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The Yankees’ worst “New Years”

In honor of the calendars turning to 2022, let’s look back at some times a new year meant a downturn in fortune for the Yankees.

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2021 Times Square New Year’s Eve Celebration Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images

Last year on New Year’s Day, we rang in 2021 in part with this post on the Yankees’ best “new years.” It was a look at the years in which a change in the calendar also saw an improvement on the Yankees’ fortunes on the field.

In the 365 days since, we sat through one of the more annoying Yankees seasons in recent years. There will certainly be plenty of fan bases who would roll their eyes at a season that ended in a playoff appearance being called “annoying.” However, they were among the favorites in all of baseball going into the season, and then spent much of it looking very listless.

Now with so much of the roster seemingly in flex going into 2022 and a lockout preventing them from doing anything about it for the moment, it’s a bit of a frustrating time for the Yankees. In “honor” of that, let’s do that opposite of what he did last year. Let’s take a look at the worst “new years” in Yankees’ history.

1911 to ‘12: -26 wins

Star player Hal Chase’s stint as manager did not go well for the then-New York Highlanders. “Prince Hal” wasn’t popular with his teammates and there were plenty of rumors and intimations that he had thrown games before. Despite that, they still put up a .500 record in 1911. That’s why when they brought in Harry Wolverton, a successful minor league manager, there were hopes that he could get them playing like a potential contender.

That did not happen. Instead, the Highlanders’ win total fell by 26 games, following a severely hampered spring training and a poor start they could never overcome. The 55 games they finished behind first in the AL is still the furthest back they finished in any season in franchise history. Wolverton did not return for another season as manager.

1924 to ‘25: -20 wins

The Yankees’ franchise won their first World Series in 1923 and then narrowly came in second in the AL the next season. However then in 1925, they fell all the way to seventh, winning just 69 games. What exactly happened is not hard to figure out.

In ‘25, Babe Ruth was limited to just 98 games in the year of his famed “bellyache.” In reality, whatever he was dealing with was decently serious, as he collapsed and had to undergo a stomach surgery. He hit well enough when he played, but he didn’t do so nearly enough to even get the Yankees above .500.

The 1925 season did produce one very good thing, as it was the year Lou Gehrig got the start over Wally Pipp on June 2nd, beginning his streak and getting his incredible career truly going.

1964 to ‘65: -22 wins

In 1964, the Yankees went to the World Series, but came up short, losing in seven games to the Cardinals. For reasons seemingly largely related to the “Harmonica Incident,” the Yankees brass decided that first-year manager Yogi Berra wasn’t the man for the job and replaced him with Johnny Keane, who had just beaten them as the manager of that Cardinals team.

On the field, the move did not work as the team went from the AL pennant to sixth place, 25 games back. The reasons for that are understandable. Roger Maris only played 46 games. Important members of the Yankees ‘50s/early ‘60s dynasty were getting older, and, even if they still had good years in ‘65, weren’t what they were.

A 22-game fall would be enough, but that wasn’t the only thing that happened around this time. The 1965 season was the first full one after the Yankees had been purchased by CBS the previous year. Under the CBS ownership, the Yankees famously floundered, falling towards the bottom of MLB for several years until the mid/late ‘70s after George Steinbrenner bought the team.

2019 to ‘20: -70 wins*

Okay yes, there’s a very obvious reason why the Yankees had such a big win drop-off in 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic and the season getting shortened. However, the Yankees’ .550 winning percentage in 2020 would’ve still led to 13-game drop off had they played to it over a full 162 games. However, a lot of the issues that arose in 2021 seemed to be hinted at in ‘20, despite the massive offseason addition of Gerrit Cole.

Sources

https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/hal-chase/

https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/harry-wolverton/

https://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/cbs-era-yankees/

https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/babe-ruth/