Sunday, September 26, 2010

The End of a Dynasty


The Yankees' recent record [written 09/26/10] -- 4 straight losses, 6-12 in the past three weeks, .529 since the All-Star break -- suggests that their third dynasty may be drawing to a close [but not quite, see below]. It would be unsurprising if that turns out to be so. Where are the replacements for Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera, whose average age is 38? A-Rod is close behind, at 34, and not the A-Rod of a few years ago. Tex, at 30, is on the cusp of decline, and his numbers show it. Of the younger generation of position players, only Robinson Cano exudes star quality. Curtis Granderson is no Bernie Williams; Nick Swisher, no Paul O'Neill.

The only reliable starter is CC Sabathia. A.J. Burnett and Javier Vasquez don't belong on a championship-calibre team. Phil Hughes isn't convincing, despite his 17 wins. The bullpen reminds me of a rowboat in a hurricane. Even Mariano has become a question mark.

Given the evident dearth of outstanding young players, the end of the present dynasty seems to be in sight -- or perhaps visible in the rear-view mirror. The 2009 World Series may have marked the end of Yankees Dynasty III.

Dynasty I lasted from 1921, the year of the Yankees' first AL championship, to 1964, the year of their 29th AL championship. There were some "down" years sprinkled throughout the period -- most notably, 1925, the year of the Babe's big stomach ache, when the Yankees finished seventh in the days of the eight-team league. But the Yankees never went more than four seasons without a pennant, and finished below third (in eight- and ten-team leagues) only twice. Overall record in 44 seasons: 29 league championships and 20 World Series championships.

Dynasty II lasted only six seasons: 1976-1981. The Yankees led their division in four of those years, and wound up with the AL crown in 1981, despite an overall fourth-place finish, thanks to the split season (due to a players' strike) and a post-season playoff to determine the division winner. Overall record in six seasons: 5 division championships, 4 league championships, and 2 World Series championships.

Dynasty III (on the current evidence) lasted 16 19 seasons: 1994-2009 2012. Overall record: 14 17 appearances in post-season play, 12 14 division championships, 7 league championships, and 5 World Series championships. (Don't forget that in 1994 the Yankees had no opportunity to compete for a league or World Series championship because a players' strike wiped out post-season play.) That's a lot better than Dynasty II and a lot worse than Dynasty I.

In the following graph [updated to include the 2011-13 seasons], the black line indicates the Yankees' finishes in the American League (1901-1968) or Eastern Division of the AL (1969-2013). The red, horizontal bars indicate the number of teams in the league or division, for each season. The blue shading highlights the years of the Yankees' dynasties, to date. It looks like the end for Dynasty III -- and end that coincides with the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite, the final declines of Jeter and A-Rod.