Commentary

Yankees' season ends with a big thud

Yanks failed to get the job done, meaning changes could soon be in store in the Bronx

Originally Published: October 22, 2010
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Hmmm, this leaves New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg with two options. One, he can still hold his World Series parade, just invite the Texas Rangers instead of the New York Yankees and end it by having Hank Steinbrenner present Cliff Lee with a wheelbarrow full of gold. Or he can change it to a "2010 American League Division Series champions" parade.

[+] EnlargePhil Hughes
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswirePhil Hughes was knocked out in the fifth inning, having allowed four runs on four hits and four walks.

Neither option will go over well in New York, which tends to expect more than a public shredding in the ALCS by a team that wears T-shirts with antlers on them and has a payroll $150-some million lower than the Yankees.

"It all stinks. It's not fun to be in this situation,'' manager Joe Girardi said after the Yankees' season-ending 6-1 loss to the Rangers in Game 6. "It's no fun to be sitting here after the loss. We take this extremely serious. It stinks.''

Speak for yourself, Joe.

While the Rangers are heading to their first World Series in team history -- somewhere, Ted Williams' frozen head is smiling -- the Yankees will begin the process of rebuilding the Death Star. In addition to pursuing Lee, the Yankees also must figure out who all is coming back. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are potential free agents, Andy Pettitte will mull retirement again and Girardi isn't signed for next year.

Obeying the first rule of contract negotiations, Jeter refused to comment on his pending free agency -- "I can't think about that. We lost what, 15 minutes ago,'' he said -- but it would be easier to imagine Craig Sager in a conservative gray flannel suit than Jeter in another uniform. "Derek will be in a Yankees uniform,'' Pettitte said. "That's for sure.''

Pettitte, who is as definitive about retirement and career decisions as Brett Favre, said he can't think about it objectively until he and his family thoroughly think things over for as long as necessary. It could depend on whether he sees his shadow on Feb. 2.

"There is nothing more that I want to achieve in this game. There's just not,'' Pettitte said. "But I'm a man and I want to work and do stuff and this is all I know I want to do and I want to fully exhaust myself of it. I don't want to shut it down and regret not playing.''

Girardi, meanwhile, faces a lot of second-guessing before he gets his contract resolved. Let's just say his Game 6 moves fared worse than his chalupa call in that commercial we hopefully won't have to watch any more now that the Yankees are done.

First, Girardi chose to intentionally walk Josh Hamilton three times to face Vladimir Guerrero instead in Game 6, and it cost him the season in the fifth inning when Guerrero followed with a two-run double that broke a tie and gave Texas a 3-1 lead. Girardi then took out starter Phil Hughes and brought in struggling reliever David Robertson, who promptly gave up a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz that put New York behind 5-1 and sucked all of the life out of the Yankees. New York is well known for working the count as if they were paid by the hour, but they started swinging at everything after that and went down so easily that Robinson Cano didn't even hustle out a grounder for the second out in the ninth.

Game 5 starter CC Sabathia was supposedly available for about two innings Friday so why wasn't he brought in to face Cruz when the game still was close rather than Robertson, who was awful in the series? Girardi said he didn't want to bring in a lefty to face a right-hander and that Sabathia was no sure thing after pitching Game 5. OK, but why not bring in Kerry Wood, who has been New York's best, most reliable reliever next to Rivera? Girardi said he wanted to use Wood in the sixth and seventh.

In other words, rather than go with perhaps his best option when the season was on the line, Girardi chose to manage by formula and use a pitcher who gave up six runs and eight hits in less than three innings in the series. Talk-radio callers will be as dubious about that strategy as the Steinbrenners.

[+] EnlargeDavid Robertson
John Munson/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireReliever David Robertson gave up two hits, including a home run, while recording only one out.

Of course, it's unfair to pin too much blame on Girardi given how the Yankees have struggled over the past couple months. New York essentially was a .500 ballclub since August (which really makes the Minnesota Twins' performance in the Division Series look bad).

"Our starting rotation in the second half fell apart, got hurt, underperformed, that sort of stuff,'' Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "Obviously, what we were in the beginning and what we finished at were radically different.''

The Yankees also didn't hit in the series, batting .201 with a .300 on-base percentage and, aside from three innings combined in Games 1 and 5, managed just nine other runs. The Rangers outscored New York 38-19 overall, which pretty much accounts for beating them four games to two. Cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez not only hit .190, he fittingly struck out to end the game, which prompted one writer to make this insightful comment: "Tom Hicks was right. Texas did win a pennant with A-Rod on the field."

All this was great to watch, naturally, but Yankees haters beware. As this report warns, the Yankees spend more after they lose than after they win. Well, let them. The free-agency period opens in a couple weeks and the Yankees can begin courting Lee, outfielder Carl Crawford and everyone else they want. In the meantime, the rest of us will simply savor Jeter's words when he was asked how he would describe his season:

"My season? It's over. That's how I would describe it.''

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com