Injuries take toll on New York Yankees as pain will be felt next year, too

After missing the play-offs for the second time in 19 years, plenty of uncertainty awaits the troubled New York squad next season.

New York Yakees' Derek Jeter was hampered by injuries this year as he was on the team's disabled list three times. Getty Images
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Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera have left, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson might not be far behind and Alex Rodriguez could be suspended for all of next season.

Following the New York Yankees’ worst year since 1992, there are a whole lot of questions and not many answers. Manager Joe Girardi has not even committed to returning.

“I don’t know how it’s going to be here next year,” captain Derek Jeter said after Sunday’s season finale. “The manager and coaches are free agents, too. Anything I would say about next year would be premature and speculation.”

New York finished joint third in the American League (AL) East at 85-77, their poorest winning percentage in more than two decades. The Yankees were 12 games behind first-place Boston and six games behind Tampa Bay.

“The franchise knows what they have to do,” said Cano, who may seek a contract worth US$300 million (Dh1.1 billion) or more as a free agent. “They seem to make the team better every single year. I’m just going to go on vacation and go home and see the family and see where we are.”

For a team that treats early-round play-off games as routine, missing the post-season for only the second time in 19 years was a shock. The only new memories created were tear-filled exits.

“Andy [Pettitte] and Mo [Rivera], goes without saying how special that was,” Jeter said. “But on the field, it wasn’t memorable.”

New York’s high point of 12 games over .500 was reached on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. By early August they hit their mid-season nadir at 57-56.

Not for a single game did New York put their envisioned line-up on the field. After breaking his left ankle in the AL championship series opener against Detroit last October, Jeter did not return until July 11 and went right back on the disabled list (DL) with a tight right quadriceps. He came back late in the month but played in only four games before a strained right calf caused a third DL stint.

Coming off left hip surgery in January, Rodriguez did not make his season debut until August 5 – the day he was given a 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball for alleged violations of the sport’s drug agreement and labour contract. Playing while his penalty was under appeal, he hit .244 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in 44 games and missed the final four because of sore legs.

Mark Teixeira partially tore the tendon sheath in his right wrist in the pre-season. His season amounted to a .151 average with three homers and 12 RBIs in 15 games.

And in his last season before free agency, Granderson hit .229 with seven homers and 15 RBIs in 61 games. His right forearm was broken on February 24 in his first spring training plate appearance when he was hit by a pitch.

Even the replacements got hurt.

Kevin Youkilis did not play after June 13 because of a lumbar spine sprain. Eduardo Nunez was out from early May until July with a left oblique strain. Francisco Cervelli’s season ended April 26 when a foul ball off the bat of Toronto’s Rajai Davis broke his right hand. The catcher also was suspended in the Biogenesis drug scandal.

New York used a team-record 56 players as 21 went on the disabled list for a total of 28 stints, causing 1,493 missed days.

Home runs dropped from a team-record 245 last year to 144, the Yankees’ fewest in a non-shortened season since they hit 130 in 1989. Not counting strike years, it was the largest fall-off in baseball history.

“I think we need more offence overall,” Girardi said.

Fourteen players are potentially eligible for free agency, including Phil Hughes (4-14), Hiroki Kuroda (11-13 after losing his last six decisions) and relievers Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain.

Jeter is expected to exercise his $9.5m player option. Cano, the team’s best offensive player, may opt to take a higher offer if the Yankees attempt to show fiscal restraint. CC Sabathia remains a concern after going 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA, 76th among 81 qualifying pitchers. The ace missed his final turn in the rotation because of a strained left hamstring.

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann seems to be a possible target in the free-agent market. The pitching staff could be overhauled.

But if the new guys get hurt, the Yankees might struggle again.

“I don’t care who the guys are in that room,” Girardi said. “When you put the uniform on, you’re a big league player and I believe you have a chance to make the post-season.”