The Morning After the End of the Yankee Season

In the end, the pitching wasn't the problem

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Winter starts early this year.

    Baseball can be a funny game sometimes.

    After a long season full of people worrying about the state of the Yankee pitching staff, the Yankees flameout in the playoffs had very little to do with what happened on the mound.

    The only Yankee pitcher to truly disappoint was CC Sabathia, who allowed four runs in his Game Three start and handed over the final Tigers run of the ALDS in his brief relief appearance on Thursday night.

    No, when you pick up the pieces of the loss to the Tigers, the finger of blame has to be pointed directly at the offense. They outscored the Tigers 28-17 over the entire series, but 19 of the runs came in the two wins and the team couldn't come up with hits in big spots in the three losses.

    Thursday night's performance was particularly galling on that front. The Yankees had the bases loaded twice with one out and managed just one walk in five plate appearances and you don't need to know much else about the particulars to understand why the off-season began early on Friday morning. 

    We've already discussed Alex Rodriguez's disappointing series and return to the role of Yankee pariah, but he had a lot of company.

    Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira were a combined 7-for-37 as they continued to build their legacies as two of the worst Yankee postseason hitters in the long history of the franchise.

    This is the point where we're obliged to point out that the Yankee bats didn't do this all by themselves. The Tigers pitched very well on Thursday night to get out of those jams with Joaquin Benoit standing out as particularly worthy of praise after picking up five key outs to hand the ball to Jose Valverde, who always looked like he was about to crack but never did while finishing all three Tiger wins. 

    All of that is true, although we're quite aware that the general reaction in these parts is that the Yankees lost the series instead of the Tigers winning it. That will spread to the manager, although it is hard to find too much specific blame with Joe Girardi.

    Some have said he should have shuffled the lineup to break up the struggling A-Rod/Teixeira/Swisher combo, but you only have so many spots in the lineup. His frantic pitching changes on Thursday have also drawn criticism, but it is hard to go too crazy when the staff allowed just three runs.

    Maybe that did make the team tenser than it needed to be in the final game, but it doesn't really explain why his team didn't hit in Games Two or Three. Girardi doesn't resonate calm at any point in the season, not by a long shot, but his teams have won enough games to make it hard to call that the reason why the Yankees lost this series.

    If there's a place to be critical, it would be Girardi's refusal to put Jesus Montero in for Russell Martin in Game Five. Montero's bat is live while Martin's was dead all series and the defensive sacrifice was worth it to take a chance at scoring some runs, especially when you were willing to use Sabathia in an unfamiliar relief role just to get his arm into the game.

    There's plenty of blame to go around and everyone will get hit with a little tar and feathers in the next few days. That's what happens when you've got a team that has no options in the final reckoning other than champion or failure.

    This year was a failure and there's little solace in the truth that losing a five-game series comes down to a few bad bounces. The stakes are what they are and now the Yankees must deal with the consequences.