By Jason Keidel
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The symbolism was endless.
No matter our disagreements over Derek Jeter, no one disputes that he saves his best for the biggest games. And his fractured ankle sent a final fissure through a shattered lineup, led by the $300 million man, A-Rod, whose 3-for-23 with 12 strikeouts somehow made Robinson Cano’s oh-for-eternity look like a hot streak.
Once I saw Jeter plunge and lay motionless, screaming in pain, my only concern was crafting this eulogy before Boardwalk Empire. Jeter and Raul Ibanez were the only speed bumps while their rancid roster swept through that turnstile in the batter’s box.
And now it’s down 0-2, with an interminable flight to Detroit, where the captain won’t even join them. He doesn’t need to see them die. And die they will, with the best pitcher in the galaxy ready to drop the guillotine in the Bronx Bombers. Justin Verlander has a 0.55 ERA this postseason.
It was hard to hear Joe Girardi moan about missed calls when the Yankees have benefited from blind umpires for 15 years, from Jeffrey Maier to the ball down the leftfield line against Minnesota. (And perhaps the ball Baltimore hit that may have scraped the foul pole.) Calls have a way of evening themselves out. And while Girardi blasted the umpire during a pitching change, he may as well have asked why his quarter-billion-dollar lineup can’t get a hit when it counts.
And now Aura and Mystique are sent home early yet again, felled by the blueprint that got them there. When you buy big bats with ample strikeouts, the latter trumps the former in the fall. The 2009 Yankees are the only team since 1995 to lead MLB in home runs and win the World Series. You win with pitching and timely hitting. Just ask the Cardinals.
I was called many things for saying in May that the Yankees would not reach the World Series. As a fan since 1977, I didn’t care to be correct, but sometimes you just know your team. There isn’t enough youth, enough depth, enough speed, or enough starting pitching for this iteration. In retrospect, the move for Ichiro was brilliant, but no move can make him younger, or fill the gaps in their geriatric roster without lapping cash onto their titanic payroll. Consider that A-Rod alone will make nearly $150 million over the next five years.
And when you consider Hal Steinbrenner’s newfound frugality, you wonder if this is the end of the Yankees’ run. The two pitchers branded “Killer B’s” haven’t lived up to their prodigious billing. Andy Pettitte is ancient. Phil Hughes still hasn’t won a road playoff game. Hiroki Kuroda will be 38 next season. Mariano Rivera turns 43 next month. Derek Jeter will be 39 next summer, and fresh off that fractured ankle. Ichiro turns 39 next week. A-Rod is toiling in a karmic purgatory, finally paying for his sins. Granderson and Swisher could be gone. Russell Martin is, well, Russell Martin. Where is the silver lining in the South Bronx?
What do New Yorkers have next? The Knicks are worthless. The Nets may play in Brooklyn, but they will forever carry the Meadowlands stench wherever they go. The Jets are still a joke, despite rattling a rookie quarterback yesterday. The only team worth watching indeed wears blue: the Football Giants.
If Jeter’s mortality indeed represents the death of Yankee dominance, then you can still say it was one helluva run. No matter when the end, all empires fall, even Evil ones.
Are the Yankees D-O-N-E? Be heard in the comments below!