As the playoffs wear on, the eliminated teams are entering an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategery.
Meanwhile, the fans of those squads are looking at the prospect of spending the winter with the warm memories of a team that earned a playoff berth but the cold reality of ultimately falling short. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're asking a blogger from each team to write a cathartic missive to their 2010 squads.
Dear New York Yankees,
Most sports fans consider a championship-winning season to be such a massive moment of pure joy that it actually pumps up their testosterone levels and strokes their egos so much that their pride in fandom lasts longer than that single, successful year. But Yankees fans? We are not most sports fans. Unfortunately for you folks, Yankees fans will not rest on merely "one" consecutive World Series title. We expect to win every year. There is no such thing as a honeymoon period in the Bronx; we Yankees fans are used to winning all the time, not just a handful of times a century like our Boston rivals.
So after you fellas brought home the Commissioner's Trophy last October, we clapped and cheered and yelled "Woo!" and bought hats and then sat down and said, "OK now do it again."
But, you didn't. Not only did you fail to win a World Series, you neglected to even bring home the pennant. You fell in the ALCS to a team that had never won a single postseason series until just over a week ago, a team that actually pays Jeff Francoeur(notes) to play baseball.
So, uh, Yankees? We need to talk.
The Good Times: Of course there were some fun times to be had during the 2010 campaign, both in Yankee Stadium and on the road.
There was that time some drunk fan bit right into YES Network roving reporter Kim Jones' pork-chop-on-a-stick at Target Field, making her an instant blog superstar and the regional on-a-stick cuisine a true national phenomenon.
I recall the game when young Greg Golson(notes) won a game against the Rays with his laser rocket arm, gunning down Carl Crawford(notes) attempting to tag up to third base. If only Nick Swisher(notes) himself could display that sort of accuracy and discipline in the outfield he might one day make me not cringe when a line drive comes his way!
There were the four games against the Red Sox that resulted in a Yankees win thanks directly to the failings of Jonathan Papelbon(notes). Paps took three losses and two blown saves against youse guys in 2010 while racking up a whopping 6.97 ERA and allowing a bloated 1.020 OPS against your hitters. I suppose the only downside to Papelbon's miasmic performance is that the Red Sox will be happier to part ways with the guy who brought so much joy to Yankees fans this year.
Who can forget Mark Teixeira's(notes) 30th home run of the season? Not my dad, of course, who famously caught the home run in the outfield stands and created an Internet sensation. That's some good aim, Mark. Keep it up in 2011 because we'll be back in those seats.
Best of all, your young backup first baseman Juan Miranda(notes) won a game with a walkoff walk and brought shrimp to our humble blog for the first time in months. The fact that the bases-loaded, game-ending walk came against the Red Sox only made the shrimp-y moment that much sweeter. Thanks for your patience, Juan.
Plus, I guess you fellas did a capital job sweeping the Twins out of the playoffs and I got to bring my lady to the clinching game. Well done.
The Bad Times: Now some of you Yankees had successful seasons, like Mr. Teixeira and Robbie Cano and CC Sabathia(notes) and Mariano Rivera(notes). Even Big League Stew's own Curtis Granderson(notes) came on strong in September and October and starred with his glove all season long. But some of you fell flat on your faces.
Especially you, Javy Vazquez. I defended you last winter despite your poor performance the last time you appeared in pinstripes. I knew you had a wicked fastball and could strike out hitters with aplomb. So how on Earth did you end up allowing 32 home runs and walking every Tom, Dick and Harry while posting a career low K/BB rate? You even hit three straight batters in a single game! What the heck?
And you too, A.J. Burnett. Unlike Vazquez, you didn't miss a start all season long, but with a similarly crappy 1.86 K/BB rate, maybe you should have. You somehow managed to walk fewer hitters than last year but still could not quite get yourself under control. One-and-a-half baserunners per inning? I just don't know how we're going to live together knowing there are still three more years left on your contract, A.J.
Or maybe I should blame general manager Brian Cashman for acquiring you and paying you for too many years. I could also blame Cashman for picking up free agents Nick Johnson(notes) and Chan Ho Park(notes) during the offseason. Those guys flopped harder than the "MacGruber" movie. They failed more miserably than Jan Brewer's debate preparation. They were really horrible; need I drive this point into the ground any more?
Am I forgetting somone? Oh yes, Derek Jeter(notes) had a very un-Jeterian year, failing to garner 200 hits and grounding into more double plays than stolen bases. He showed signs of age and will certainly not repeat as a Gold Glove winner. But I'm not ready to break up with you quite yet, Jeet. Call me. Let's grab dinner. I know a place.
It's Not All You: But of course, this failure to win the whole box of kittens wasn't ALL your fault. Seven-game series are not always the best way to decide which team is better. That's why we play 162 games a year, to try and wash off as much of that dirty luck as possible. Chance plays such a huge role in the playoffs that maybe even some of your past championships were just lucky wins, too. So I'm glad that you folks made it as far as you did this year. Try a bit harder next year, though, OK?
And heck, if the Mariners hadn't done such an awful job of building a team in the offseason, maybe they never would have traded Cliff Lee(notes) to a team in their own division. Then you Yankees would have had the chance you wanted to beat the Rays in the ALCS and then sweep the Giants in the World Series. That's how this nonsense should have played out! Darn you, Nolan Ryan and your folksy charm and your Cliff Lee-employing ways!
Shape up or ship out: I'm going to make a few suggestions that I'd like followed, Mr. Cashman. This won't be too difficult. First, keep the infield and outfield set in stone. You've won with Brett Gardner(notes) before, you can do it again, and you don't need to import Carl Crawford to make waves. And even if you wanted to make changes with your infield, you really can't get rid of Derek Jeter without causing George Steinbrenner's reanimated corpse to rise up out of center field and wreak havoc. THAT GUY'S A GOLD MINE!
But I'd like to ask for a new backup catcher for Jorge Posada(notes) before the Jesus Montero(notes) Era begins in 2012. Frankie Cervelli has no future; the guy can't hit and he can't throw runners out and he fist-pumps too much. Would it be too much to ask for Jose Molina(notes) back? What a class act! And he's the original Panda. Just look at how adorable he is!
As for the rest of the bench, how about you bring back Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes)? He's another charming character but one who can pretty much play any position, from shortstop to left field to assistant vice president of marketing. I'd buy what that guy is selling, amirite?
Most importantly, you need to reinforce the starting rotation. Sabathia and Phil Hughes(notes) have a great future with this team, while Andy Pettitte(notes) deserves a spot in the rotation if he doesn't retire. Vazquez will obviously get put on a slow boat to Anywhere Else Town, but the Burnett situation is a bit stickier, what with all those millions of dollars Mr. Cashman promised him. Here's what you do: Frame him for a victimless crime, like securities fraud. Case closed.
Then you'll have those millions freed up to sign Cliff Lee (wife be damned) and make a blockbuster trade for Zack Greinke(notes). God, this general managing game is so simple! How come Omar Minaya and Steve Phillips couldn't do it?
I'm not giving up on you, New York Yankees. You and I have been through so much together: The highs, the lows, some more highs, a few more highs, a temporary low and then right back to the thrilling highs again. The 2009 World Series was such a great time for us. Now let's do it again in 2011.
See you next April,
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Follow Rob on Twitter — @iracane
Read the rest of Big League Stew's Dear John letters here