As part of the coping mechanism for accepting the 2013 season, here is a look back at the five worst moves of the season in my opinion. These were the most painful for me, personally, but I'm sure each person's analysis of the real downfalls of The Season That Wasn't will be a little different. A lot went wrong, let's be honest, so this could probably go on for many, many more than five. Feel free to leave the worst moves in your opinion in the comments below.
1. Signing Ichiro Suzuki to a two-year deal
The Yankees managed to capture lightning in a bottle after trading for Ichiro in 2012. He had a resurgent second half in New York that elevated his level of play to one he hadn't accomplished in a few seasons with the Mariners. Instead of taking the good vibes of trading next to nothing for a few good months of Ichiro and walking away, the Yankees matched a two-year contract offer from the Phillies for Ichiro to return to the Bronx in 2013 and 2014. As most would have guessed, Ichiro turned back into the pumpkin he'd been of late in Seattle and changing time zones did not cure him of getting older.
He's still a fine defender, but the man who should be a fourth outfielder was used as a starter in 2013 to match his monetary commitment from the team. The same will likely be true in 2014 if the Yankees don't make the necessary upgrades. After his pace slowed considerably, the chances of Ichiro achieving 3000 MLB hits dwindled away, taking with them the potential of a marketing coup that someone in the Yankee front office was no doubt hoping the team may be able to cash in on. The moment tne Phillies offered Ichiro two years, the Yankees needed to hang up the phone.
2. Using Chris Stewart as the starting catcher for most of the season
Career backup catcher Chris Stewart was out-played by Francisco Cervelli in Spring Training before Cervelli broke his arm and got suspended for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic. Stewart assumed the starting catcher duties, for which he was clearly not capable of being for a long period of time. The Yankees didn't have many options, to be sure, but there were plenty of marginal upgrades they could have made along the way if they had been willing. Even playing a hot Austin Romine down the stretch would have provided some upside that Chris Stewart was not capable of providing.
Once it was obvious to anyone with eyes that Stewart was becoming worn down by playing more than he ever has, the Yankees should have made a move. Instead, he was left to play nearly every day while his limited skill set deteriorated even further. Labeled by all accounts as a defensive catcher, balls started flying around the backstop and the hitting all but ceased completely. Even if there wasn't a slam dunk move to be made, there were ways that they could have brought the catching situation from unspeakable to rough. Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy may very well be parts of the future of the team, but instead of allowing them to play on a regular basis to see what they may be capable of at the big league level, the team stuck it out with Stewart for far, far too long.
3. Refusing to DFA Joba Chamberlain
Raise your hand if you can think of a game that Joba entered in 2013 that didn't make you consider violence or didn't make you feel suddenly ill. I'll wait. Everyone on the third rock from the sun was aware that no good could come of a White Flag appearance at any point in any game, but Joe Girardi wasn't having any of that nonsense. Joba used to be good in close games, he said. It'll be fun, he said. It was never fun.
There was really no chance that Joba would be back in pinstripes for 2014 anyway, but his awful 2013 may have cost him a major league deal for next season. Some team may be desperate enough to hope they can hind him in their bullpen for a rainy day, but there is a real chance that no one feels comfortable putting him into a baseball game they intend to win. Take notes, Girardi. Honestly, the Yankees should have DFA'd Joba months before the end of the season. He was providing no positive value to the team. Sometimes it seems like the Yankees are afraid that some other team will use their castoffs against them, but in this case, that might have been a welcome gesture.
4. The Great Re-Injury Disaster of 2K13
The Captain had a disaster of a season because of injuries, none of which were helped by the fact that he experienced a number of setbacks and re-injuries. Maybe it was all bad luck, but it seems like Jeter was not ready to step back on the field as often as he tried to. Mark Teixeira returned to the team briefly from his injury, only to require season-ending surgery shortly thereafter. Kevin Youkilis' return was brief before spinal numbness and subsequent surgery ended his season.
Regardless of who is to blame, something wacky went on with the rehab and preparation that led to an insane amount of players finding themselves right back on the shelf. Maybe the training staff needs a better evaluation process, maybe they need a more strenuous rehab to see if they are truly ready to return to the field. At the very least, the team needed to better prepare themselves for their older players succumbing to injuries. Having insufficient backups in place made the breakdown of returns to the field that never happened hurt even more. The rash of injuries may have been a fluke, but it's difficult to accept that all the misfortunes thereafter were nothing but coincidence.
5. Punting on the offseason
To accurately complain about the result of the 2013 season, you have to address what got the Yankees into the total mess in the first place: staying silent last winter. The moves that were made were kind of ill-advised, such as the two years for Ichiro and signing an injury-prone third baseman to replace another injury-prone third baseman. Their shortstop was coming off a significant ankle injury that could greatly impact range of motion and all around defensive ability, so their answer was Jayson Nix and Eduardo "Scissorhands" Nunez. Russell Martin wanted too much money for their tastes, so no catcher that wasn't on the roster already was worthy.
All of this was allegedly done with Plan 189 in mind – a plan that they may yet abandon after missing the playoffs. If they all but forfeited 2013 just to go all out with an open pocket book for 2014, what did they accomplish? A fairly miserable season by their own standards. Hal Steinbrenner says that he won't let Plan 189 keep them from fielding a competitive, World Series-caliber team, but that's a lie because he already did. Maybe he'll abandon it now that it didn't work with the team already being saddled with long, expensive contracts on the books. At least then maybe everyone can wash the bad taste out of their mouths of the lackluster team the Yankees fielded this year.
What do you think were the worst moves of the Yankees' 2013 season?