The Yankees' Aaron Hicks reacts after popping out against the Red Sox in the Game 4 of their ALDS on Oct. 9, 2018, at Yankee Stadium.

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Keidel: By Any Objective Measure, Yankees' Season Was A Failure

But Future Still Looks Bright For Bronx Bombers

Jason Keidel
October 10, 2018 - 10:50 am
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Exactly 40 baseball seasons ago, Bucky Dent broke Boston's heart with a home run that ended the Red Sox's season. In the spirit of the 1978 season, the Yankees trotted Dent out to the mound to toss the first pitch of Game 4 of their American League Division Series against Boston to bring the mojo or magic of that World Series run.

It worked. Almost. 

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Since none of the players in this series were alive in '78, it's fitting that the Red Sox weren't vexed by the symbolism. In fact, they were so undeterred, they darted out to a 3-0 lead by the third inning and slammed the door on the 2018 season for the Bronx Bombers. The ghost of Bucky or the Bambino peeked its head into Yankee Stadium in the ninth inning, loading the bases and then turning a 4-1 hole into a 4-3 nail-biter -- with the tying run on second base and face of the future Gleyber Torres at the plate. 

After Gary Sanchez came within 4 feet of a walk-off grand slam, Torres chopped a slow grounder to third base. Boston's third baseman, Eduardo Nunez, charged the ball, scooped it and fired to first base, where first baseman Steve Pearce speared the ball just as a sprinting Torres stomped on first base. It was the kind of bang-bang play that symbolized the tightrope these teams walk in order to win. The entire breathless crowd waited while umpires checked the replay before emerging with a raised right fist to indicate Torres was out. Then the Red Sox danced on the Yankees' diamond, with a sardonic loop of "New York, New York" playing in the visitor's clubhouse

CC Sabathia, the old, spartan southpaw, gave his best against the best team in baseball this season. But like every effort except in Game 2, it wasn't enough. And while Sabathia, who allowed three runs over three frames, didn't give the club five robust innings, the Yankees had more than enough time and chances to win this ballgame. 

Two things seem pretty clear after after the Bombers fell one run short of forcing a decisive Game 5. 

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1. The Yankees seemed shellshocked by the 16-1 drubbing in Game 3 and took a few innings to snap out of their Game 4 slumber.  Their heralded lineup, the deepest in baseball, setting a record with 267 homers, didn't show its yearlong patience and power, swinging way too early in the count before its last-gasp rally in the ninth. 

2. The Yankees fired Joe Girardi because of personality, not production. After rookie skipper Aaron Boone botched the bullpen in Game 3, there were more than a few references to his lack of managerial experience, especially in the burning glare of October ball. Maybe it's poor form to say "I told you so" to a team and town at their lowest moment, but this slice of cyberspace never understood why Girardi was canned after the club's enchanted run in 2017, which ended nine innings short of the World Series.  

It's clear someone high up the Yankees totem pole just didn't like G.I. Joe, namely general manager Brian Cashman. Girardi was old-school, too much binder, while Boone was new-school, all about bonding. Yet only one Yankees starter, Masahiro Tanaka, got more than nine outs in the entire ALDS. And if you include the wild-card game, only one starter pitched as many as five innings in the five games.

That is unacceptable for a team that went 100-62 in the regular season. That is unacceptable for a team with a bona fide ace in Luis Severino. That is unacceptable for the New York Yankees, who don't hang banners for 100 wins, for wild-card games or for reaching the ALDS.

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Even still, with all the foibles and failures, the Yankees came home with a road win and two chances to at least force a Game 5 at Fenway. And they blew it. We can debate how much is on the players versus the manager. But this season is, by any objective measure, a failure. 

Once you get past the agony of that ninth inning, however, you know the Yankees are still loaded and have a glittering future. Other than a few midseason imports -- such as J.A. Happ and Zach Britton -- about to become free agents, the Yankees have a granite core of great players under age 30. There's no reason to think they won't reach every October for the foreseeable future. 

It's not uncommon for teams to take a few knocks before they find their championship groove. We just thought the Yankees learned their lesson last year. Now the sport's final four is in order, and the Yankees aren't in it. That is unexpected and unacceptable. Just ask Bucky Dent. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.