So that’s it. Six months. 89 wins. Too many frustrating losses to count. Too many injuries to overcome.
When Jon Van Every, a 28-year-old non-prospect, lined a ball into right field to bring a merciful end to a meaningless game on a rainy Sunday night in September, the Yanks’ 2008 season came to an end. Off the field, the season was contentious. We’ve seen battles over the proper way to build a team and battles over the trades the team did and did not make. We’ve seen battles over the future of the team and battles over the past.
On the field, the season was a disappointment. While Phil Hughes left a sweet taste in our mouths this week in Toronto, between the two of them, Hughes and Ian Kennedy managed zero wins. A fluke injury to Chien-Ming Wang cost the Yankees a playoff berth, and a mid-August shelving of Joba Chamberlain pushed the Yanks towards irrelevancy. Jorge Posada went down on Opening Day and would never recovery. His replacements, as we’ll discover, weren’t up for the job — or any job really. Hideki Matsui’s knee couldn’t withstand the pressure of a season, and while he’s heading for surgery, his health in 2009 is far from guaranteed.
Offensively, the team didn’t impress. Melky Cabrera had an All Star April and turned into a pumpkin on May 4. Between May 6 and August 13, the day he was finally sent back to AAA, Melky hit .225/.273/.279 over 322 plate appearances. Robinson Cano, picked to win the batting title by more than a few analysts this year, was nearly as bad. A late-season benching resulted in a final hot streak for Cano, and we were all left wondering what might have happened had the Yanks sat him down earlier in the season.
But for the downs, there were some ups. The Yanks’ bullpen solidified around a bunch of young power arms, and with more in the system, the days of running through relievers might be over. Joba Chamberlain outdueled Josh Beckett in Boston, and the future looks bright for that one.
The old man had his turn in the sun too. Mike Mussina, pitching in the twilight of his career, won 20 games for the first time ever and did so by winning his last three starts of the year. He pitched the last two with a sore right elbow, hurt when he took a line drive off of it early in the game in Toronto last week. It sounds like Mike may call it a career, and it’s been a great ride.
As 2008 draws to a close, the Yanks may be saying their good byes to a lot of long-term members of the team. We’ll know soon — perhaps today — if Brian Cashman is coming back. But we could be saying so long to Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte.
On a personal note, we’ve had over three million visitors since Spring Training, and we owe a huge thank you to everyone who comes here to read what we’re saying and just to chat about baseball every day. With the off-season upon us, we’re just getting started. The Yanks are bound to have an active off-season. They have holes to fill in their outfield; holes to fill in their infield; and holes to fill in their rotation. With money on hand and a new stadium rising in the Bronx, the team is going to be active on the free agent market, and we’ll be here reporting and analyzing everything that happens.
This has, for me, been quite a season. It’s been emotional as the Yanks closed out their stadium; it’s been fun as we’ve enjoyed baseball for baseball’s sake; and it’s been disappointing as the Yanks at the end of the year showed us what could have been had they played well. While the team will have to wait ’til next year, we just have to wait until Brian Cashman speaks. The fun of the season may be over, but who doesn’t love the Hot Stove League?