After starting the second-half with a 5-2 loss to the Red Sox in the opener of their three-game, weekend series on Friday night, the New York Yankees ended their three-game skid with a 4-2 win in Boston on Saturday afternoon.
Now 52-45 and in fourth place, six-games out of first, the Yankees continue to somehow keep pace with the pack and stay relevant in the American League East, despite their numerous injuries.
As reassuring as a win over the hated Bosox at Fenway Park can be for die-hard Yankee fans however, it’s become nearly impossible to ignore the fact that with each game they play, the Bombers look more and more as though they will be forced to rebuild the majority of their ballclub in the near future.
Usually, the prospect of rebuilding is enough to send chills up the spine of even the most dedicated baseball fan and more often than not, the process doesn’t happen over night, meaning that the Yankee faithful may just have to get used to their current surroundings among the American League’s cellar dwellers.
Starting in 1994 when New York finished 70-43 and won their first division title since 1980 (19 seasons excluding 2013), the Yankees have finished with less than 90 wins on only four occasions (1994, 1995, 2000, 2008). During those 19 seasons, the Bombers finished at the top of the East 14 times, in second-place four times, and in third only once, in 2008.
While the Yankees have still managed to have playoff success during several of those sub-90 win seasons, such as in 2000 when they defeated the New York Mets in five games to win the World Series, finishing among the top two teams in the A.L. East meant that New York was almost constantly in playoff contention which in baseball translates directly into profitability.
In 2008, the Bronx Bombers finished with a 89-73 record, eight games out of first-place behind the division winner (Tampa), and the second-place Red Sox. Of course, a third-place finish meant that the Yankees also missed the post season. The important thing however, was that soon after, they once again proved their resiliency as a franchise by winning the 2009 World Series, alleviating any immediate concerns surrounding an end to their recent run of success that began in the early 1990’s.
On July 20, 2008, the Yankees were 53-45 and in third-place, 4 1/2 games out of first in the East. While there are a few other similarities between that season and 2013, the difference now however, is that the Yankees would have to be the recipients of several miracles in order to bounce back and win next year’s World Series, just as they did following their third-place finish in 2008.
Beginning the 2013 regular-season without their captain and face of the franchise, Derek Jeter, hard-hitting veteran first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Curtis Granderson, and the always controversial Alex Rodriguez, expectations in the big apple were somewhat tempered heading into April. After playing their way to a surprising lead atop the American league East early on however, it seems as though those expectations are now the same as in any other year-extremely high.
With Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson, and infielder Kevin Youkilis, all currently in the midst of their second stint on the disabled list this season and starting catcher Francisco Cervelli out until at least August, the Yankees have struggled to find adequate replacements that can perform on an everyday basis. To make matters worse, backup Jayson Nix has also been hit by the injury bug, leaving the few constants that remain in the lineup such as Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, and even Lyle Overbay, surrounded by strangers.
The fact remains that the New York Yankees are currently led by a core group of aging veterans who regardless of their talent, are headed towards the end of their respective careers. Without players like Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera around to both attract high-quality free agents and help to develop new young talent from within the franchise, the most dominant team in all of pro sports during the past two decades look as though they will be forced to start from scratch at the end of the season.