By JORDAN IKEDA
I’m going to assume that the Yankees were swept out of the playoffs last night. Only one team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit — a team all New York fans still have nightmares about.
While it is certainly possible that the Yankees came out and somehow won despite their collective career numbers of .177/.266/.282 against Detroit pitcher Max Scherzer, a single victory won’t stop the inevitable from happening — the 2012 Yankees are done. Kaput. Finished.
Which ultimately means that $196 million ($22 million more than the next-highest team) can’t buy a championship. It can’t get a franchise to the World Series. In fact, it didn’t even buy a win in the ALCS.
Pinstripe apologists will point to the loss of Derek Jeter. Certainly, losing your team captain, Mr. Yankee, the heart and soul of your squad, is a huge blow. But subtract Jeter from the team and the Yankees still have $180 million worth of talent, including the highest-paid player in the Majors.
I guess $30 million doesn’t buy much these days. The 37-year-old Alex Rodriguez, who is still owed $114 million over the next five seasons, was benched by manager Joe Girardi because he’s been downright dreadful, hitting (if you can even call it that) a putrid .130 with an it’s-so-small-it’s-laugh-out-loud-hilarious .330 OPS.
The team as a whole is hitting .200 with a .582 OPS for the playoffs.
With that long-winded rant/introduction, I can say that at least $12.5 million of that payroll is earning its money.
As of Wednesday morning, Ichiro Suzuki was hitting .297 with a .748 OPS during the playoffs. While he struggled during the ALDS, he’s been the only regular Yankees offensive player to step up during the ALCS, hitting .429 with a homerun, two RBI and a 1.072 OPS.
Now, there’s two ways to look at this. Glass half full: Ichiro is stepping up as the games grow more important. Glass half empty: Ichiro is flourishing amidst losing — something he perfected in Seattle.
Whatever the case may be, one can’t quibble over semantics. While Suzuki earned $18 million this year, the fact is that the Yankees were only on the hook for $2.5 million. A measly $2.5 million for Ichiro’s production is glass completely full.
Suzuki’s teammate Hiroki Kuroda is also tending towards filling a glass. Like Suzuki, relative to his highly-paid teammates, Kuroda has outperformed his paycheck. He pitched an absolute gem on Monday, which was wasted as the Yankees were unable to score a single run.
Kuroda was masterful, throwing on short rest for the first time in his MLB career, pitching a perfect game through five innings. He ended the game with 11 strikeouts, zero walks, and three earned runs.
Two of those runs, both scored in the eighth, were the result of a mystifyingly bad call by second-base umpire Jeff Nelson, who called Omar Infante safe on what clearly was the third out of the inning.
Of course, it wouldn’t have really mattered (just like a win last night doesn’t really matter) as the Yankees offense could only muster four hits.
It’s a sad way to end the season. It was tough to see my two favorite players go to one of my least favorite teams, but with the Dodgers and Angels not making the postseason, a feeling of indifference towards the Tigers, and the (hated) Giants and (annoying) Cardinals, the two National League reps still playing, I had talked myself into the Yankees winning — solely on the merit of wanting to see Kuroda and Suzuki playing for something meaningful to wind down their careers.
Alas, championships can’t be bought.
No matter how much money you’re willing to spend.
Dodgers brass … please take note.