For a long time now the New York Yankees have had one of the oldest teams in baseball. The past couple of years, these injuries have started to mount for the Yankees, and the trend has certainly continued this year.
Only one starting position player right now is under 30 years old. To no surprise some of their older players have seen some early season DL stints, which leads to the question, will the Yankees be healthy enough at the end of the season to compete for a World Series title? They certainly have the talent, but health is another story.
Mark Teixeira is a perfect example of a player who is aging and showing some signs of it. Last season, he only played in 15 games due to a wrist injury that eventually led to season ending surgery. This left a glaring hole in the middle of their line up and at first base. Having him back this year was going to be a huge boost into the middle of the order.
However, it only took him four games this year before he landed back on the DL. Once he returned to the line up, the Yankees immediately reaped the benefits as he homered four times in five games and has hit a respectable .267.
Although he is technically healthy, the older a player gets, the more days off they need to prevent further injury. Tex needed a night off in game one of the Subway Series, and was sorely missed. “You just take for granted your health [when you’re younger],” Teixeira told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. “People ask me, is it a physical or mental thing? It’s definitely a physical thing.”
Carlos Beltran is another middle of the order bat that may miss some time due to his body wearing down. Last night he needed an MRI on a hyper-extended elbow that caused him to leave the game. The MRI showed that he has bone spurs in his elbow and received a cortisone injection to try to prevent a DL stint of his own. He missed game two of the series and may have to sit another couple days to see how much the shot has helped.
The biggest concern in the Yankees lineup is Derek Jeter. The Captain entered his final season coming off an ankle surgery that saw him miss all but 17 games in 2013. In his age 40 season, Jeter is hitting .269 and it seems like his range at short stop shrinks by the day. The good news is that Jeter is healthy, but the bad news is that he is becoming less effective than ever.
On the mound, the Yankees have age issues as well. CC Sabathia is headed back on the DL with knee inflammation, and he will be seeing Dr. James Andrews for an evaluation. Even before his knee flared up, Sabathia has been wildly inconsistent over the last two years yielding his worst two ERA’s of his career at 4.78 in 2013 and 5.28 so far this year. At 33 years old, Sabathia’s body may be aging faster than anticipated due to throwing over 2800 innings in his major league career.
Number two starter Hiroki Kuroda had an unbelievable first two thirds of the season last year at age 38, but saw a very concerning drop off in the final stretch where he got hit hard on a nightly basis. This year, he too has been inconsistent sporting a 4.62 ERA. Losing your effectiveness at age 39 is not surprising at all, but when you are being counted on as a number two starter, someone screwed up somewhere.
The lone bright spot of the future for the Yankees is 25 year old ace in the making Masahiro Tanaka. It is he, not Sabathia, who has been the pitcher everyone can count on this year. While it is tempting to throw a lot of money at established stars in advanced ages, sometimes it is taking the risk on the younger players that can pay the largest dividends.
By no means are the Yankees doomed this year; they are a game out of the division lead and have shown that they can be a great team. The only concern for them right now and for the rest of the year is health. Can Father Time hold off a little bit longer and maybe help some players find the fountain of youth? That’s the question for the 2014 Yankees.