Column by Ken Cohen
I was watching Mike Francesca the other day and when someone called in saying the New York Yankees are no longer built for the playoffs, relying too much on the home run, the Yankee mouthpiece that he is, Francesca immediately retorted “that’s absurd.”
He went on to ridiculously explain that no team is built for the playoffs because anything can happen in a four-game series. Batters can go stone cold at the plate and pitchers can get lit up. In Francesca’s world, the playoffs are pot luck and whoever happens to be playing better at the time usually wins. It has nothing to do with the composition of the team and whether they are a long ball or small ball type of team.
That’s absurd. If Francesca thinks the Yankees were swept by the Tigers simply because their batters went cold at the wrong time, he’s not as smart as he thinks he is.
Just look at the statistics: the Yankees had two everyday players hit over .300 in 2012 Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. The rest of the team batted .249. This is nothing new; in 2011, Cano batted .302, Jeter .297 and the rest of the team .253. In 2010, Cano batted .319 and no one else even batted .290. Yet in 2009, when the Yankees won the World Series, Jeter hit .334, Cano .320 and the rest of the team .270. That’s a big difference from the years when they lost in the postseason. It wasn’t luck or hot hitting it was consistent hitting all year long.
And that’s the point Francesca is missing. Teams don’t lose playoff series year after year because things simply didn’t go their way at that time of year. They generally lose because it’s a reflection of what’s going on during the regular season. And anyone who has followed the Yankees over the last five years knows they don’t have enough guys hitting for average. Only Jeter and Cano consistently hit around .300. This year when Cano disappeared in the postseason and Jeter got hurt, the Yankees had no one to turn to. It wasn’t that other guys were necessarily slumping they never hit that well all season.
I agree with the caller that the Yankees need more hitters and less swingers. If you go back to the three consecutive World Series the Yankees won from 1998-2000, they had team batting averages of .282, .289 and .277. On the 1998 team, there were four .300 hitters. These teams also hit a lot of home runs, but they hit for average as well. They were built to do that. These Yankees are not. Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson are not Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez guys who could hit .300 as well as pop home runs.
So in that sense, the Yankees are not built for the postseason like they used to be. In the consecutive championship years they had a mix of power hitters who could also hit for average guys like Melky Cabrera of the Tigers, who is now playing in the World Series.
But Francesca would never admit that. To be honest, I’m not sure what he was trying to say. All those championships his beloved Yankees won were just a matter of luck or good timing? That’s even more absurd.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday