The sarcastic answer is, no, the Yankees are already ‘old.’ As their roster is constructed now, they rank as the third oldest team in the league with an average age of 28.3, and have the oldest player in Baseball—congratulations Mariano. But is this the year age finally affects the team enough to bounce them from the playoffs? We have been hearing it for two-plus years now; that this is the year the Yankees’ age will catch up to them. That a younger and more athletic team will outlast the veteran Yankees over a 162 game season. That Derek Jeter can’t possibly last an entire year at shortstop and Mariano Rivera will finally have a bad year at age 40, 41, 42, and now 43. Everyone knows Teixeira is on the backside of his career and is overpaid, and Alex Rodriguez is—well, I won’t touch on that one.
But is this the year it finally happens? The Blue Jays are much improved and actually picked by some to win the AL East. The Orioles made a run at the Yankees last season and should be better this year. (Actually, the Orioles are poised to finish closer to last place than first. In 2012, the O’s were 29-9 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra-inning games. Those are both statistical anomalies, and will be closer to .500 this season which will put them in the middle of the pack.) Jeter is one year older and coming off an ankle injury and Mariano hasn’t pitched in a year. Teixeira always gets off to bad starts and one of these years he won’t rebound, right? The Yankees lost Swisher and replaced him with a 39-year old who relies on his legs. A-Rod is—nope, still not going there…
The easy answer to this question is time will tell; but I don’t think this is the year the Yankees fall apart because of age, and here’s why:
The Yankees have overcome age, injury, and poor performance time and time again over the past couple of seasons. Derek Jeter had a down year—by his standards—in 2010, followed by a terrible start and a calf injury in 2011 before rebounding after 3,000. Mariano Rivera pitched in only 9 games last season and the team still managed to tally 51 saves. Mark Teixeira has looked, well old, at times over the past three years but has still averaged 101 RBIs over that time. Alex Rodriguez—okay, I’ll touch on it this time since it supports my argument—missed a month to start the ’09 season and the Yankees went on to win the World Series that year.
What does all of this mean for the Yankees in 2013? It means the Yankees will have to continue to count on roster and minor-league depth to overcome age, injuries, and poor performance by cornerstone guys. If this year is like every other season for every other team in Major League Baseball, the Yankees will encounter a mix of those issues. And when they do, players like Brett Gardner—no stranger to injuries himself—will have to step up. Phil Hughes, already sidelined this Spring with a back injury, will have to be closer to his 18 win 2010 season than his baffling 2011 season. Newcomers like Kevin Youkilis will have to fill A-Rod’s absence and the bench will need a timely boost from guys like Travis Hafner and Eduardo Nunez as it did from guys like Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones. And, probably most importantly, Robinson Cano will need to be the Yankees’ best everyday player from the start of the season through October.
I have enough confidence in the Yankees and enough skepticism in the rest of the division to firmly say that this will not be the year age catches up with the Yankees.
What do you say, Yankees fans?