Also, no incoming TTMs. Bummer.
So I figured I’d come back with my second “Opening Day Nine” page post. Back in December I had thought this might be a regular thing. This time, let’s look at 2013 and the shockingly abysmal lineup that took the field on Opening Day. The Yankees finished tied for third place in the AL East (85-77), their worst season since 1992, and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
How this team won 85 games, is beyond me.
No Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeria, or Granderson.
The season opened with an 8-2 loss to the Red Sox. Jon Lester outpitched CC Sabathia. New York managed six hits and Francisco Cervelli plated the two runs with a fourth-inning single.
The Starting Lineup:
1. Brett Gardner, CF
The Card: 2013 Topps Opening Day #69
Gardner’s Season: After limited to just 16 games in 2012 by an elbow injury, Gardner returned to full-time action for his age-29 season. Curtis Granderson broke his right arm in spring training, forcing Gardner to shift back to center field. Gardner slashed .273/.344/.416. He score 81 runs and led the A.L. in triples (10). He'd also ad 33 doubles and steal 24 bases.
2. Eduardo Nunez, SS
The Card: 2013 Topps Heritage #422
Nunez’s Season: With Derek Jeter opening the season on the D.L. – he broke his right ankle during Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS and aggravated the injury during offseason rehabilitation – the 26-year-old Nunez got the start. In limited action over the previous three seasons, Eduardo had shown some promise with the bat – if you’re willing to overlook his free swinging tendencies, and live with his questionable defensive work. Unfortunately, Nunez himself bounced on and off the disabled list, and was limited to 90 games. He hit .260 with an OBP of .307.
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
The Card: 2013 Topps Archives #60
Cano’s Season: With most of the Yankees’ bats sidelined, the 31-year-old Cano was asked to carry the load. He turned in another typically productive Cano season: .314/.383/.899 slash, 27 home runs, 41 doubles, and 107 RBI while playing 160 games. He earned his fifth All-Star nod and fifth Silver Slugger. It would turn out to be Cano’s last season in pinstripes as he inked his 10-year, $240 million deal with Seattle the following offseason.
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
The Card: 2013 Topps Update Series (Wal-Mart Blue) #US10
Youkilis’ Season: I don’t know anyone who thought the one-year, $12 million contract given to the former Red Sox heel was a good idea. Youkilis was 34 (though played much older) and was coming off a .235/.336/.409 season. Nonetheless, he was the Opening Day cleanup hitter because Mark Teixeira strained a wrist tendon while playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Youkilis played just 28 games for the Yankees before back injuries ended his MLB career. He hit .219 and the “Greek God of Walks” reached base at a .305 clip.
5. Vernon Wells, LF
The Card: 2013 Topps Update Series #US325
Wells’ Season: Three years removed from his last productive season in Toronto where he was a three-time All-Star, the Yankees traded for Wells and his untradeable contract in March after Granderson went down. New York assumed $13.9 million of the remaining $42 million remaining on his deal. Briefly, it seemed the Yankees desperate gambit had worked: Wells mashed his way to a .301/.357/.538 batting line with 10 homers through his first 38 games, but he'd turn back to a pumpkin in mid-May and finish with a batting line of .233/.282/.349 in 458 plate appearances. 2013 would be Wells’ last in the Bigs.
6. Ben Francisco, DHThe Card: 2012 Topps Update Series (Target Red) #US277
^This one breaks two of my “rules” for these “Starting Nine” pages. It wasn’t issued during the year I’m representing, nor is he pictured as a Yankee. I’ve considered making a custom, but haven’t really gotten into custom card making. So for now, this stays.
Francisco’s Season: Francisco too was brought in – on a minor-league deal – after Granderson went down in the Spring. In six years across five teams, he earned the reputation as a platoon bat, and the Yankees used him at DH against left-handed pitchers. He and Travis Hafner would share the position. Francisco hit .144/.220/.182 in 21 games before being released in late May. Hafner hit .202/.301/.378 in 82 games. Neither would play in the majors again.
7. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
The Card: 2013 Panini Select #15
Ichiro’s Season: Acquired mid-2012 via trade, the Yankees re-upped Ichiro for two years and relied on him to replace Nick Swisher, who departed via free agency. Ichiro hit .262/.297/.342 over 150 games. In August, Ichiro collected his 4,000th professional career hit (Japan and US combined).
8. Jayson Nix, 3B
The Card: 2013 Topps Update Series (Gold – 1533/2013) #US262
Nix’s Season: The A-Rod circus opened the door for Nix. Rodriguez had offseason hip surgery and then became embroiled in the Biogenesis scandal. He’d eventually return August 5th, the same day MLB announced he’d be suspended through the 2014 season for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. He’d appeal and end up playing 44 games in ’13. In the interim, Nix led a cast of misfits (Youkilis, David Adams, Reid Brignac, Chris Nelson, Brent Lillibridge, Corban Joseph, Luis Cruz, Brendan Ryan, Alberto Gonzalez) occupying the depleted left side of the Yankees infield, and incredibly his .236/.308/.311 was probably the best of the bunch. He appeared in 87 games.
9. Francisco Cervelli, C
The Card: 2013 Topps (Emerald Foil) #552
Cervelli’s Season: With Russell Martin departing via free agency, Cervelli figured to become Yanks’ primary backstop in 2013. However, he fractured his right hand after getting hit by a foul tip during an April 26th game and was lost to the D.L. Later, Cervelli too was suspended (50 games) for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. He’d play in just 17 games.
The SeasonDid I already say “Woof?”
At 85-77, the Yankees finished 12 games behind the eventual World Series winning Red Sox. It was a forgettable/regrettable season, but damned if I don't look at this binder page every time I go into it.
Legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and fan favorite Andy Pettitte each retired following the season.
A lot went wrong for New York in 2013. I focused on the offense and injuries above. The pitching staff also had its issues. CC Sabathia’s ERA ballooned from 3.38 to 4.78, and while he’d have a late career resurgence, he’d never again be an ace or an All-Star. Any lingering hope for former prospects Phil Hughes (4-14, 5.19 ERA) and Joba Chamberlain (4.93 ERA, 1.738 WHIP) were dashed, each punching their ticket out of New York that offseason.