(Long Island, N.Y.) When you make the playoffs with ease and go into the big dance with the league’s best record, anything short of a pennant should be considered a letdown. Such was the case with the 2011 New York Yankees, who face a long off-season following the five-game defeat at the hands of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Divisional Series.
The Game 1 rain is no excuse, as both teams had to shuffle their rotations around and lose their respective aces for a possible three starts in the short series. We will never know what may have happened if CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander pitched the finale instead of the fourth game.
But the one thing all of us are assured is that the front office is not going to rest on their laurels and be satisfied with another postseason appearance. Quite the contrary; Hal Steinbrenner is already in the process of looking ahead and not behind.
“I personally share in our fans’ disappointment that this season has ended without a championship,” the Yankees managing general partner said in a statement. “It is, and always will be, our single goal every season. I assure you that this disappointment will strengthen our resolve to field a team in 2012 that can bring a 28th championship to the Bronx. That work starts now.”
We will have to wait for further details, but all things point to general manager Brian Cashman being retained and allowed the chance to improve on a roster that has a few holes and possibly some deeper than others.
The pitching is an area that needs to be addressed and will be a mess if Sabathia invokes the escape clause on his contract – and signs elsewhere, of course. The lefty will most likely look to get a raise from the Bombers by doing just that. Cashman has no problem throwing more money at Sabathia and it is a game of cat and mouse that will be played here. The end result will be that Sabathia will be back.
That move will be necessary because there is nothing but question marks after that. Ivan Nova may have been impressive in his first full year as a major league starter, but can he repeat? How about Phil Hughes? Consistency and staying healthy are the concerns with the young right-hander.
If Hughes has some questions, then times that by 10 when it comes to AJ Burnett. You never know what you’re going to get from start to start with him. And the stopgap seasons from Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia cannot be expected for an encore.
The plan going into last off-season was to sign Cliff Lee and count the days until the World Series. Neither occurred and Lee and the rest of his Philadelphia Phillies teammates were also ousted in the divisional round. So nothing is definite in baseball.
Flags and rings are expected in the Bronx and selling a few playoff tickets means less to the Yankees than any other franchise in sports. Only when a ticker tape parade is part of the fall does it matter.