The most dramatic example is the Yanks, who have assembled, and are now stuck with, a group of astronomically paid postseason chokers. Harsh words, but what else can you say? They include Mark Teixeira (.195 in eight Yankees postseason series), Robinson Cano (.222 in 11 series), Alex Rodriguez (.234 in 13), Curtis Granderson (.231 in five), Nick Swisher (.162 in eight), Brett Gardner (.215 in eight) and Russell Martin (.154, one RBI in 52 playoff at-bats as a Yankee). Not one of them has any hidden redeeming stat value. The Yanks have a worse problem than age. Their entire everyday lineup, a fearsome home-run gorging group in the regular season, is allergic to October.
What must Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and other Real Yankees — who all performed exactly as well (or better) in the postseason than they did in the regular season — think of this current bunch with the $200 million price tag?
However, the Yanks’ futility simply illustrates a trend first noticed in spring that now has played out in full: In 2012, money bought you next to nothing. Is it a one-year fluke? Whatever it is, it’s shocking.
This season, the 15 highest payroll teams ($124 million average) won 81.4 games on average. The 15 lowest budget teams ($72 million average) won 80.6 games. So, MLB’s top half paid an extra $788 million so it could win an extra 12 games. Only one of the top seven payroll teams (Detroit, sixth) is still in the playoffs. The most regular season wins went to the Nationals and Reds, 20th and 17th in pay.
Rough punishments came at the top to the three highest-payroll and highest-profile teams of recent years, the Yanks, Red Sox and Phillies. Boston lost 93 games, its worst season since 1965, and will need years to rebuild. Nine of the 10 most important Phillies (81-81) — all except Cole Hamels — are ancient: All will be 32-to-Social-Security-eligible by next season.
The Tigers are different. Owner Mike Ilitch, 83, ex-Marine, ex-minor leaguer and pizza mogul, spent $214 million for Prince Fielder. Why? Ilitch thinks his beloved home town has suffered too much deprivation and depression. So, he deliberately overpaid, but got the Prince because he wanted to make one more run at a world championship, for the sake of his town. The final Yanks out, putting the Tigers into the Series, was a popup into Fielder’s glove.
What happened to the Yanks this week will probably continue. Why? Teixeira, Cano, Rodriguez, Swisher and Gardner didn’t just kill the Yanks this week. They’ve done it the past three Octobers. If the Yanks hadn’t won the Series in 2009, it would’ve been noticed sooner. Here are their postseason at-bats as Yanks, followed by their career on-base plus slugging percentages and Yanks-playoff on-base plus slugging percentages: Teixeira: 138, .896/.619; Cano: 267, .854/.686; A-Rod: 231, .945/779; Swisher: 130, .837/.561; Gardner: 65, .723/.488.