October 02, 2013

The End Of An Era

Watching Yankee pitchers Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte close the door on their respective careers last week were defining moments for the organization. Rivera ends his career as the best closer of all-time, as well as the most clutch ever. Rivera's career ERA was 2.21. But in the postseason, his ERA dropped to an absurd 0.70.

Andy Pettitte was not as dominant, but still had an incredibly impressive 256 career wins, and a 19-11 record in the playoffs. Regardless, both pitchers were defined by the postseason.

Along with Rivera closing out postseason games, seeing the lefty Pettitte, peering over his mitt, staring down a batter became an October staple over the past two decades. As these two move on to the next stage of their lives, the Yankees won't play in October for just the second time in the past 19 years; and right on cue, the organization hasn't seen this many question marks since before they arrived in the Bronx.

Starting at the top, it's becoming entirely possible that the Yankees could lose manager Joe Girardi. The Chicago native may see his hometown Cubs as a team on the upswing under general manager Theo Epstein. Also, growing up a Cubs fan, the challenge of being the first manager since 1908 to lead the franchise to a World Series victory must be compelling.

Down in Washington, Davey Johnson isn't expected to return to manage the Nationals. While they missed the playoffs, there is an enormous amount of young talent in the Beltway. Could they make a push for Girardi? It's very unusual to hear of a manager, especially an incumbent, turn down the Yankee job, but it is an unusual time in the Bronx.

On the field, the Yankees have no identity, limited talent, and more questions than answers heading into next season. Alex Rodriguez is possibly facing a season long suspension. Mark Teixeira will be 34 next season, coming off a year he played only 13 games and underwent wrist surgery. Curtis Granderson could be gone, and no one has a clue what Derek Jeter is anymore.

If possible, the pitching staff has even more concerns. The most consistent pitcher for the Yankees was 38-year old Hiroki Kuroda. But Kuroda is a free agent and will consider a return to Japan or the West Coast. Supposed ace C.C. Sabathia ended his season early with a hamstring strain, and a 14-13 record, with an ERA near 5. His ERA (4.78) and WHIP (1.37) were both career worsts for the 33 year old. Andy Pettitte started thirty games and is obviously gone, and so is Phil Hughes and his 29 starts.

When you consider all the question marks facing the Yankees, their managerial position doesn't look as appealing. To go along with the current roster issues, the farm system is barren, and ownership continues to discuss the possibility of staying under the luxury tax threshold of $189 million for next season.

If Girardi re-ups with the Yankees, and the team struggles, fans and media will eventually call for his job. Fair or not, that's how it will go. It always does with such a high profile position in New York. If Girardi takes over in Chicago, the hometown boy would have a grace period as the team keeps rebuilding, and will have plenty of leeway with a downtrodden fan base. In Washington, the media scrutiny surrounding the Nationals can't even compare to the Yankees. Girardi's options outside of the Bronx look more appealing. I never thought I'd see the day.

Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He's currently a Sports Anchor at WCBS 880 and WFAN radio in NYC. He can be reached via email at peterfmundo@gmail.com.

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