Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2014 Yankees Odd Season Continues

Most teams would have celebrated what happened to Yankee Legend Andy Pettitte with a pause of the game, a scoreboard salute and a standing ovation. In case you missed it, as I did and I was looking out for it, Pettitte reached his 2,000th strikeout as a Yankee on September 6th. You can see it here. Even the announcers seemed to give it a mere "yep its a milestone, move along" that most reserve for historical land marks on the highway. Looking at the all-time Yankee strikeout leaders (the asterisk denotes active players fyi) what shocks me is that Pettitte is the only Yankee to reach the 2,000 strikeout plateau. I always figured somewhere among the 69 pitchers to have 2,000 strikeouts a Yankee or two would be in the mix, such is the power of the Yankee mystique. Yet this season every achievement, every milestone in Yankee land has been met with a shrug or sigh or controversy.

The big celebratory milestone of the Yankee season was Derek Jeter at shortstop  on opening day Ichiro Suzuki reaching 4,000 hits. Of course it is not enough to congratulate someone reaching 4,000 hits for only the third time in history, Pete Rose (the all-time hit leader and somehow popular asshat) decried his achievement by pointing out that he only had 2,722 in the major leagues. It is tough enough to get hits professionally let alone remain healthy enough to achieve the milestone. Reaching such career milestones can be even more challenging when you are a foreign born player. The Rose group missed the celebration and spoiled it for others. It was never about Ichiro "beating" anyone for the most hits of all time, it was a personal milestone to signify personal achievement at the highest level in two countries. Fans love a round number and 4,000 hits is amazing anyway you look at it, but the Roseists won the day, stirred up more than enough controversy that people debated the merits of the hits more than appreciating the requisite skill necessary to achieve it. In a year when 4,000 should have stood out, we instead have seen it matched by 2,722, yet that is not the only oddity the Yankees have produced this season.

Another, rather amazing, feat pulled off by the Yankees is their ability to persevere without their usual stars. C.C. Sabbathia looks like he needs the Cap'n to make it happen and the team as a whole has spent more money on players on the disabled list than on the active roster. Despite that hurdle they are fighting for a wild card spot with less than 2 weeks remaining. This should be a resounding success story of scrappy players, wily veterans and good old fashioned hard work. Kirk Gibson has hoarded all the grit, determination and moxy in the Arizona desert. Joe Girardi should be the front runner for manager of the year for his efforts, Brian Cashman applauded for continuing to get the most out of so many aging veterans. Instead fans are split on embracing the pennant race and quietly hoping they miss out. Helping fuel the Yankees late season push is also the reason fans might be okay missing out, Alex Rodriguez. His career numbers continue to climb and the only reason fans care is if he gets that first $6 million dollar home run bonus for #660. However, as far as third baseman for the Yankees in 2013 go, A-Rod has performed better than the rest despite playing in only 36 games. He is not going away this season, leaving fans to be thankful for his efforts, but remain largely silent in their applause. Even when facing success, Yankees fans are oddly torn this season.

This odd season for the Yankees seems to have ensnared Pettitte hook, slider and sinker. Some may argue that his steroid admission is the reason this milestone, along with so many others for him, is noted but not appreciated. There is also a little bit more to the anti-climatic murmur that greeted 2,000 K's, he had been done before. Heading into tonight's action he has 2,432 strikeouts. He had passed the 2,000 milestone before his first retirement, fans have been there seen that. He also became the Yankees all time K leader back on July 1, passing Whitey Ford. Back when they were just scuffling along and Pettitte has been scuffling all season with a 4.04 ERA and 1.402 WHIP. 2,000 strikeouts is the sign of a long and successful career much like 4,000 hits. I am willing to appreciate effort necessary to reach such lofty heights, let the debate wait for another day and applaud the accomplishment. It has been an odd season in the Bronx, where the Captain is manning the DL, the enemy is cheering their closer, and the season is marked by round numbers like 2,000 and 4,000, except when its not.

Then again, that's baseball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. 

Think about that and let me know your notable oddity about the Yankees or any other team in the comment section!