It was the whimper heard around the baseball world. The New York Yankees, the big-hitting, swaggering Yankees, were clean-swept out of Detroit on Thursday night, bringing to a torrid end a season that had seen them hurry through autumn in a rash of home runs. How the mighty hitters have fallen.
The home fans revelled in it; everyone outside New York revels in the fall of the Yankees. Chants of "sweep, sweep" swept around Comerica Park as the Tigers won 8-1 and made it four straight wins to settle the American League Championship Series. For the Tigers it means a first World Series in six years; for the Yankees it's a first post-season sweep for 32 years as their much vaunted line-up imploded to a degree rarely seen even in the extremes that have become common to New York's finest.
"Embarrassing," was how pitcher CC Sabathia put it. "Crushed," was Alex Rodriguez's take. "It's hard to stomach how we played here and at the most important time of the year," said Brian Cashman, the general manager. "We feel we let the fans down in New York, and each other at the same time."
The plan for the season was simple: it was the long-ball game. Out came what Joe Girardi, the Yankees' manager, termed "the big, hairy monsters" and away went the ball. Again and again and again. The Yankees hit 245 home runs during the regular season, a record return. Those hits, heaved by the likes of Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson, won 95 matches, the most in the American League.
But there was no Plan B. It was hit or bust and the Tigers bust them. The downturn was dramatic. Cano's 0 for 29 earned another Major League record, the worst recorded post-season return. It gave him an average of .056 – anything beneath .240 is considered poor. Granderson was .100, Swisher, labelled the "choke-meister general" by a fuming New York Post, .167. "We didn't swing the bats," suggested Girardi. "It wasn't one guy. It was a bunch of guys. It's hard to win when you don't score runs."
Girardi has borne the brunt of much of the criticism. None of his decisions came off post-season and hopes of running a new broom over an ageing line-up are limited by the number of players on long-term lucrative deals.
Rodriguez was paid $29m for a season that ended with a negligible contribution from the man who is halfway through the most lucrative contract in the history of the game. The next five years of Rodriguez will cost the Yankees $114m, this for a man who managed a single hit against Detroit. So poor was his form that Girardi benched him for three games – from where he did little to endear himself to Yankee fans by appearing to flirt with a bikini model during game one in New York.
Girardi insisted it was not all about Rodriguez. The man himself, though, did at least acknowledge his failings. "I've got to look in the mirror," he said. There have been broadening suggestions he may be traded to Miami Marlins, but he insists he is going nowhere – like his team, some might say.
"I love New York City and everything about being a Yankee," said Rodriguez. "The highs are very high and the lows are very low."