New York has missed the postseason just once since 1995, but this ALCS is unique. The Yankees took the field on Sunday and for the first time since 1995, two cornerstones — Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera — were both absent from the playoff roster. Rivera spent the season on the disabled list and Jeter is spending the rest of this postseason on crutches, after breaking his ankle in Game 1 against the Tigers. The symbolism is impossible to ignore: The Yankees are facing great change in the coming months and years.
As former Yankees manager Joe Torre told reporters in New York, “Eventually, that day was going to come.”
Current Manager Joe Girardi said Jeter will consult with a specialist in Charlotte, and news reports this week suggest surgery might be inevitable. The Yankees expect Jeter to be healthy in three months, but even then, he’s 38 years old. The “Core Four” that turned Yankee Stadium into the sport’s largest trophy case — Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte — is part of the franchise’s history books, not its future.
That future, in fact, only became murkier in recent weeks, as some of the Yankees’ biggest names have struggled.
Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano have hit a combined 5 for 55 in this postseason. In addition, Nick Swisher is only 4 of 26 and Curtis Granderson is 3 for 26. Among the four of them, they’ve accounted for 38 strikeouts in the postseason, including seven in Game 2. Their October performances could have a big impact on the team’s offseason strategy.
Swisher will be a free agent, and Cano and Granderson are both facing club options. While Cano might have seemed ready for a blockbuster deal, Rodriguez’s struggles have certainly exposed the risks to long-term contracts that endanger a team’s long-term health. And Rodriguez’s own lucrative deal could limit the flexibility the Yankees’ brass feels it has in the offseason.
In December 2007, the Yankees gave Rodriguez a 10-year contract that would keep him in pinstripes through 2017, when he’ll be 42 years old. He’s still owed $115 million, and there’s growing concern that his production will never be the same. In these playoffs, he’s 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitchers, and he hasn’t hit a home run in a month.