With a newer version of Yankee Stadium already under construction across the street, the Yankees entered the 2008 campaign knowing it would be their last in the original House That Ruth Built. Members of the team had several other changes awaiting them as they headed into the grand old ballpark’s final season.
Team ownership worked out a deal with Alex Rodriguez during the off-season to keep the defending A.L. MVP in pinstripes for another 10 years. However, the Steinbrenners parted ways with manager Joe Torre at the end of the year, leaving the team’s managerial job open to someone other than Torre for the first time in 12 years. Joe Girardi and Don Mattingly emerged as the two leading candidates for Torre’s vacated position, with the front office finally choosing Girardi to lead the team. A hurt Mattingly elected to follow Torre to Los Angeles, where he served as a coach for parts of three seasons, before eventually assuming the Dodgers’ managerial post when Torre announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 2010 campaign.
After poor pitching prevented the Yankees from advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive time in 2007, New York headed into the subsequent campaign looking to significantly alter the composition of its starting staff. Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, and Mike Mussina all still figured in the team’s plans. But the coaching staff hoped to inject some youth into the rotation by giving the final two spots to Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Unfortunately, those plans failed to come to fruition since both Hughes and Kennedy spent most of the season fighting through injuries and inconsistency. The two young hurlers made a total of only 17 starts between them, posting a combined record of 0-8. Hughes finished the year with an ERA of 6.62, while Kennedy ended the campaign with a mark of 8.17.
With Hughes and Kennedy struggling as much as they did, New York’s rotation had little depth, forcing the team to once again depend heavily on its offense. Adding to New York’s woes was the fact that Chien-Ming Wang’s season ended prematurely when he injured his foot running the bases in an interleague game against the Houston Astros. Further complicating matters were injuries to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Jorge Posasa that limited to some degree the offensive production of each player. Posada’s rotator cuff injury was easily the most severe, forcing him to miss the entire second half of the season.
With a pitching staff that finished eighth in the league with a 4.28 ERA and an offense compromised by injuries to several key players, the Yankees failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the wild-card era began in 1995. New York finished the season with a record of 89-73, in third place in the A.L. East, eight games behind first-place Tampa Bay, and six games in back of second-place Boston.
Although their efforts weren’t nearly enough, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina did their very best to carry New York’s tattered pitching staff. Pettitte finished second on the team with 14 victories. Meanwhile, Mussina ended his 18-year career in style, posting 20 victories for the very first time. In addition to compiling a record of 20-9 and a 3.37 ERA, the 39-year-old right-hander won his seventh Gold Glove. Mariano Rivera was the only member of New York’s pitching staff to earn a spot on the A.L. All-Star Team, doing so by saving 39 games, winning six others, and posting a 1.40 ERA.
Featuring a lineup that lacked much depth, the Yankees finished just seventh in the American League, with 789 runs scored. Injured much of the time, Hideki Matsui hit only nine home runs and knocked in just 45 runs. Robinson Cano also had an off-year, driving in only 72 runs, batting just .271, and compiling an on-base percentage of only .305. Only Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreau, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez posted reasonably good numbers. Although Giambi batted just .247, he hit 32 homers and drove in 96 runs. Abreau batted .296, hit 20 home runs, and finished second on the team with 100 runs batted in and 100 runs scored. Damon hit 17 homers, scored 95 runs, and led the team with 29 stolen bases and a .303 batting average. Jeter earned A.L. All-Star honors by batting .300 and scoring 88 runs. Rodriguez joined him on the All-Star squad, batting .302 and leading New York with 35 home runs, 103 runs batted in, and 104 runs scored. A-Rod finished eighth in the A.L. MVP voting.
Despite failing to make the playoffs, the Yankees closed out Yankee Stadium in grand fashion on September 21st, defeating the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 7-3. The entire Yankee team assembled in the infield at the conclusion of the contest, with captain Derek Jeter delivering a brief speech to the sold-out crowd, during which he promised a return to prominence once the Yankees moved into their new ballpark.By Bob_Cohen
- Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Bobby Abreu, Chien-Ming Wang, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, George Steinbrenner, Hideki Matsui, Ian Kennedy, Jason Giambi, Joba Chamberlain, Joe Girardi, Joe Torre, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, New York Yankees, Philip Hughes, Robinson Cano, Yankee Stadium