It’s official: the Yankees’ season is over after 162 games for just the second time in the wild card era.
The Bombers were eliminated from contention when the Indians topped the White Sox 7-2 on Wednesday evening. Just a few minutes later, they wrapped up an 8-3 loss to the Rays, leaving them with an 82-76 record.
Regardless of what happens in their final four games, the Yankees will finish with a winning record for the 21st straight year. However, they are going to miss the postseason for the first time since 2008 and the second time since 1994, when the strike eliminated the postseason. The Yankees were in first place when play ended after 113 games that year. They failed to make the postseason at 88-74 the year before in 1993. The last time they finished under .500 was 1992 (76-86).
Even if the Yankees do win out and finish at 86-76 (.531), it will be their worst record since that sub-.500 season. Their next lowest winning percentage was .540 in 2000, but they still finished in first place (and won the World Series) that year.
It’s a disappointing send off for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, but still an impressive record giving the myriad injuries dealt with by Joe Girardi’s crew. Consider this: Chris Stewart has the sixth most at-bats this year on the Yankees roster. Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki will be the only three to finish with 500. Fourth and fifth on the list are Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells.
As they head into what surely will be a busy and probably controversial offseason, the Yankees have question marks everywhere. Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson are free agents. Alex Rodriguez has a 213-game suspension hanging over his head. Derek Jeter, who has a player option, isn’t likely to be a full-time shortstop going forward. Plus, the Yankees, who are expected to try to get under the $189 million luxury-tax figure, won’t know how much money they have to spend until the A-Rod saga is resolved.
Practically certain to depart in free agency are longtime Yankees Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. David Robertson could replace Rivera in the closer’s role, but then the Yankees would have to sign someone to pitch the eighth. There are only two locks for the rotation in CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, but there’s some hope that Michael Pineda will return from his shoulder woes to contribute. The lineup will have Gardner, Alfonso Soriano and the rehabbing Mark Teixeira at first base, plus Suzuki and Wells hopefully in lesser roles.
About the only positive thing the Yankees can take from this season as they head into 2014 is Nova’s rebound campaign that has him looking like a legitimate No. 3 starter. Even though he’s been typically working with two pitches (fastball and curve), he’s notched two complete-game shutouts in his last five starts, leaving him with a 3.13 ERA in 19 starts and three relief appearances this season.