Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fat Lady Sang Loud For Yanks’ Playoff Dreams

It’s over for the Yankees and it was a matter of when

By Rich Mancuso

BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 26- There was that buzz in the crowd at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night. But it was more suited for a one night stand. The New York Yankees needed to win and the scoreboard numbers were all in favor of the Cleveland Indians.  Fans were not waiting for bobble heads either, as the Charlie Brown give-away bobble head this night arrived on time.

The Yankees, though, never arrived this year. It all became official in the eighth inning with Curtis Granderson at bat. The Yankees were trying to rally against Tampa Bay, but it did not matter because Cleveland would get their win over the White Sox.

The Yankees were mathematically eliminated from the post season when the Cleveland score went final. Granderson would ground out and a few of the Yankees, on the field for the top of the ninth had a few words with each other.

It was over, and for the second time in 19 years the Yankees will not be involved with playing baseball in October.

“It’s extremely disappointing and back to the drawing board,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. This had to be one of his most difficult post game press briefings with the media. There was a sense of exhaustion as well as disappointment.

However Girardi and the Yankees, as well as their fans, had to know this day was coming. They have been on the brink of elimination from a second wild card spot in the American League and if that second spot was not available elimination would have come that much sooner.

But they were a resilient group, and never quit. Despite all the injuries, and players who kept coming and going, and the lineup shuffling, the Yankees until that eighth inning saw some hope. In that eighth inning, despite again having to battle back to try and win a game, there was hope.

“We were right there,” said Girardi. “Today was probably a reality check for me.”

And it will be a reality check for the New York Yankees. Not playing baseball in October, and with no playoff baseball in the Bronx, well that does not sound right. Indeed, the reality all along was this Yankees team had limited chances for an October post season with 28 stints of disabling 21 different players. That was not supposed to happen to a team with an opening day Major league baseball high payroll of $230 million.

The Rays don’t feel sorry for the Yankees. Most teams never do when the Yankees fail to succeed and Girardi said all season, no team will feel sorry for the walking wounded Yankees. All teams have their share of injuries, but the general manager Brian Cashman went wherever he could to bring in reinforcements.

The veterans Cashman acquired at a reasonable price worked for a limited period of time. Lyle Overbay had a comeback season, a surprise pickup, and David Wells did his part as another key acquisition. Many more came along for the ride with hopes that Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and even Alex Rodriguez would return.

The Yankees started strong and had a brief hold on first place. Then the comeback and making things interesting, and earlier this month trailed the wild card spot by one game as they went up to Boston. That three-game sweep by the Red Sox led to the bad September, losing eight of their last 11 games.

“Just a tough way to end things here, not making the postseason,” commented Phil Hughes who started and in all probability lost his last game as a Yankee. Hughes (4-14) pitched two innings, allowed three runs. He tossed less than 5.0 innings in each of his last five starts.

Hughes was only part of the issue. If the Yankees want to see October baseball next year, the pitching staff has to do it down the stretch. At one point, before that series up in Boston, it appeared the pitching and hitting was coming together.

The Yankees never gave up on Girardi, it all fell apart at the wrong time.

“It’s a really sad feeling,” said Robinson Cano. “The fun part of this game is playoffs. I’m really sad right now. And it’s going to stick in my head, in my mind, until next season.”

That is, if there is a next season in New York for Cano who will be seeking a six figure contract. And the Yankees hierarchy has not seemed very interested in investing in these long term mega contracts due partly to how they have appeared to have not got the best of that big deal from A-Rod.

It did not work for the 2013 New York Yankees. And there is a lot of work to be done in order to be a part of October baseball again. They won’t be one of ten teams that will move on in October this time around. Again teams, like the Rays won’t feel sorry for the Yankees.

“Eliminating a team like the Yankees who played us tough all year is a good thing,” said the Rays’ Evan Longoria after his second multi-career home run game  of the season and 13th of his career.

Out before the post season starts, and a final game at Yankee Stadium for Mariano Rivera Thursday night was not supposed to be that way, but it is.

In a quiet and otherwise quiet Yankees clubhouse, without many players available to talk, Rivera said, “I’ll be there for the fans, they deserve it. But it don’t mean  anything.  I’m not used to pitching for something that doesn’t mean anything. I wanted to pitch for something that means something.”

Rivera could get some playing time in center field at his final game in the Bronx. Andy Pettitte, another of the retiring ‘Core Four” of those Yankees championship teams that played in October, could toss an inning. Because now the games have no meaning, and the final four games are being played for pride.

In the distance from those fans that remained, a fainted chant of “Let’s Go Yankees” could be heard before Ichiro Suziki got on base with a single, pinch hitting for Alex Rodriguez in that eighth inning.

For the Yankees the chants of “Let’s go” will not be heard again until next April. Then we should know better, if and when pennant baseball will be played in the Bronx again.

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