Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Power Outage

For anyone not interested in baseball, or in its statistics, avert your eyes.

My universe over the past 60 years has been filled with Yankee glory. From the first days of the Mick until the most recent times with Derek, success has been almost a given. During the period from1950 through 1964 the team won 95 games in all but 2 regular seasons (until 1961 the season was only 154 games in duration) finished first in the American league all but twice and won 8 World Series. The past 17 seasons have also been remarkable for the consistent excellence, as for all but one year the team has qualified for post-season play.

There have been periods of aberration. After the 1964 season, in which the Yankees garnered 99 wins, the total plummeted to 77 wins the next year, 70 in 1966 and 72 the year thereafter. The fabled Bronx Bombers would finish at least 20 games from the top spot for 5 consecutive seasons.

Another drought  from 1989 through 1991 saw the team no better than 5th in what was then a 7 team division.

Was there one common theme that separated the good from the bad and the really ugly? Is there something in the make-up of the 2013 team that would suggest which path this year's squad will follow?

In 1950 the team scored 913 runs. From that point through 1964 no Yankee squad amassed less than 700 runs in a year, except for 1959, the year the Yankees finished 3rd. Once the decline came in 1965, the totals for the next 5 desultory seasons were 611, 611, 522, 536 and 562. It was not until the next era of excellence began, in 1976 that the team  once again scored over 700 runs.

Since the Jeter era commenced in 1996 there has been one season when the Yankees have not posted a total of at least 800 runs, 2008, not so coincidentally the only post -season void.

Last year, the team tallied 804 runs, the second lowest total of the last 17.  Hitting 245 homers a franchise record,  there was an inordinate dependence on the long ball as almost 50% of the runs crossed the plate as a direct result of the four bagger.

During the off-season, Martin, Swisher, Ibanez, Chavez and Jones all vanished. An ever diminishing A-Rod, and for part of the season, Granderson, will be unable to perform. 7 of the top 9 home run hitters will play no role in the squad that begins the season, and A-Rod may have played his last game in pinstripes for a very long time to come.

What has appeared to fill these gaps? Suzuki and his 5 home runs last year, Cervelli and Stewart who amassed less than 10 together, Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz,  Travis Hafner who hit 12 round trippers in 2012?  

The talk is now of manufacturing runs. That has never been the Yankee's trademark, at least not during the long stretches of glory. These have always been teams that pounded the opposition into submission, who were always one massive home run from victory, who relied neither on finesse nor pitching dominance.

Unless matters change in ways presently unknown, it seems clear that the 800 run barrier will not be broken in 2013. And, if history is any gauge of the future, this year may well bring about the end of the latest era of Yankee greatness. I fear that mediocrity will rear its ugly head in the Bronx and the post season will belong to others. Has anyone seen Jason Giambi lately?

No comments: