Remember when the 2013 season was the most hated in New York Yankees history it seemed? Yankees fans were panicking that Yankee Stadium would start looking like the days when CBS owned the team. The fear of empty seats and the likelihood of winning 70 games or less every season for several years was real. People were ready to trade Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson for any prospect they could get their hands on. They were demanding the promotion of Peter O’Brien, Rafael de Paula and any other decent prospect we had.
At the same time, the Yankees were ready to continue competing in 2013. However, they did lose a couple big name players in free agency including: Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez to name a few. In their place, the Yankees signed ex-Indian Travis Hafner, third baseman Kevin Youkilis, along with the late Spring Training acquisitions of Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells (who had become a laughingstock in Anaheim.) Along with the signing of Ichiro Suzuki to a two-year deal, the Yankees front office expected big things from the team’s new core.
In reality, as we know, that did not happen. Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells got onto extremely hot Aprils. Hafner had six home runs in April, hitting .318 through the month. His numbers collapsed after that. By the game on July 26, 2013 against the Tampa Bay Rays, Hafner was hitting .205, with only six home runs more than his April had provided. On July 28, the Yankees placed Hafner on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury. He would not appear in another game until September 29, in the last series of the season against Houston. Hafner finished his career with the Yankees with a .202 average and only 12 home runs.
Vernon Wells’ season in 2013 looked much like Hafner’s, with a strong April and lackluster results after. By May 15, Wells had 11 home runs, and afterwards, he only managed five more. By the trade deadline, he was a liability compared to what he was signed. The Yankees managed to bring in Alfonso Soriano to help the offense in a controversial deal (to the fans) for pitching prospect Corey Black. Soriano came in and went on a tear, hitting 17 home runs in 58 games with the Yankees that season. He also added 50 RBI and was one of the few reasons the Yankees were able to stay in the race for a Wild Card, aside of Robinson Cano and Hiroki Kuroda.
The Yankees had another headache in the pitching department, particularly surrounding Phil Hughes. Hughes had a bad season in 2013. In his second straight season working as a starter, Hughes had a terrible start in April. He turned it around in early May, but then completely collapsed. His best game, by far, came on May 4, when he pitched eight strong innings with nine strikeouts against the Oakland Athletics. Hughes’ ERA dropped to 3.60, but the next start, against the Royals; he gave up six runs in 5.2 innings.
There were some other signs of life in the 2013 season, but by the trade deadline, he was toast. He was working in the bullpen with David Huff, who was making short starts or vice versa. Hughes left for a new environment in Minnesota, which ended a once hopeful tenure in New York.
At the same time, the Yankees had a couple retirement tours to deal with. Before the season began, Yankee legend and closer Mariano Rivera announced he would retire at the end of the season. Andy Pettitte did so as well late in the season to less fanfare. Mariano racked up saves and an All-Star Most Valuable Player award, along with many intriguing gifts. These include items such as a chair made of broken bats from the Twins, beach cruisers from San Diego, and even a ginormous jet.
Rivera managed to rack up saves to reach 652, and on September 22, they retired his No. 42 into Monument Park, with Metallica in presence. On September 26, the famous scene of Mariano being taken off the mound by Pettitte and Derek Jeter occurred, his last ever appearance. A couple days later, Andy Pettitte got a Cinderella finish of his career in Houston. He pitched a complete game shutout of the Astros in front of his hometown crowd.
Injuries were the major phrase used to describe the 2013 season for the Yankees, and they ran around like wildfire. The two biggest cases were Derek Jeter, who was still healing from a 2012 American League Championship Series ankle injury. He made quite an achievement on July 28, when he hit a first pitch home run in his return at Yankee Stadium, but he could never stay healthy or effective.
Jeter’s season ended on September 11 when he was placed on the disabled list for good while the Yankees acquired Brendan Ryan to play shortstop. This came as a necessity as Eduardo Nunez had worn out his welcome. Kevin Youkilis, one of the prized additions of the offseason, had a miserable season due to injury. The major blow came on June 18, when the Yankees announced that Youkilis would be out for 10-12 weeks after finding a herniated disc in his back which required surgery. Youkilis would never play another game for the Yankees, ending a shortened season of 28 games and two home runs.
The other two players wrecked by injury were Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Rodriguez, fresh off his second hip surgery, managed to make his debut on August 5, 2013 against the White Sox. In 44 games, Rodriguez hit seven home runs, including the famous one against Ryan Dempster on August 18. Teixeira had a rough 2013, involving a wrist injury sustained in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Because of the injury, Teixeira only made his season debut on May 31. He only managed to make it to June 15 before being injured again. June 15 would be his last game of the season, with only three home runs and a .151 batting average. On June 27, the Yankees announced that Teixeira’s season was over with surgery on his right wrist. The injury bug hit Curtis Granderson also, fresh off a 43-home run season in 2012. Granderson, in his free agent season, stroked only seven home runs and a .229 batting average in only 61 games.
The catching position was just as bad in 2013, thanks to injuries. The Yankees let Russell Martin go after a Jekyll/Hyde season in 2012. They decided to go with Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart being the tandem behind the plate for the season. Cervelli, like expected, got injured, leaving the catching position with just Stewart and Austin Romine, which provided little to no offense, even with the promotion of catcher John Ryan Murphy in September.
With all these injuries, the 2013 season won records for futility with a ton of AAAA players playing in the majors. Looking at some of the lineups, it is a wonder they were not no-hit at any point in the season. The ex-prospects Corban Joseph, Zoilo Almonte, Eduardo Nunez, David Adams and Austin Romine had miserable seasons despite showing some flash at different points of the year.
Remember Zoilo Almonte’s big game on June 21, when he produced a game that Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues.com noted was “World War Zoilo.” However, the waiver wire and the AAA team in Scranton provided the big names that the Yankees would have to bring in during the 2013 season: Reid Brignac, Alberto Gonzalez, Luis Cruz, Chris Nelson, Brent Lillibridge, Travis Ishikawa and even Melky Mesa. Lineups, outside of Cano and Soriano, commonly looked like an AAA lineup in Scranton for most of late July and early August.
In a lot of ways, there were justifiable reasons for Yankees fans to panic. The power gone, an unhealthy team, and a major age problem in the starting rotation. That said, the 2013 season freakout has finally lost a lot of luster and now sits on nostalgia. If one tried to explain everything that went wrong that season without knowledge of their record, you would think they went 74-88 instead of 85-77. Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman worked to death on making sure the lineup got everything he could out of it. This was even with the many glaring mistakes that were obvious by July 1. Now it is just a good laugh. Oh wait; did I never mention the Ronnier Mustelier versus Ben Francisco debate? Let’s avoid that conversation.