Since 2005, I’ve had the same exact reaction at the end of every Yankee season: “Man, they just couldn’t get a break this year.” The Yankees have faced a lot of adversity since they were humiliated by the Red Sox in 2004. That was the year the “Yankee Magic” fell apart, which really was the end of a tremendous string of good luck.
In 2005, the center field game plan broke down as Bernie Williams lost all offensive and defensive ability. Among starting pitchers, only Randy Johnson stayed healthy and effective all season. Tony Womack, predictably, gave way to Robinson Cano in May, but started playing in the outfield. Tom Gordon was overworked by Joe Torre in the bullpen, and the warn-down Yankee pitching staff was unable to survive the first round of the playoffs. The 2006 starting staff was pretty good, despite an ERA over 5.00 for Randy Johnson and a weak season from Jaret Wright. The bullpen, on the other hand, melted down, and needed Scott Proctor to pitch 102 innings. But that was nothing compared to their 2007 woes, as Roger Clemens had to be signed for over 20 million dollars over the summer to help fix Yankee pitching issues. Bloggers had to learn to spell Doug Mientkiewicz when Andy Phillips wasn’t playing first base. Alex Rodriguez’s 54 home runs were good enough for a wild card spot, but it wasn’t enough to hold up the team in the playoffs. Then we missed the playoffs in 2008 following injuries to Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes.
Besides for Chien-Ming Wang’s saga, nothing went wrong for the Yankees in 2009. Once Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada returned to the lineup in June, no Yankee hitter missed time. Four starters made 31 starts or more, and (unlike past years) it never really seemed to hurt to send out a Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin every fifth day. This was because Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Phil Coke, and Alfredo Aceves formed the best bridge to Mariano Rivera in a long time, and C.C. Sabathia regularly went into the 8th inning or longer.
Derek Jeter started the season with serious questions being asked about his continued ability to hit and play defense. Today, Jeter is a leading candidate for the 2nd place spot in the Most Valuable Player award, and had his best defensive season in years. The Yankee infield hit a combined 112 home runs, and may yet be known as the best infield of all time. The rest of the hitters didn’t disappoint either: Posada, Damon, and Swisher had great years, and even Melky Cabrera was above average.
The Yankees cruised into the playoffs. So far, the plan has worked out flawlessly.
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