With a resounding thud, indeed it was. Not only were Jeter and the New York Yankees eliminated in six games by the Texas Rangers, they were dominated.
They were outscored 38-19, including 32-6 in their four losses. Prior to Game 5, when they took an early lead and rolled to a 7-2 victory, they had led in only three innings.
They were out-hit .304 to .201, out-slugged .512 to .370, out-pitched — 3.06 ERA to 6.58 — and left behind in the running game, nine stolen bases to two.
Younger, faster, better were the Rangers — despite a payroll that is one-third the size of the Yankees'. Championship pedigree and character are undeniable parts of these Yankees, but a sense of vulnerability stormed its way in during the ALCS. This is a roster operating on borrowed time — and they know it.
And so when Yankees general manager Brian Cashman faced the cameras not far from Jeter, he said, "The winter is upon us now. We'll start the process.''
There is much to do. The game’s most-successful franchise finds itself in a pivotal transition phase, the impact of which can’t be understated. It took a decade to work through the transition that followed the 1996-2000 run of four titles. And this time, we’re talking about legendary icons being involved:
The passing of George Steinbrenner and handing over of the team to his sons; the creeping-ever-closer ends for future first-ballot Hall of Famers Jeter and Mariano Rivera, plus Cooperstown maybes Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.
Last winter goes down as a failure for Cashman. Coming off the club’s first title since 2000, Cashman chose to tweak, and for the most part failed at that. He dealt for Javier Vazquez and signed Nick Johnson, and neither made it to the postseason. Curtis Granderson had a just-OK year, and that deal cost Austin Jackson, who might be the AL Rookie of the Year.
It’s going to take more than tweaking for the 2011 Yankees to have a legitimate shot at another championship.
Cashman says the first order of business is a contract extension for manager Joe Girardi. Both sides want it, so it's just a matter of working out length and terms. Three more years with a raise is the logical assumption.
And then will come the harder parts: The long-term contracts of Jeter and Rivera expire, but make no mistake, they will be Yankees for a couple more seasons. Pettitte has worked on one-year deals for the last four seasons, and that will be the case again unless he decides to walk away from the game. Posada has one guaranteed year remaining on a four-year deal.
But the psychological shift that has to occur is far-less reliance on the core four.
Rivera's only limitation may be on his innings and availability. Even in his early-40s, he has lost little. So a two-year deal seems in order.
Jeter's 10-year, $189-million deal is up, and by every measure, it has to be termed a long-term success. That said, the criticism of the 2010 Jeter was for the most part warranted, his batting average and slugging percentage alarmingly down.
But how soon we forget that as recently as 2009, Jeter was a solid AL Most Valuable Player contender. So to assume his decline is going to continue precipitously might be a bit premature. It's just as probable that his numbers will rebound a bit and land somewhere between his 2009 and 2010 totals. In case they don't, there is the likelihood of Jeter being dropped to the bottom-third of the batting order. But he will be the Yankees shortstop in 2011 — likely working on a three-year deal in the $50-60 million range.
Posada is headed to more designated hitting and less catching — an expensive proposition at $13.1 million, but it's not as if the Yankees can't asborb that cost at the end of his stellar career.
Speaking of affordability, the Yankees always will be able to buy what they need in the free-agent market. The Cliff Lee free-agent scenario will begin unfolding shortly after the World Series, and everybody in the industry expects them to set the market.
But the addition of Lee wouldn’t at all address this list of concerns: A right-handed power bat either at a corner-outfield spot or designated hitter, the setup reliever corps, and the need to infuse youth and athleticism.
Jayson Werth is the logical power bat. Although he will turn 32 next May, he would add athletism and stellar right-field defense, turning Nick Swisher into a $9-million role player if he isn't dealt.
Vazquez's deal is up, and he probably won't be back. They won't exercise Kerry Wood's $11-million option, but he could return at a lower price. But those are relatively minor decisions in the Yankees' grand scheme of things. This winter needs to be one of major acquisition for them, much like the 2008-2009 one in which CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett were added.
HBT: Controversial umpire Angel Hernandez blew another call that nearly cost the White Sox a win on Friday, earning the ire of manager Robin Ventura.
Add another near miss in this 2013 baseball season - this time it was Detroit's Anibal Sanchez falling just short of a no-hitter.
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