We can live with watching the Yankees lose in the American League playoffs. Certainly, Yankee fans have lots of experience doing so, and hey, despite the organization’s semi-obnoxious “World Series or bust” mantra, most teams would love to have gotten this far. Watching so many hitters struggle, as they did during the 2012 postseason, is a little tougher: You kept waiting for guys like Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson to break out, or at least come close to performing the way they did during the regular season, and it never happened. And watching them get swept just plain sucks: The Yankees won more games than any other A.L. team this year — counting the playoffs, they’ve still won more games than any other team, including Detroit — and yet they just went an entire series without holding a single lead. It’s all pretty frustrating. And yet that’s not the worst part. The worst part is how this postseason devolved into an absolute shitshow — and how it was all so unnecessary.
We’ll repeat again: The Yankees didn’t lose this series because of Joe Girardi. They lost it because their offense was dreadful, and if certain guys hit even just a little better than they did, Girardi might not have panicked the way he did. It’s possible — likely, even — that putting his best lineup out there in every game wouldn’t have been enough to avoid a sweep. The Yankees deserved to lose, and they deserved to get swept. But Girardi did panic, and it turned what would have been a frustrating end to the season — the kind Yankees fans have lived through many times — into something much worse. When the manager freaks out the way he did, there’s a ripple effect.
Girardi — by embarrassing A-Rod at every turn — somehow found a way to magnify the third baseman’s struggles, and the calls for a trade, however unlikely one may be, will only get louder now. (A-Rod says he wants to return, by the way.) Meanwhile, what’s happened this month has damaged the relationship between the manager and a player with five years left on his contract, so there’s also the knowledge that this is a story that isn’t going away anytime soon. And so on top of all the bad baseball — it’s still stunning how bad Robinson Cano was in these playoffs — fans were forced to watch the type of Yankee circus they hadn’t seen in years. (In addition to the drama caused by Girardi’s managerial decisions, we even got yet another A-Rod tabloid story — the sort of thing that has nothing to with on-field performance but can dominate a news cycle.) But just like Girardi lost faith in his players, Yankee fans would be forgiven for losing faith in the team’s manager. This is a side of Girardi we hadn’t seen, and it’s something fans won’t, and shouldn’t, soon forget.
We may be underestimating the effect Derek Jeter’s injury had on the psyche of Yankee fans, this one included. Maybe any series loss will seem worse when fans have to watch their team’s captain get helped off the field during the twelfth inning of Game 1. But much of the A-Rod drama, and the daily wait for Joe Girardi’s latest crazy lineup, and the feeling that we’re in for an off-season that will be interesting for all the wrong reasons? That all could have been avoided. Getting swept is rough. But what just happened with the Yankees is even worse.