the other four were a flat-out embarrassment. The only thing you can really do with Cano is chalk it up as the worst slump ever at the worst possible time. He is the “best” hitter on the team and the future and foundation of the lineup. You can only hope some team is willing to take on A-Rod and a small part of his contract. Granderson will likely be back for at least 2013, so you have to hope the eye doctor he recently visited found something related to why he is now a three-pitch strikeout. And Nick Swisher? The next time I want to see Nick Swisher in person is in right field at Yankee Stadium in the bottom of the first inning, playing for another team. If Nick Swisher is a Yankee in 2013, I won’t be going to the Bronx and that’s a promise. And you can’t even laugh and say, “I’m sure the Yankees will be fine without you there” because if you were at the postseason games, you know that they can use every single person in attendance they can get at the Stadium.
The Yankees finally got the starting pitching in the postseason that they needed in 2004 and 2005 and 2006 and 2007 and 2010, but they got the hitting they had in 2011. They had the easiest path to the World Series since 2006 when the Tigers also ended their season, but instead they ended up as the first Yankees team to be swept in a postseason series since the 1980 ALCS. They were a regular-season success and a postseason failure, and they didn’t even put up a fight. But after six months of laying down in the final innings of games (aside from Raul Ibanez’s late-inning heroics in the final week of the regular season and in the postseason), I should have seen it coming. You can only rely on your 40-year-old left-handed designated hitter making $1.1 million so many times. At some point A-Rod ($29 million), Teixeira ($23.5 million), Cano ($14 million), Swisher ($10.25 million) and Granderson ($10 million) have to do something. Anything! Seriously, get a hit with runners in scoring position. One effing hit.
Before the postseason started, I was scared that Bruce Springsteen’s “Land of Hope and Dreams” was going to be forever ruined if the Yankees were eliminated the way that Tinie Tempah’s “Written In the Stars” was last year. But even though this was the most embarrassing postseason performance from them since 2004 (though it’s hard to discount 2006 and 2007), I decided that the 2012 Yankees had ruined enough for me and they couldn’t ruin the theme song for the 2012 postseason too. Instead the song will serve to remind me of what went wrong over the final four games and six days of the season.
Ya leave behind your sorrows
Ya this day at last
Well tomorrow there’ll be sunshine
And all this darkess past
157 days until Opening Day.