New York Yankees End-Of-Year Awards
No matter how you try to spin things off, 2013 was a disappointing season for the New York Yankees, as they missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1994.
Injuries decimated a Yankees lineup that already lacked the talent on Opening Day necessary to compete for a World Series championship. With the Yankees trying to shrink payroll rather than continue to grow it, the season was not expected to be a success.
Somehow, the Yankees managed to stay in the playoff hunt, fighting for Wild Card spot up until the final week of the regular season when they were eliminated by the Cleveland Indians with four games left to play.
But even without a World Series trophy to fight for this October, I’m still going on with giving out my end of the year of awards. It’s likely that the Yanks won’t take home much MLB hardware this winter, but at least they’ve got me to shine some light on their accomplishments this season.
Most Valuable Player: Robinson Cano
I think it goes without saying that Cano was the most valuable player on the Yankees this season. Had Alfonso Soriano been on the team from the beginning, putting up the great numbers he did while playing only in pinstripes this season, he might have had a shot to grab the MVP honors.
Cano, entering the final year of his contract, ended 2013 with a lot of pressure on him to carry the Yankees, considering what they lost in the offseason, as well as the injuries suffered to Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter in Spring Training. The Yankees knew that without Cano, there would be no season, and Cano knew that, too.
But the man wasn’t shaken. He took hold of the team, jumping out of the gates on fire, batting .327 with seven homeruns and 17 RBIs in the first month of the season, helping the Yanks to be the surprise contender in the American League.
Though his offensive production, along with the entire Yankees offense, slipped a little through May and June, Cano picked it back up to hit .315 in July, .370 in August, and .340 in September. Cano finished the season with a .314 batting average, 26 homeruns and 107 RBIs.
The Yankees didn’t make the playoffs this season, but without Cano in the lineup, they might have been out of contentions long before the final week of the season. He was their most valuable player this year, and the Yankees would be losing one heck of a player if the failed to bring him back this winter.
Cy Young: Mariano Rivera
C’mon, I could not give Mo an award for his final season. Picking the Cy Young was a difficult choice because I wasn’t sure if this could go to a reliever or a starter. But then I thought about, how the Yanks never really had one consistent starter all season, so giving this to anyone but Rivera would seem like a waste.
Hiroki Kuroda was on pace to be the runaway winner of the Yankees Cy Young award, but his tailspin that began in mid-August, lasting through the end of the season really hurt him.
But to choose Mo was not a tough decision. Coming off ACL surgery on May of 2012 River announced in Spring Training that he would retire at the end of the season, making this the 19th and final year of his career.
Rivera had converted his first 18 save opportunities of the season before blowing a game against the New York Mets on May28th at Citi Field. In all, Rivera blew seven saves this season, the most of his career, but he still found a way, even at 43-years-old, to dominate major league hitters, compiling 44 saves in his farewell season, while racking up an ERA of just 1.05.
Age never affected his ability to pitch on the mound, and neither did the emotions of pitching in the big leagues one more time. Unlike most athletes, Mo went out on top, and he’s taking his Cy Young award with him.
Rookie of the Year: Preston Claiborne
This season, the Yankees used a team record of 57 players, mostly because of the extensive amount of injuries suffered. The Yankees saw a large crop of new players make their debut in the Bronx. As you may already know, due to past events, the Yankees don’t exactly have a stacked farm system, so what you saw coming out of Triple-A Scranton weren’t exactly change-changers.
Warren was in the Yankees’ bullpen from Opening Day, serving as the long relief man for pretty much the entire season, with included a spot start here and there. Overall, he had a good season for the Yanks, and he’s expected to compete for a rotation spot next spring.
Adam came up and looked good right away. He looked comfortable in the box, and for a while, it was looking like the Yankees actually have a decent option to play third base for the next handful of seasons. But the perception quickly changed, and Adams started looking like he had no idea what to do when he was at the plate, and he so began playing mostly of the bench for Joe Girardi.
Claiborne, though, made his debut in May and quickly started pitching like he had a real bright future for the Yankees out of the bullpen. He tossed just over 14 innings in May, earning an ERA of 0.61. Pretty much through July, he was one of the best arms in the bullpen.
He pitched well for a couple more months, but as he gained more exposure, Claiborne became more hittable on the mound, and eventually started pitching in mop-up duty. He pitched to an ERA over 16 in the month of September, and the hop is that he comes back a little more crisp next season.
Of all the rookies this season, I choice Claiborne because I felt like he is the players with the most upside heading into next season, with Rivera retiring, and Joba Chamberlain liking leaving, there will be some open bullpen jobs next year.
Best Moment: Mariano’s Bronx Farewell
This was the hands down, runaway winner. After seeing reception Rivera got at the All-Star game in July, I thought that nothing would ever top it. All I can say is that I was wrong.
With the Yankees trailing the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0 in 8th inning, Rivera entered the game with runners on first and two with only one away. Pitching for what would turn out to be the final time in his career, Rivera retired the first two batters he faced in the 8th to get the Yanks out of the jam.
Mo came back out for the 9th, and set down the first two batters of the inning, and that’s where it would end. Out from the dugout, in a moment so surreal, came Rivera’s longtime teammate, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte.
After Jeter took the ball away, Mo broke down into tears in Pettitte’s shoulder, showing emotion on the mound for the first time ever. After a big hug with Pettitte, he moved on to Jeter, where he would proceed to do the same things.
Mo walked off the mound one final time, doffed his hat to the crowd, and when into the dugout where he gave away hugs to everyone in his path. I was something that I’ve never seen before, and can’t be replicated in any other sport. It was a moment that I’ll tell my kids about long from now.
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