New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez strikes out with the bases loaded against the Detroit Tigers during the seventh inning of Game 5 of their MLB American League Division Series baseball playoffs at Yankee Stadium in New York

What they’re saying about the Yankees’ first round exit

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It’s audacious, I realize, to attribute the result in this series to the Tigers winning rather than the Yankees losing. Derek Jeter acknowledged it (see below), but that’s just not how New York rolls. So let us absorb the New York sturm und drang, shall we?

Joe Girardi:  “It’s an empty feeling for everyone in that room. And it hurts. You just got to remember this feeling and we’ll be determined next year.”

Bob Klapisch: “There were culprits up and down the lineup, but none so obvious as Alex Rodriguez, who’d turned into Public Enemy No. 1 by the ninth inning. There he was, swinging so feebly at Jose Valverde’s last fastball he should’ve done himself the favor and stayed in the dugout.”

Joel Sherman: “… the Yankees lost three games by a total of four runs. So they were a star turn away from winning this series; a game-turning pitch, a big hit, and, in particular, Sabathia and Rodriguez never delivered.”

Mike Lupica: we kept hearing about these great swings [Alex Rodriguez] was getting. How he was going to bust out. It makes more sense to call him the same kind of October bust he was for the Yankees before he had his one shining moment in 2009 … if A-Rod thinks doing it once gives him some kind of lifetime pass with Yankee fans, he didn’t hear the boos he got after he struck out in the bottom of the seventh Thursday night.

John Harper: “After a season spent worrying about whether the Yankees had enough pitching, it was the big bats that cost them in the end. Above all, as always, there was Rodriguez, striking out swinging with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, when even a single likely would have tied the game, and then striking out swinging to end the game.”

Wallace Matthews: “When Rodriguez swung through Valverde’s 94-mph, 1-2 fastball, not one honest person in Yankee Stadium could truly say they were surprised.”

Ian O’Connor: “Worried his hitters would be distracted, Joe Girardi, manager of the New York Yankees, had the umpires strip Benoit of his bandage, exposing what Tigers manager Jim Leyland called “a big lump on his face.” But Girardi couldn’t strip the pitcher of his powers, or of his ability to throw an 86-mph splitter on a 1-2 count that would reduce A-Rod to a flailing Game 5 mess and, ultimately, leave him once again as the face of a first-round flameout, the master of another Yankee disaster.

Steve Politi: The finger pointing will begin Friday, and there are plenty of directions to point. The manager and his six pitching changes will be a target. The broken down third baseman who struck out to end the game will be one, too. The lineup that hit 222 home runs during the regular season failing to make one good swing with all those opportunities — there are plenty of culprits, to be sure. But sometimes, there are no easy answers. Sometimes, when a 162-game season comes down to one night in October, the ball off the bat of the star shortstop dies on the warning track.

Tyler Kepner: “For all of the success of the Jeter/Mariano Rivera/Jorge Posada era, the Yankees have lost in the first round more often than they have won the World Series. They have five championships and seven first-round knockouts — in 1995, 1997, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011. Their expectations never change: they win, or the season is a failure.”

Jeff Bradley: “It was almost eerie in the Stadium as the highest-paid player in the game waved at a pitch from Detroit closer Jose Valverde. The crowd was barely making a noise. The old anticipatory thundering applause that’s been know to rattle an opponent was not there. Almost like the crowd had seen enough of A-Rod. And did not believe.”

Derek Jeter: “They pitched, man. They pitched That’s why they’re here, that’s why they’re moving on. They’ve got a great pitching staff. Their starters are tough, their bullpen is good. And Valverde closes the door. You get to this point in the season, it’s usually about pitching for the most part. They were tough on us.”

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.