Baseball season has officially ended, and we are in the midst of a series reviewing the Yankees’ season. Although this year did not go as many Yankees fans might have hoped, it was still full of surprises. Here are the three biggest surprises of the season:
The Yankees sold at the deadline and then played well
This season started off very poorly for the Yankees, as they finished the month of April with a record of 8-14. The success of the lineup was somewhat dependent on veteran players like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez being able to replicate their 2015 seasons (or come close), and that didn’t happen. Not to mention the fact that aside from Masahiro Tanaka, the rotation was full of question marks. The team struggled to string together consecutive wins, and did quite a bit of hovering around the .500 mark. Whenever they were on the verge of a winning record, they would fall back again.
As the trade deadline approached, fans wondered if the Yankees might actually sell at the deadline for the first time in years. Of course, the Yankees are known for buying at the deadline, and the front office is usually adamant that the Yankees will be in playoff contention. That was the case again this year, as Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine sat around waiting to see if the team would play well after the All-Star break. After the Yankees were swept by the last-place Rays, the team finally went into full sell mode. Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, Ivan Nova, and Aroldis Chapman all found new homes, and the Yankees acquired many new prospects in return.
The most remarkable thing is that this team actually played well after the deadline, and even had a shot at making the playoffs. After calling up Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and Aaron Judge, the Yankees finished August 17-10, and then won seven straight games in September. It was the most exciting week of the season by far, and after that hot streak, the Yankees actually had a shot at winning the division. Unfortunately, the Yankees only won three of their next 10 games, and their postseason chances slipped away. It would have been fun to see the Yankees make the playoffs after selling at the deadline, but the seven-game winning streak was cool, too.
Alex Rodriguez’s mid-season retirement
No one knew what to expect from A-Rod following his 162-game suspension. Perhaps the biggest surprise of last year ended up being just how well Rodriguez played. It really seemed like he hadn’t missed a season. He hit over 30 home runs for the first time since 2008, and he slashed .250/.356/.486. A-Rod certainly fell off towards the end of the season, but there was no reason to think that he had run out of steam entirely.
Rodriguez seemingly spent the entire offseason working out to get ready for 2016, as his Twitter and Instagram accounts showed. Despite those efforts, nothing went his way this season. He struggled to get anything going at the plate, and he suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to miss time. He hit .185 and .130 in April and May, respectively. His performance improved in June (.267/.274/.356), but he wasn’t able to keep that up.
Shortly after Mark Teixeira announced that he would retire at the end of the season, Rodriguez held a press conference and announced that his final game with the Yankees would be on August 13th. The Yankees will pay Rodriguez the rest of the money left on his contract, which was not set to expire until after the 2017 season. Next year A-Rod will serve as a special assistant and instructor, even if he plays for another team. It is a shame that his career ended on a down season, but it was a smart move by the Yankees. At least we won’t have to watch A-Rod ride the bench for another year.
If you haven’t heard by now, Gary is Good. After selling at the deadline, the Yankees called up all the youngsters, including Sanchez. He immediately stepped into Beltran’s shoes and took over as the best hitter in the lineup. From August 3rd to October 2nd, Sanchez hit 20 home runs. Beltran ended the season as the team’s home run leader with 22, but Sanchez nearly caught him over a much shorter period of time. Sanchez finished the season hitting .299/.376/.657 with 171 wRC+. He hit so well during the final two months of the season that he even entered into some Rookie of the Year discussions.
Aside from swinging a hot bat, Sanchez also proved to be a great defensive catcher. He made some amazing throws to catch runners at second base, and actually threw out 41% of would-be base stealers. Sanchez will presumably come back to Earth next season, but his 2016 performance was definitely the highlight of the year.
What do you think the biggest surprises of the season were?