2013 was a very disappointing year for the Yankees, as they missed the playoffs for just the second time in the past 18 years. There were a few bright spots to the season, but that's not for this post (that will come later). These are the 10 worst moments of the Yankees' season that were caught on video.
Obviously there were some damaging moments that weren't GIFable that would have made the list if it was possible to make GIFs of them. There is no video of the WBC batting practice wherein Mark Teixeira's wrist popped, for instance. We would live in a strange world if video of Alex Rodriguez's January 13th hip surgery that made him miss four months of the season was made available to the public, but we would live in a much more amusing world if we had video of the Humbler attacking Travis Hafner.
Anyway, here are the 10 worst Yankees GIFs of the year. Grab a drink or five, you'll probably need it.
10. Chris Stewart in a nutshell
In a way, Chris Stewart symbolized the Yankees' season. Like many players who frequented the Yankees' lineup in 2013, Stewart was never really meant to be a starter. Unfortunately, that's how the season played out once Francisco Cervelli broke his hand (a narrow miss on this list). As the season progressed and both youngsters Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy showed signs of life and some vague major league potential, the Yankees should have tried one or both of them as the regular catcher over Stewart, who struggled immensely with the bat and eventually began to experience problems on defense despite his solid pitch framing reputation. His 12 passed balls were the second-highest total in all of baseball, and it seemed like those passed balls came on simple pitches right down the middle.
The above GIF was one of these such passed balls, and it came at an awful time for the Yankees. They had a chance to capture a late August series on the road against the cellar-dwelling Blue Jays, and despite their underwhelming record since Memorial Day, they were only a few games back of a Wild Card spot. Their earlier bumps in the road made series like these against under-.500 teams all the more important to win, but on August 28th, they already trailed in the rubber game of this series 2-0 in the first on a double by Brett Lawrie. There were runners on first and second, but there were two outs, so just one more out would get the Yankees out of it with minimal damage. Hiroki Kuroda made his pitch on J.P. Arencibia (coincidentally, the MLB leader in passed balls), and struck him out looking to end the inning. Or so he thought.
Like magic, Stewart turned a strikeout into two runs and threw in an error for good measure. The Yankees were down 4-0 and went on to lose the game 7-2, dropping a crucial series against a very beatable team. Obviously the game was not entirely Stewart's fault since the offense only managed to score two runs against Todd Redmond and company, but fan frustration was at incredibly high levels after that passed ball.
9. Rookie domination
The Yankees' offense was scuffling around toward the end of July when they ran into a buzzsaw better known as Rays rookie Chris Archer. Alfonso Soriano had only just been reacquired, and the offense was limited by injuries so much that the lineup on July 27th had Lyle Overbay batting fifth and the dynamic duo of Eduardo Nunez and Brent Lillibridge starting on the left side of the infield. A month prior, Archer beat them with six innings of one-run ball, but he was even better on this afternoon.
Although the Rays scored only one run for Archer against Ivan Nova, that was all he would need. The Yankees were held to just two baserunners all day: an Overbay single in the fifth, and a Brett Gardner two-out double in the sixth. Nothing came of either hit, and Archer worked so efficiently that he completed his two-hit shutout on fewer than 100 pitches, the rare Maddux shutout. His 89 Game Score was the highest of any pitcher who faced the Yankees in 2013. The Yankees were also shut out by Derek Holland and Justin Masterson during the season, but a 24-year-old dominated them more than anyone else.
8. The game that would not end
Extra innings baseball can be exciting, but when the two teams are playing crappy baseball, it takes a lot of the thrill out of it. Never was this more evident than on June 13th, when the Yankees and Athletics played to a 2-2 standstill after 17 innings. Both teams had been shut out for 14 innings, and after a one-out two-run homer in the first by Robinson Cano, the Yankees would not score again over the next 17 2/3 innings. This was not for lack of opportunity though; they went an infuriating 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14 men on base. The middle of the lineup was the worst: Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, and Vernon Wells combined to go an astonishingly awful 0-for-28 with 12 strikeouts. It would be Youk's last game in pinstripes and Tex only played two more games after that before his season ended. Injuries were just ever-so-much fun in 2013.
Anyway, both Kuroda and Jarrod Parker dazzled over eight innings, and the bullpens combined to keep each offense quiet from the ninth through the 17th. David Robertson was his classic Houdini self, as with the potential winning run on third base with one out in the bottom of the ninth, he struck out the dangerous Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss back-to-back to send the game to extra innings. The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the 11th, but Jeremy Blevins matched Robertson by striking out Hafner and Youkilis back-to-back to escape the inning.
Other near-misses at scoring:
- Runner on second, two outs in the 10th: Stewart strikes out
- Runners on first and second, two outs in the 12th: Jayson Nix strikes out
- Runners on first and second, no outs in the 13th: Hafner flies out, Youkilis & Wells strike out
- Runners on first and second, one out in the 14th: Overbay and Tex pop out
The stars of the show were long relievers Adam Warren and Jesse Chavez, who each threw over five innings of scoreless ball on their own. The A's nearly scored off Warren in the 15th when Coco Crisp singled to left with runners on first and second, but Wells threw Moss out at the plate to cut down the winning run. Warren then struck out Adam Rosales and the game continued, as if on life support. In the 16th, Warren also got Nate Freiman to line out with the winning run in scoring position and two outs.
Finally, as the game moved to over five and a half hours long in the 18th, the A's broke through. John Jaso singled to right with one out during Preston Claiborne's second inning of work, and the Yankees brought in Mariano Rivera. Mo was not sharp though, perhaps due to warming up intermittently in the late innings when it seemed like the Yankees were about to give him a save opportunity on numerous occasions. He gave up a single to Seth Smith that moved Jaso to third, and after intentionally walking Jed Lowrie, Freiman had a second chance to end it:
Mercifully, it was over. The Yankees were swept in Oakland again, and the excruciating 18-inning loss remained one of the most painful blows of the year.
7. Captain down... again and again
Every time Derek Jeter appeared to be finally ready to return from his gruesome 2012 ALCS ankle injury, he experienced a major setback. Fans kept hearing that he would be ready for Opening Day during Spring Training, but when Jeter finally got into games, it was evident that he was not quite right. The timetable was pushed back, and eventually he was placed on the 60-day DL to recover from ankle inflammation.
It was a long recovery that felt even longer while the Yankees trotted out a cavalcade of awful excuses for starting shortstops during Jeter's absence, from Nunez and Nix to Reid Brignac, Luis Cruz, and Alberto Gonzalez. The Yankees were desperate to bring him back, and while he was rehabbing in Triple-A Scranton, they had a bad game wherein both Hafner and Gardner experienced injuries that would keep them out for the next night. As a result, they cut Jeter's rehab short one game early and had him DH in the Bronx rather than Scranton on July 11th.
Jeter went 1-for-4 in his return, but Gardner pinch-hit for him in the eighth, as he was removed from the game with a quad strain. Jeter was running at what he callled "about 70%" level, but even that was enough to aggravate his body. The strain was aggravated during this groundout to second in the fifth, when Johnny Giavotella had to make a dive and take a bit more time to throw Jeter out:
It's ever so slight, but Jeter runs through first base somewhat awkwardly and you can see his leg limp a little. On his next at bat, Jeter could not run hard at all on another ground ball. Soon, he ended up back on the DL with a quad strain having only one game to show for his return. Jeter came back for four more games from July 28-August 2, but quickly returned to the DL with right calf strain. By the end of August, Jeter came back one last time for his longest stay of the season: 12 games from August 26-September 7. However, he was playing with obvious discomfort in his ankle that he could not even fake it at shortstop or hit well at all. Thus, the Yankees shut him down for the rest of the season. It was easily the most frustrating season of the Captain's career, and it was painful to watch as fans.
6. A promising start
Curtis Granderson's game declined in 2012 from his MVP-caliber performance in 2011, but he still hit over 40 home runs for the second season in a row. In fact, Granderson hit more homers from 2011-12 than anyone in baseball by a considerable margin (84 to Ryan Braun's 74). So although his walk rate declined and his strikeout rate rose in 2012, he was still a fairly safe lock to provide some significant lefty power for the 2013 lineup. Never before had he played fewer than 135 games in a season since he became a regular in 2006 with the Tigers. In his very first Spring Training game on February 24th however, that streak of healthiness was put in jeopardy thanks to one errant pitch from Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ:
Granderson fractured his right arm on the pitch, and he wouldn't return to the Yankees' lineup until the season was a month and a half old. The Yankees' lineup sorely lacked his power, and the gaping hole in the outfield led the Yankees to make a desperation trade for over-the=hill Vernon Wells, a move that blew up in their faces once Wells quickly returned to his awful form after a hot April. At least when the Yankees got Granderson back on May 14th, they figured that he was locked and loaded for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come for the Grandyman.
5. A Yankees great snatched away
The Yankees and star second baseman Robinson Cano never seemed to be on the same page regarding his future with the team. He was easily the franchise's best player since 2009 as he hit his prime and became a perennial MVP candidate by batting .314/.369/.530 with 224 doubles, 124 homers, a 137 OPS+, and a remarkable 34.2 rWAR in just five seasons. Cano was easily the team's best hitter, one of its best defenders, and he was also incredibly durable, missing just 14 games since the start of the 2007 season. He turned 31 in October 2013, but it still felt like he had several more stellar seasons in him before he began his decline.
Until this season though, the Yankees did not seem interested in signing him to another extension, and by the time they approached him, he was all but committed to testing the free agent waters. Still, it never felt like the Yankees would actually let him go. Once he reached free agency, the two sides still seemed to waffle on actually doing anything. Then suddenly, the Seattle Mariners involved themselves with Cano and eventually offered him a monster 10-year, $240 million contract. The Yankees' final offer of seven years, $175 million was a slightly higher AAV by $1 million, but the extra years of job security were clearly very important to Cano. There were reports that he came back to the Yankees and said they could have him if they agreed to an eight, nine, or ten-year deal valued at $235 million, but the Yankees declined. Thus, the final dagger of 2013 was thrown to Yankees fans as Cano signed his new deal in Seattle and was introduced as a Mariner:
The debate will likely go on forever about who is to blame for the divorce, whether it's the Yankees for not trying to extend him earlier, Cano for asking for the moon, or whoever else. There's no debate about how much the Yankees' lineup will miss his presence over the next few years though. The Yankees have been signing away other teams' homegrown players for years, so maybe it's just karmic justice. Whatever it is, it simply sucks that Cano won't be a Yankee anymore.
4. Subway sweep
The Yankees finished the 2013 season six games out of a playoff spot, and two particular series against awful teams stood out as big reasons why the Yankees were home in October. The more humiliating series will come later in the countdown, but their nightmare Subway Series against the Mets was extremely galling as well. The Yankees rode a surprisingly good start to the season to first place in AL East in the early goings of 2013. From May 9-26, they stood atop the division. Then, they played a four-game series against the Mets with the first two at Citi Field and the latter two at Yankee Stadium. Little did they know that it would be the beginning of the end of the 2013 season--from May 27th onward, they played under .500 ball at 55-58, 12 games behind Boston's pace and 11 games behind Tampa over that same period.
The series began with Jonathan Niese holding an ugly Yankees lineup that featured all of Nix, Wells, Ichiro, David Adams, and Phil Hughes to one run over seven innings. It was a bad night for the offense, but Niese is a roughly league-average pitcher and he was facing a poor lineup. It happens. Hughes actually managed to shut the Mets out through six, but a David Wright homer tied it in the seventh. David Robertson had an uncharacteristically bad game out of the bullpen, and he gave up the decisive run in the eighth. The Mets took the opener, 2-1.
The toughest gut punch of the series came the next night on May 28th, when the Yankees again held a 1-0 lead late in the game. Kuroda narrowly outpitched rising ace Matt Harvey, and this time, Robertson smoothly passed the game to the hands of Mariano Rivera in the ninth. The incomparable closer had returned to baseball with a flourish, converting each of his first 18 save opportunities with a 1.40 ERA and allowing just 14 hits in 19 1/3 innings. This was one of those nights when Mo just didn't have it:
Mo never recorded an out, the Mets got three straight hits from Daniel Murphy, David Wright, and Lucas Duda, and it was over. The Mets dealt Rivera his first blown save and loss of the 2013 season. The next night at Yankee Stadium, David Phelps was bludgeoned for five runs while only recording one out; before long, the Mets built up an 8-0 lead by the fourth and the game was basically done. In the finale, the unlikely trio of Dillon Gee, Scott Rice, and Bobby Parnell combined to pitch a four-hitter against another embarrassing lineup, allowing just one Yankee run on a solo homer by Cano. A Hafner strikeout clinched it, and for the first time in the 17-year history of the Subway Series, the Mets swept it. An 88-loss team won all four games they played against the Yankees. Let us never speak of it again.
Just 10 days after returning from his first hit by pitch injury, the snakebitten Granderson was drilled again, this time by Rays reliever Cesar Ramos. Granderson had appeared in only eight games before he was hit by a stray pitch from Ramos in the fifth inning of a developing blowout of the Rays at the hands of the Yankees on May 24th:
Ramos's pitch broke Granderson's left hand. He missed the next 60 games, and though the Yankees managed to survive his first foray to the DL, the Yankees only went 27-33 during his second DL stint. As more key offensive players went down with injuries, the Yankees desperately missed the power he brought with his bat. By the time he came back, the Yankees played a little bit better, but Granderson's timing wasn't exactly as good as fans were accustomed to seeing from him. He hit just .226/.316/.409 the rest of the way with six homers, a disappointing ending to an otherwise successful four-year stint in the Bronx.
2. Nix'd in Chicago
The lowest point of 2013 almost certainly occurred on the south side of Chicago on August 7th. The season began spiraling out of control after the All-Star Break, as the Yankees went 6-11, a stretch that included dropping two of three to lowly Padres, and a miserable sweep at the hands of the 99-loss White Sox. The offense was shut down by Jose Quintana and Chris Sale on back-to-back nights, but on the 7th, they held a 4-0 lead. CC Sabathia gave back three runs though, and despite holding a 4-3 advantage with no one on and one out to go, Mo could not finish the White Sox off.
Gordon Beckham doubled to center and pinch-hitter Adam Dunn poked a grounder through the left side to tie it up. Mo picked a bad time to have his annual "What's Wrong with Mo Week?"; this was also the week he blew back-to-back save opportunities against the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera. (They avoided this list since the Yankees managed to win those games anyway.) The game dragged on to the 11th inning. Romine drew a leadoff walk and Joe Girardi decided to have Nix pinch-run for him. The Yankees appeared to catch a break when Brett Gardner popped one up in no-man's land between Beckham and right fielder Alex Rios. The ball dropped beyond Beckham's reach. Nix was running on the play but stopped 3/4 of the way in case Beckham caught it. For a moment, he thought Beckham did catch it and began to head back to first. Then he realized that was not what happened and tried to turn around. What happened next was... ugh...
Welp. Even Alexei Ramirez was laughing. Nix was forced out at second and the season reached another embarrassing low. The Yankees did not score that inning, and in the 12th, a brief lead from Cano's leadoff homer was lost with two outs and two strikes on three straight hits. The two-run walk-off triple by Alejandro de Aza was a crippling moment, but the season arguably felt its most hopeless when Nix fell down. The Yankees hit their post-April low-water mark at just a game over .500 and seven games out of a playoff spot. This fan reaction in Chicago said it all:
1. The soul-crushing Salty slam
The sweep in Chicago was awful, but after that, the Yankees began to play a lot better. They went 21-13 over the next 34 games and even though the Red Sox swept them at Yankee Stadium on September 5-7, they drew to just one game behind a playoff spot by the morning of September 13th. Incredibly, with just one more win and a Rays loss, the Yankees would be in position to reach October baseball. However, a huge barrier stood in the way, as the Yankees would have to face the Red Sox for three games at Fenway Park. The Yankees actually took two of three from them in August, but Boston appeared to be a well-oiled machine by September. The results were not pretty.
Boston immediately tagged a four-spot on the now-struggling Kuroda in a first inning rally capped by a two-run Stephen Drew double. The Yankees battled back against John Lackey and Craig Breslow to tie it at four by the seventh. Even Brendan Ryan hit a homer. Everything was coming up Yankees! Then, the eighth inning happened.
Kuroda had recovered and thrown five scoreless innings in a row, but he gave up a leadoff single to Shane Victorino. Girardi brought in young lefty Cesar Cabral to face David Ortiz, and he promptly plunked Ortiz on his second pitch. That didn't work, so in came Preston Claiborne, the rookie who came out of nowhere to record a 1.46 in his first two months in the majors but had struggled to a 6.55 ERA and .847 OPS against since the beginning of July. Boston had pounded him for six runs on seven hits in just 2/3 of an inning over two of the previous sweep's three games. That trend would continue. Two batters later, the bases were loaded with one out for Jarrod Saltalamacchia:
And there went the season. Salty's slam settled into the seats and it was now suddenly a four-run game. It just felt like that was the end of the season when Saltalamacchia destroyed Claiborne's pitch and sure enough, the Yankees went on to lose and get swept in the Boston series, then dropped two of three in Toronto. A few games later, the Rays eliminated them. They fought there way through so much turbulence, but eventually the miscues caught up to them.
I'll be back with a top 10 GIFs of the year post later to brighten spirits after this depressing slog. So long, 2013. I won't miss you.
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