The 2010s started off promising. 2009 ended with the team’s 27th championship, the Yankees acquired All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson and re-acquired perennial National League stalwart Javier Vazquez. Ok, maybe that last one was a sign of things to come.
While they won at least 95 games a season from 2010-2012, the Yankees core was aging rapidly and the team failed to reach a World Series. The years that followed were highlighted by farewell tours and mediocrity. If not for the late-decade resurgence, the 2010s would have been an outright disaster. The Yankees goal is and always will be to win a World Series, so any season that doesn’t end with a parade is considered a failure. But I attempted to convey the fans’ feeling after each year of the decade:
2010 – couldn’t repeat: didn’t win division and lost the ALCS to Texas
2011 – getting worse: won the division but bounced in the ALDS by Detroit
2012 – somber: won the division but swept in the ALCS by Detroit; we knew it was the end for the core
2013 – depressing part 1: revolving door of random players and Mariano’s last year
2014 – depressing part 2: revolving door of random players and Jeter’s last year
2015 – they pulled us back in: led the division for most of the season only to have the wheels fall off in the end
2016 – mix of emotions: the first half was a repeat of 2015 but the team smartly changed directions at the trade deadline
2017 – bright future: the team went further than any of us expected and had a new young core
2018 – underachievement: the team loaded-up but was bounced in the ALDS by Boston
2019 – exciting, but a failure: the team overcame every obstacle but lost a heartbreaking ALCS to Houston
What illustrates the decade better than anything is the Yankees top-20 position player WAR leaderboard for that span.
Jacoby Ellsbury somehow ranks 14th on the Yankees WAR list of the 2010s with 8.0.
Yesterday while perusing Fangraphs, as one does, I stumbled upon the fact that Jacoby Ellsbury – Mr. Catchers’ Interference himself – ranks as the 14th most productive Yankee of the 2010s, one spot ahead of Derek Jeter. I refreshed the list three times to make sure I wasn’t doing something wrong, because I just could not believe it.
A few people used this fact to dismiss WAR as a stat. While it’s a tough look that Ellsbury ranks that high, it makes sense when you think back on the decade. Brett Gardner played by far the most games during that span and he tops the list with 33.6. A full decade of averaging 3.3 WAR per season is impressive, but he should not be your most productive player. Robinson Cano, who ranks second, peaked for the most years. Jeter is further down the list than most people would have guessed but he retired mid-decade and was injured for a full season.
Chase Headley, Chris Stewart, Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Francisco Cervelli (damn, a lot of catchers), and of course Jacoby Ellsbury are forgettable, if not regrettable. The Yankees mid-2010s mediocrity was not only about those players, but the names outside the top-20. Adam summed it up perfectly.
They had some weird rosters in the early teens. There was a time when Ben Francisco batted cleanup on purpose.