Yankee fans have a reputation for being spoiled, and no doubt we are. There’s a “World Series or bust” mentality surrounding the franchise that stems all the way down from ownership to the fan in the last row of the bleachers. To be sure, when you spend the kind of coin the Yanks do on payroll annually, expectations are different than they are for a team like the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays get credit for competing, the Yanks only get credit for winning it all. Not here, not with me, not this season. I thought that top to bottom the team did an outstanding job this year, and 5 games in June or 5 games in October isn’t going to change that.
Think about the expectations heading into the season. The Yanks had a very quiet offseason. They had major holes in their rotation, losing Andy Pettitte to retirement and the one big fish that was available in Cliff Lee chose Philadelphia over New York. The one major move of Rafael Soriano seemed superfluous at best, and caused division among the Yankee brass. Filling out the rotation were late February signings of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. These are the kind of signings losing teams looking to save a buck make, taking a flyer on a washed-up veteran to maybe give you a good month or two while you see what you have in the farm system. Heading out of spring training the general consensus among bloggers and sportswriters was that this was a Wild Card team at best, not nearly in the same class as the Red Sox or Phillies.
Think of what this team had to deal with on their way to 97 wins. A lost season from Phil Hughes, who was being touted as their #2 starter after an 18 win season in 2010. Another bad year from AJ Burnett, who’s every bit as inconsistent as he ever was and now is starting to lose his ‘electric stuff’ on top of that. A weak, frustrating first half from Derek Jeter, who due to his reputation and pedigree was going to bat at the top of the order no matter what. Losing a key bullpen lefty in Feliciano before the season even started. If I told you in April that all of these things were going to happen, plus A-Rod was going to miss two months and Tex was going to bat .248, you would have thought this team wouldn’t have even been a wild card contender.
Instead they ran away with their division and watched the Red Sox crumble down the stretch. The Sox can blame injuries all they want, but credit Brian Cashman for setting a roster and having a farm system built to withstand the rigors of a long season. If there’s one thing that separated the Yanks and Sox this year, that’s it. The Sox beat the Yanks when they played head to head, but the Yanks had the depth to withstand their injuries, while Boston did not. Bench moves and unproven rookies aren’t sexy headline grabbing moves, but the 2011 Yankees show how important they can be. Brian also made a great call passing on Ubaldo Jimanez, which I was dead wrong about. Again, if I told you in April the Yanks were going start to finish with the roster they broke camp with and wouldn’t make a major midseason move, you would have never thought they’d run away with the AL East. It’s a credit to the front office and coaching staff that they got as much as they did out of some very under the radar signings.
We shouldn’t let 5 games in October define our season, win or lose. The American League playoffs were wide open this year, with no clear favorite and all of the 4 teams closely matched. The Tigers and Rangers played great down the stretch, and people seem to forget that Texas won 96 games and Detroit 95. The 2011 ALDS was a 5 game series with two of the Yankee losses being 1 run games that could have turned on a bounce of the ball. The Yanks outscored Detroit in the other three games 22-9. They lost their Game 5 starter in the 2nd inning due to a flexor strain and managed to get 7 innings of 1-run ball from their bullpen. Give the Tigers credit, they’re a very good baseball team with a terrific manager of their own. The Yanks did a lot right this series, but lost to a tough opponent. There’s no shame in that. I refuse to dismiss all the wonderful things that happened based on one bad week.
We saw many magic moments in 2011. Derek Jeter’s amazing 3K hit game. Mariano setting the Save record. Jorge Posada’s swan song in the playoffs. The MLB debut of Jesus Montero. An amazing season by Curtis Granderson, who was an MVP candidate this year and is always even better as a person off the field. Is there anyone more fun to watch play baseball than Brett Gardner? How about Bartolo Colon’s dancing 2-seamer? David Robertson pulling another Houdini act. Watch this video and tell me the 2011 Yanks had a wasted season. We may not have had the ending we wished for, but I can’t wait for 2012 to begin.
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TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees