John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Perhaps the 2010s can be explained simply as the law of averages catching up with the Yankees, a reminder of just how remarkable it was to navigate the postseason so flawlessly while winning four championships in five years two decades ago.
More likely the teams of this decade simply weren't quite as clutch or complete as those Joe Torre ballclubs that remain the last dynasty we've seen in baseball.
Either way, this decade will be remembered dubiously in the Bronx as the first one in 100 years in which the Yankees didn't make at least one World Series appearance.
That memory could be amended at least partly in the coming years, however, if Brian Cashman's rebuild on-the-fly in 2016 winds up being the foundation of a new championship era in the 2020s, with the signing of Gerrit Cole in the final month of the decade proving vital to winning a title or three.
As it was, the 2010s were two distinctly different eras, the early years of the decade ushering out the Core Four, and the later years heralding the arrival of the Baby Bombers.
That divide makes selecting an All-Decade Team a bit tricky, with only CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner spanning both eras.
But here goes:
First Base: Mark Teixeira
Seems easy enough, but actually Greg Bird had a chance to sneak in here if he'd lived up to his early promise in 2016. Teixeira was a vital piece of the 2009 championship team, but his production fell off dramatically after 2012, due to age, injuries, and the dawn of the defensive shifts that hurt so many left-handed pull hitters.
Even in decline, however, Teixeira was a dangerous hitter, allowing him to hang on as the regular first baseman through 2016, giving the Yankees their money's worth on that eight-year, $180 million deal they signed him to going into 2009.
Second Base: Robinson Cano
He only played four seasons for the Yankees in this decade, but they were four brilliant seasons that saw Cano finish third, sixth, fourth, and fifth, respectively in the AL MVP voting from 2010-'13, while winning two Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers awards.
As it turned out, the Yanks got the very best of Cano. For although he had some good years in Seattle, he also incurred a PED suspension, and he's in decline now as a Met, with four years still remaining on his 10-year, $240 contract. On the other hand, if the Yankees had gone the extra mile to keep Cano, they never would have signed Jacoby Ellsbury.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
This really isn't a difficult choice, even if Derek Jeter did finish out his Hall of Fame career with five seasons in this decade -- the same number as Gregorius. The reality, however, is that Jeter's last great season was 2009, when he hit .334 with an .871 OPS, and not only did his numbers drop off dramatically from there, he also missed all but 17 games in 2013, recovering from that broken ankle suffered in the 2012 postseason.
Gregorius, meanwhile, proved a worthy successor to a legend, providing mostly excellent defense at short and better-than-expected offense, including left-handed power that proved important to the Yankees' return to the post-season the last three seasons.
Third Base/DH: Alex Rodriguez
I'm combining these spots since A-Rod had more impact than anyone else at either of them during the decade, despite his PED suspension for the 2014 season and his feeble final season in 2016.
All of which is another way of saying I just can't bring myself to go with Chase Headley at third base, in addition to needing more than a season apiece from Miguel Andujar and Gio Urshela to justify giving one of them the nod there. Likewise I just can't put Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Holliday, or even Jorge Posada at DH for essentially one season from each of them.
Catcher: Gary Sanchez
Sanchez may always be a lightning rod for sports-talk debate, with his defensive lapses and his extended slumps off-setting his sometimes spectacular offense, but there's no denying he earns this spot. His 105 home runs since he arrived in 2016 are the most by any catcher in the big leagues over the last four seasons, and he only played in 53 games as an August call-up in his rookie season.
There's really not much competition, considering that Posada didn't catch after 2010, and retired -- reluctantly -- after DHing in 2011, while successors Russell Martin and Brian McCann each played only two seasons in the Bronx.
Left Field: Brett Gardner
This is easy enough for the only Yankee position player to play the entire decade, playing at least 140 games every season but one, and most of them in left, where Gardner played great defensively and should have won more than one Gold Glove.
Offensively, his speed alone won his share of games over the decade, and at age 35, he hit a career-high 28 home runs last season. All of that in addition to developing into a leader in the post-Jeter years, highly respected by teammates young and old.
Center Field: Curtis Granderson
I'm tempted to go with Aaron Hicks here, in large part because of his defense. But he's missed too many games to injury during his four seasons as a Yankee, so Granderson gets the nod for his 2010-13 stint in the Bronx.
He had one great season in 2011 when he put up 41 home runs and a .916 OPS, earning a fourth-place finish in the AL MVP voting, and a couple of other good ones. Granderson was off to Queens after 2013, seemingly setting up Ellsbury to claim this spot on the all-decade team. Or not.
Right Field: Aaron Judge
The only competition comes from Nick Swisher, who had three good years at the start of the decade, but it's not really close as Judge has blossomed into one of the best all-around players in the big leagues, as impressive defensively as his power at the plate is imposing.
Judge had a case to win the 2017 MVP, when he finished second to Jose Altuve, and he almost certainly will win one or more in the coming years, if he can avoid the injuries that have cost him significant time the last two seasons.
Starting Rotation: CC Sabathia
Like Gardner, Sabathia was there for the entire decade, and while he wasn't anything resembling an ace after 2012, he managed to re-invent himself as more of a finesse pitcher his last four seasons and still be valuable. And he gets bonus points for leading the Yanks to their last championship in 2009 -- his first season in the Bronx.
Starting Rotation: Masahiro Tanaka
He was looking like a truly dominant ace in his first season in the Bronx in 2014, with a 2.10 ERA after 16 starts, but then he suffered the partially torn elbow ligament and was never quite the same. Still, he has managed to be durable, even with the tear, and deliver some postseason gems to secure his spot here.
Starting Rotation: Andy Pettitte
Pitched only three seasons in this decade -- 2010, 2012-'13 -- the last two after coming out of retirement. But there aren't many other worthy candidates. And Pettitte was solid-to-very good right to the end of his outstanding career, making four strong postseason starts in this decade to add to his October legacy as baseball's winningest post-season pitcher.
Starting Rotation: Luis Severino
Injuries and puzzling inconsistency have kept him from turning stretches of dominance into ace-like status, but Severino has put together a resume since 2015 that makes him an easy choice here. For his career, he's 42-26 with a 3.46 ERA, and he'll be just 26 in February.
Starting Rotation: Hiroki Kuroda
Only pitched three seasons for the Yankees, 2012-14, and was only on one playoff team. But the only other real candidates are Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, and Kuroda was far more durable and consistent in his three years, delivering sub-4.00 ERAs while making 97 starts and pitching well in the 2012 post-season.
Closer: Mariano Rivera
Much as I'd like to fudge this a bit and reward Dellin Betances for his body of work since 2013, he has struggled when asked occasionally to close, while injuries and control issues kept him from being a factor in the 2017 and '19 postseasons.
Meanwhile, Rivera has the clear edge over Aroldis Chapman. The Hall of Famer was brilliant even while winding down his legendary career, putting up ERAs of 1.80, 1.91, and 2.11 in 2010, '11 and '13 (he needed knee surgery in 2012 after that rather famous batting-practice injury). And he was his usual dominant self in the '10-11 post-seasons, allowing no runs over 7 1/3 innings.