Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Good Riddance To 2016

I've been pretty silent for the majority of the season. Some of you may be okay with that, while others may be wondering what was going on.

Well, the fact is I only like to write when I'm inspired to. For example, there was plenty to talk about going into the trade deadline. I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to prospects, but even the least informed baseball fan knew getting guys like Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier was a big deal. Unfortunately, there just wasn't much else about the 2016 Yankees that was inspiring.

The Yankees finished the season 84-78, good for fourth place in the American League East, and four games short of a wildcard spot in the postseason. That win total is the worst the team has had since 1995, although they at least made it the playoffs that season. Yeah, they also only won 84 games in 2014, but they finished two places higher in the AL East.

But the team's record wasn't the only thing making 2016 so bad...

While the true meaning of this song goes over many people's heads, it definitely fits the 2016 season for the Yankees.

-It was great seeing so many top prospects get acquired, but in doing so the Yankees... for the first time in I don't know how long... gave up on the season before August even started (like I said in the past... simply trading Henderson is not what I'd call "selling"). Was it necessary in order to build a brighter future? Absolutely! But it was still hard to swallow.

-Total attendance at Yankee Stadium was at it's lowest since the new stadium opened in 2009, and has actually been declining each year since 2010.
*Old Yankee Stadium had a higher capacity, so to be fair I'm not including the fact that attendance was at it's lowest since 2000... the year the team won the freakin' World Series!

-Not a single batter for the Yankees had an OPS+ of at least 100 (aka "league average"). Actually, Carlos Beltran would have been their lone above average hitter, but they traded him away. Oh, and I'm not counting Gary Sanchez or Billy Butler, who spent the majority of the year in the minors or on another team. Nor did I include Chris Parmalee's 374 OPS+, which came after just eight at bats.

-Their second best starter this season, CC Sabathia, is 35 years old and has one more year left on his contract. But I have yet to hear a single Yankees fan say they should re-sign him... and for good reasons. Yes that was "reasonS"... plural.

-Their third most used reliever, Kirby Yates, had a 5.23 ERA and has already been put on waivers and claimed by the Angels.

To sum up, this was the worst Yankees' season I've had to endure in well over 20 years.

Unlike this cartoon, my last statement includes zero hyperbole.

But you know what? I'm okay. The World hasn't crashed around me. My girlfriend did not return the engagement ring. My mother did not stop talking to me. I still have a few friends. I'm still doing well at my job. The college football season has still been pretty sweet (Go Bucks!). And most importantly (I hope my fiance doesn't read that)... I'm still a huge fan of the New York Yankees.

It was not fun watching the Yankees' offense fail to come through with a big hit over and over and over again. It flat-out stunk to see the bullpen blow game after game late in the season, while they were barely hanging on to postseason hopes. Like most of you, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach whenever somebody not named "Masahiro Tanaka" was the starting pitcher.

But things are going to get better. That doesn't mean they'll get better right away, but there is reason to be optimistic. And let's be honest... do you expect anything less than optimism out of me?

Look at the facts...

1. Gary Sanchez and Brian McCann will share the majority of designated hitter at bats, which should be a nice improvement over this past season's primary DH... Alex Rodriguez and his OPS+ of 58 in 2016.

2. Greg Bird and/or Tyler Austin will probably see the most time at first base, meaning we don't have to worry about Mark Teixeira and his OPS+ of 74 from this past season.

3. I'm betting Aaron Judge will be the primary right fielder next year, and it shouldn't be hard for him to hit better than the 2016 team's primary RFer, Aaron Hicks (OPS+ of 65).
*although, chances are he won't be a better hitter than the Yankees' former regular right fielder... Carlos Beltran.

What about the pitching? Well, in that case it's all about faith...

1. Other than a horrible outing against the Dodgers, which was followed by an "ok" start at best versus the Red Sox, Bryan Mitchell showed that he could possibly hold down a rotation spot next year.

2. While many Yankees fans, and rightfully so, believe luis Severino is a future reliever, there's still a chance Luis is able to be a viable starter.

3. I certainly don't expect to see the team build a three-headed monster like the one they had before the trade deadline, but bringing back Chapman, and not building the rest of the bullpen on the fly, could do wonders.

4. Brian Cashman could find something of value in the trade market for a starter or two.

"I did pretty well at the trade deadline, right? So have faith."

To be honest, though, I don't expect anything great for the 2017 Yankees. I see it more like another stepping stone towards building another great team, which could contend for the World Series year after year.

That means living with the headache that will be Aaron Judge's strikeout rate still being on the bad side. Living with the fact that Gary Sanchez will not hit like Babe Ruth all year long, and turn in a 50 homer season. Living with the fact that Greg Bird is unlikely to come roaring out of the gate after missing all of 2016. And living with a starting rotation that continues to have more questions than answers.

The main point I'm trying to make is that while it stinks that the Yankees' season is over with, and it left so many of us completely and totally underwhelmed, our lives and the lives of every person with ties to the organization go on. And I hope everybody remembers that next year when they continue to struggle here and there.

We are the New York Yankees, and we will never die.

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