Yankees fight through tough season to claim championship
The New York Yankees have had their ups and downs this season. Throughout the course of a 162 game season, every team will go through these prolonged peaks and valleys, but this season the Yankees have suffered substantially.
The warning signs of an underwhelming season came early: Prior to the season, the team traded with the Seattle Mariners for starting pitcher Michael Pineda. In order to acquire him, however, they had to part ways with Jesus Montero, a fan favorite and homegrown talent. This trade excited many fans but promises for a strong season were dashed during Spring Training, where Pineda was injured. He sat out the 2012 season, and to add insult to injury, was also arrested for DUI. Due to Pineda’s injury, the Yankees brought back 40-year-old Andy Pettitte but he too was injured after only a few starts with the team.
Many other key injuries occurred throughout this season. The Yankees lost Hall of Fame-bound closer Mariano Rivera, who was excused for the season after tearing his ACL.
Rivera’s injury was crushing for the team. He had been the closer for as long as anyone can remember: When Metallica’s Enter Sandman plays over the loudspeakers, the opposing team knows that the ballgame is over. Without Rivera, the Yankees were left searching for an adequate replacement.
The Yankees also lost starting Left Fielder and stolen base threat Brett Gardner. Without Gardner, the Yankees suffered in the Outfield. Yet, somehow they found it in themselves to overcome these setbacks. They used veteran players like Raul Ibanez and Andrew Jones in the outfield to take the division by storm. At the trade deadline they made another trade with Seattle. This one shocked the baseball world. A diminished, but still capable, Ichiro Suzuki was brought in. Suzuki, an outfielder from Japan, was revitalized in the pinstripes. He hit .322, knocked out 5 homeruns and was a spark plug for the Yankees’ lineup that they sorely missed with Gardner being sidelined.
With Pettitte and Pineda down, Hirkoki Kuroda, a Japanese right hander the Yankees signed this offseason for 10 million dollars, really carried the load. He went on to compile a 16-11 record for the Yankees and was by far their best pitcher. Kuroda built up consistency, which was something they lacked with AJ Burnett. Burnett was the typical boom or bust starter. It was a key reason why they traded him. Kuroda’s veteran presence and workhorse mentality, the complete opposite of, Burnett’s, was an example that others could follow. Kuroda’s 3.32 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, as well as his 219 innings pitched, demonstrated how he really was a great acquisition and positive for this team.
Throughout the entire season, Mariano Rivera’s absence plagued the team. Again, however, another Yankee stepped up to the task. Last year this player was outcasted by fans because he got a big contract and struggled, but this year, Rafael Soriano was the Yankees’ knight in shining armor. He was two years removed from being the American League saves leader and regained the ninth inning dominance he once demonstrated in Tampa. Soriano was no Mariano Rivera, but he certainly did phenomenally and took the load off of the Yankees’ young relievers like David Robertson and Boone Logan. Soriano compiled a 2.26 ERA and saved 42 games. He struck out 69 batters in 67 innings pitched and did an astounding job.
Even with key injuries here and there (A-Rod, Teixeira, Swisher, Joba, and Sabathia also missed significant time), this New York Yankee team never gave up. They meshed as a unit and found a way to win the American League Eastern Division by compiling 95 wins this season.
Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano were integral parts of the offense, as always. Jeter’s resurgent year at 38 years old has put him on another level. The team captain hit .316, clubbing 15 homeruns and driving in 58 runs while scoring 99 runs of his own and posting a .362 On Base Percentage.
Some credit also goes to Manager Joe Girardi, who assembled the lineup the way it needed to be assembled and implemented starting pitchers like Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps into the mix as best he could. He was steadfast on giving his older veterans much needed rest thanks in part to versatility on the bench supplied by Jayson Nix and Eric Chavez and was a great handler of the bullpen.
Most recently, team captain Derek Jeter suffered a fractured ankle during an extra inning during the first ALCS playoff game against the Detriot Tigers.
Even with the majority of the core team injured, the New York Yankees overcame obstacles during the regular season. For the most part, they are now healthy and are a legitimate threat in the playoffs this season. Their journey toward the 28th World Series Championship continues in the coming weeks.