Since the WFAN crowd is saying that the Detroit Tigers victory over the New York Yankees in the 2011 was the second worst post season loss in modern times (the first being 2004), I thought I’d step through the Yankees postseason failures and kinda rank them in terms of MY OWN EMOTIONAL RESPONSES (anger, shock, sadness, acceptance, etc.)
1995: Not sure why people don’t include this one when discussing the Yankees. This was the first season back from the strike, and Buck Showalter took the Yanks to the post-season for the first time since 1981. After being in last place in 1990 (I literally had front row seats) the Yanks slowly got better and better and probably could have done something in 1994 but that season was wiped out due to the labor strike. The Yanks were still the underdogs and had something to prove. The Seattle Mariners were a young powerhouse and better on paper.
The ending was one of the most dramatic victories in modern times. I thought David Cone had everything under control in Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS but he got tired (147 pitches- unheard of in 2011). Anyway, I threw my telephone out of the wall. I was in college and a bunch of kids were rooting against the Yanks, so I torn up my room. Suffice to say, this was a horrible loss, especially since the games were close and exciting.
1997: After the underdog 1996 World Series win that ushered in the Joe Torre Dynasty, GM Bob Watson (and the Front Office) made some changes, but this team lacked the chemistry of 1996- by their own admission. Cecil Fielder, who seemed content to be a role player in 1996, had made contract demands and was very aggressive with his words to the media. David Wells was quite a different clubhouse presence than Jimmy Key. Wade Boggs rebelled against Joe Torre due to reduced playing time. Hideki Irabu’s hype and results (7+ ERA) were a distraction. There was even much worry about Mariano Rivera becoming the closer after the Yanks let John Wettleland walk.
Although Mo had a great year, he shockingly surrendered a HR to Sandy Alomar, Jr in Cleveland. Here’s what you may have forgotten or never knew: that was GAME FOUR, he didn’t get the loss and wasn’t the last pitcher on the mound, and in GAME FIVE, Jaret Wright beat Andy Pettitte. Suffice to say, I though the Yanks should have won that series and played the Marlins in the 1997 World Series. Yeah, I was very bummed out over this loss, and especially frustrated with Wright’s success.
2001: 9/11? Yankees? Diamondbacks? An impossible ALDS comeback victory (2 games to 0 vs MONEYBALL and heading to Oakland)? Heroic comebacks by Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez? Joe Torre has 4 rings? The last year for such stars as Tino, Paul O’Neil, Chuck Knoblauch, and Scott Brosius?A pitching staff that featured Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, El Duque, and Ted Lilly? Game 7 with the lead and Rivera on the mound? The Yanks had won it all in 4/5 years and were THE best team in baseball. Come on…Talk about crushing? Not only was this loss devastating, but it was the unofficial end of Joe Torre’s dynasty. The Yanks would never be the same again.
2002: Yes, it’s true, the Yankees always have fared quite poorly on the West Coast, but a 3 games to 1 ousting in the ALDS pretty much was the last shovel of dirt on the grave of a dynasty that established itself has being CLUTCH GODS under pressure from from 1996-2001. The Yanks’ starters (pretty much the same as 2001, except with the return of Wells) got killed. This established that MLB was in a post-9/11 era where ANY TEAM could win and no team will monopolize World Series rings anymore. The team chemistry, according the players, manager, and coaches, was SHOT as the team players and stand-up guys retired or left. The Yankees stat heads refuse to believe the actual players or when I cry about how psychology plays a major part in baseball.
If one considers the 2001 loss to be a fluke, the 2002 ALDS was the actual proof the Yankees weren’t winners anymore. It doesn’t matter than Jason Giambi was more productive than Tino Martinez: it’s the fact that Giambi’s presence rubbed people the wrong way (a certifiable FACT). It doesn’t matter that Mussina was better than David Cone; Cone was the leader of the pitching staff and had the ability to rally the troops, while Moose was an introvert.
2003: I was in the minority at the time: I saw the Yankees as underdogs to the Marlins in the World Series. First, Brian Cashman had traded Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver, so there was a huge black hole in the back of the rotation. Weaver came out of the bullpen and blew it in the World Series. Jose Contreras seemed like a poor man’s El Duque. The bullpen was finally very weak. Bernie Williams and Robin Ventura were starting to slow down.
The addition of Japan’s HR King Hideki Matsui surely pushed the Yanks all the way to the World Series instead of an early ALDS exit. But the Marlins were hot, clutch, and had better pitching. Was it frustrating? Very much so, because the games were close, and my Florida buddies were rooting against the Yanks. Was it devastating? Yeah, I felt it for a while after Josh Beckett celebrated in Yankees Stadium in Game 6. Embarrassing series. Fire Joe Torre, right? Nope- The Boss was sick, even though the media refused to let the cat out of the bag.
2004: Without Pettitte, Clemens, and Wells, for the first time the Yankees pitching staff truly sucked. Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Jon Leiber, Mussina with an ERA over 4.5, and Esteban Loaiza, come on guys. The bullpen was just as bad- it consisted of one of the greatest 1-2 punches of all time in Mariano Rivera and Tom Flash Gordon, but then dropped off the face of the earth with such losers as Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze, Felix “The Run Fairy” Heredia, Scott Proctor (who came back in 2011!), Gabe White, and – okay I can’t go on anymore!
But…one figures even though the pitching sucked, the Yanks now had ALEX RODRIGUEZ AND GARY SHEFFIELD, two Hall of Fame sluggers still in their primes. Wait, you mean the Yankees acquiring a bunch of CHEAT VIDEO GAME CHARACTERS wouldn’t work?
What happened in the 2004 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox was so infamously bad, there’s no need for me to recap. Yes, it was the most crushing Yankees post-season loss in modern times.
2005: So how do the Yanks rebound? They acquire more big names, this time they got players who have defeated them in the past “if you can’t beat them…GET them”: Randy Johnson, one of the greatest most clutch pitchers of all time still in his prime, Carl Pavano, Marlins ahem “ace”, THE one and only Jaret Wright, and D’Back Tony Womack. ALL WERE BUSTS. Additionally, the Yanks tried bringing back from the dead old Yankees like Tino Martinez, Ruben Sierra, Al Leiter, and Ramiro Mendoza. They, too, were busts. The bullpen still sucked. Somehow, the Yanks were able to sneak in some young players in the mix, like Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang. The result? Those dreaded Angels were better again, winning the ALDS 3 games to 2. At least it was close this time, although TOO close (a Sheffield-Bubba Crosby miscue in the outfield was memorable). Did this loss hurt? Actually it did, even though I knew the Yanks were overmatched. But by now, even though I am a diehard fan, I had no faith in management or new free agents/trades, and definitely none in the pitching.
2006: Your 2006 Yankees 1st baseman…Andy Phillips! W….T…F? Okay, even though he was there, the Yanks still had excellent offense from everywhere else, but the pitching still sucked and they had problems hitting in the clutch and a bunch of guys were hanging out on the DL. Cashman was getting any scrub to see who would stick. The 2006 Tigers were one of those “teams of destiny” and I knew the Yanks had no chance. You can kinda say I lost all my faith in the team to perform well in October, even with Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu. I actually sadistically switched sides and rooted for Kenny Rogers to get redemption once I saw he was scuffing the ball and the Yanks fell down like Superman exposed to Krytponite. Yes, they let Kenny Rogers- the biggest choker of all time- beat them. Come Game 4, I knew Jaret Wright was getting killed, and he did: 8-3 Tigers. By now the Yanks are a joke in October. I wasn’t angry; I was bitter about my favorite team sucking.
2007: Since even a blind man could see that the Yanks needed pitching, they brought back Andy Pettitte. Roger Clemens even came back to “save them”, since Mike Mussina lost it and rookie Phil Hughes battled injuries. Oh, and Cashman spent $50 million dollars on Kei Igawa. The Yanks got some “big name” relief pitchers, one of them a perennial choker named Kyle Farnsworth. The Yanks had some young arms but Torre didn’t really trust them (except for Joba Chamberlain). The lineup was pretty much the same, although Doug Mientkiewicz probably had too much playing time at 1B. In the ALDS, the Indians matched their ace, CC Sabathia, against Wang. CC won. In Game 2, a bunch of insects attacked Joba and the Yanks couldn’t rebound because they weren’t clutch. It’s like they turn into the Mets in October. Hughes turned the momentum (and my hopes) around in Game 3 by bailing out Roided Roger, but Paul Byrd beat Wang in Game 4. I wasn’t shocked; instead I was even more bitter, especially due to those bugs. There needed to be some wholesale changes.
2010: The defending World Champions dropped three clutch players in the off-season: Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Melky Cabrera. I protested this. I predicted doom. The stat heads mocked me. Even Matsui/Damon/Melky defenders would point to their bad 2010 seasons with other teams as “proof” I was wrong; but I was right. It killed the 2009 World Championship chemistry. Not only that, but having AJ Burnett AND Javier Vazquez teaming up in the rotation is a bad omen. Cashman’s magical mid-season trade to get Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns busted. Randy Winn was handed the LF job over Brett Gardner when the season started. The Yanks came out strong in the ALDS by destroying the Twins (as always) but were totally outclassed and outmatched in the ALDS against the Rangers in every way. Did it hurt? Yes, and I was embarrassed because the RANGERS HADN’T WON ANYTHING IN THE POST-SEASON IN THEIR HISTORY, and also was tired of everyone talking about Cliff Lee.
2011: Same team. Same results. Felt better when I woke up and moved on with my life. Next?
By now you’ve seen that since 2001 the Yankees are like the old Braves: one ring and a whole bunch of defeats in the post-season.
Don’t bet on them next year to win the World Series unless the team’s culture changes. What does that mean?
Get some clutch players. What is a clutch player? Someone with good stats with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) and RISP with two outs. Guys with good post-season numbers to complement the veterans who choke (A-Rod, Teixeira, Swisher, Jeter, Martin). (In fairness, A-Rod’s thumb hurt; Swish and Teix are more of a problem in October, as is Jeter being on top of the order.) Role players. Bench players. Non-superhuman players. Non-Hall of Famers. Give young guys a chance and journeymen a last shot. GIVE YOURSELF SOME OPTIONS. Move contracts if you need more options. Get some psychological profiling done. Get a better team psychologist to deal with hitting under pressure. Otherwise, expect the Same Old Shit.
Anyway: Worst Yankees Post-Season Losses
- 2004 (Red Sox)
- 2001 (Diamondbacks)
- 1995 (Mariners)
- 1997 (Indians I)
- 2002 (Angels I)
- 2003 (Marlins)
- 2007 (Indians II)
- 2005 (Angels II)
- 2010 (Rangers)
- 2011 (Tigers II)
- 2006 (Tigers I)
So, sorry Mike Francesa, but the Tigers beating the Yanks in 2011 wasn’t the second worst/shocking/hurting/crushing loss for the Yanks in the post-season; in fact it’s pretty much way down, and for me it could be the least, depending on my mood.
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