One of the saddest things for any aging superstar is to realize one is no longer "the guy."
Perhaps the same can be said of an aging team coming to the realization that it no longer strikes fear in opponents.
Such is the reality with the New York Yankees, who are now just one game away from elimination in the ALCS against Detroit. You could have seen this coming when Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in May, or when Derek Jeter went down in Game 1 with a fractured ankle. In reality, the Bombers' fate in this postseason has been sealed for quite some time.
First, there are the struggles of $275 million man Alex Rodriguez, who has been so awful in the playoffs that manager Joe Girardi trotted out Eric Chavez and his 0-11 postseason in his place Tuesday night. (The good news for A-Rod is that the benching left more time for his vital in-game flirting.) Then there is Nick Swisher, who hasn't had a clutch hit in what seems like an eternity. Don't forget about Curtis Granderson and his barely .100 playoff average, either. And, of course, there is Robinson Cano, arguably the team's best player, who went an unprecedented 0-29 until a ninth inning single in Game 3.
The key to any postseason run is pitching. With it, you can beat anybody; without it, you won't beat anybody. Blame the hitting or blame Girardi, but simply put, the Yankees just don't have enough arms. C.C. Sabathia has been terrific and Hiroki Kuroda has been solid, but who else in the rotation or the bullpen can this team really trust on a nightly basis? Joba Chamberlain? David Phelps? Phil Hughes? No, no and no.
As it stands, the Yankees could be swept in a best-of-seven postseason series for the first time in 36 years. GM Brian Cashman -- who has held the position since 1998 -- summed up the perplexing nature of this team after the 2-1 Game 3 loss. "I'm shocked, to be honest," he said of A-Rod's slump. "It's something you really don't see, especially in a playoff situation with players of such high caliber."
"Shocked." Really? Why? Is it because Rodriguez is 37 years old and hasn't hit .300 since 2008? Or is it because you gave him the richest back-loaded deal in the history of the sport?
While all of the blame doesn't fall on Cashman, a lot of it should. He is the architect of an aging roster that seems light-years away from its 28th World Series title. Forget, just for a moment, the A-Rod contract or the Swisher deal (over $10 million this year) -- Cashman is the guy who traded star catcher of the future, Jesus Montero, for a red-flagged pitcher who may never pitch again. And he is the guy responsible for giving Mark Teixeira -- and his one extra-base hit this series -- over $23 million in 2012. Brian Cashman is the man who created a lineup that has only scored in a measly two of this series' 30 innings.
After the Tigers finish off the Yanks -- and they surely will -- maybe the first step for Cashman and this organization is finally to realize that people don't fear them anymore. Maybe that will inspire change. Maybe it will inspire fresh legs and new faces that this franchise so desperately needs. Something -- anything -- needs to be done.
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Ed. Note: A previous edition of this article stated that the Yankees could be swept for the first time in a playoff series in 36 years. That does not include best-of-five sweeps.