10/23/10 2:06 AM ET
Yanks finish in un-Yankees-like manner
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
On Friday night, after his club had been bounced out of the American League Championship Series by the Rangers, 6-1, manager Joe Girardi was asked what was more disappointing, the performance of his starting pitcher, Phil Hughes, or his team's lack of hitting.
"It all stinks," Girardi said.
That was extremely close to the mark. The Yankees lost four out of six games to the Rangers, and there was nothing fluky about any of the losses.
The Yankees' failure to hit was probably the most galling thing about this defeat, because they had baseball's best offense in the regular season. Here, they hit .201 for the series. Apart from a five-run eighth inning in the opener and five runs over two innings in Game 5, this offense did not remind you of the Yankees.
Texas lefty Cliff Lee only pitched once, so this wasn't merely a matter of losing to a postseason ace. The Yankees lost twice to Colby Lewis, who came to this series with just one postseason start.
But the pitching wasn't a source of comfort, either. The Yankees had a 6.58 ERA. While they got a serviceable start from CC Sabathia in the Game 5 victory and a very good start in the Game 3 loss from Andy Pettitte, Hughes came up short twice and A.J Burnett gave up a back-breaking home run in Game 4. And the impression in this series was that the Yanks were down to two relievers upon whom they could truly count on -- Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera.
So what you were left with was a series that was, at 4-2, essentially one-sided.
"You take away one inning and one game, and it was very one-sided," Girardi acknowledged. "We just didn't get it done."
There are 26 clubs that didn't get this far, but the Yankees are not graded on a curve. Winning their 27th World Series championship last year, being the Yankees, the only suitable encore would have been winning No. 28. It looked like the Yankees were headed in exactly the right direction when they produced a sweep of the Twins in the AL Division Series. But that trend did not hold.
"Yeah, we didn't accomplish what we set out to," Girardi said. "And as I told my guys, this hurts. I've been through it as a player. I've been through it as a coach, and now I've been through it as a manager. It's not a lot of fun watching other teams celebrate. They beat us. They outhit us, they outpitched us, outplayed us and they beat us."
Substantial credit must be given to the Rangers. They played well on every level. They were obviously peaking at the right time. Even though they had never won a postseason series before, they played this series with poise and purpose, they deserved to win. But none of that is any solace for the Yankees, either.
What is to be done? The best postseason pitcher on the planet the last two years was Lee, and he will be a free agent. His timing is as impeccable as his control. This postseason he is maximizing his value just before he hits the open market. The Yankees have the game's largest ability to pay. Maybe they can land him. But he can still only pitch every fifth day. The addition of Lee would be an undeniable coup, but it wouldn't solve everything.
What if Pettitte doesn't return? And what do they do to resurrect the career of Burnett, with three years left on that $82.5 million contract? Hughes is talented and should be fine over time, regardless of his shortcomings here. But the Yankees don't have enough bullpen depth. David Robertson and Boone Logan must be better than they were here.
How long can the "Core Four" remain the core? The greatness of this team has been defined in large part by the work of Derek Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada and Pettitte. But time marches on, and this season, there were moments when time's effects were coming into focus.
On the other side of the issue, there were forward steps taken. Robinson Cano had a tremendous season, and Curtis Granderson down the stretch was the player the Yankees hoped they were getting. Brett Gardner, like many of the Yankees, didn't hit here, but he proved his usefulness during the regular season. This postseason loss stings, but it does not signify that the Yankees are falling off the edge of a cliff.
Still, in this series, when it mattered most for the Yankees, when they were supposed to rise to the postseason occasion, they went quietly. They were outscored, 38-19, and the 6-1 loss in Game 6 didn't exactly create the sense of a fight to the finish, either.
"I don't know how you measure ... any of it," Girardi said. "It all stinks. It's no fun to be in this situation. It's no fun to be sitting here after the loss. We take this extremely serious. It stinks."
Representing the Yankees is being part of a roster that, year in and year out, is supposed to be baseball's best. With that comes demanding standards. When you win, it's great. When you don't, like the manager says, it stinks.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.