It appears the New York Yankees watched the baseball flick Brewster’s Millions one too many times heading into the Major League Baseball post-season, adapting its tagline as a mission statement: “You don’t have to be crazy to blow 30 million dollars in 30 days. But it helps.”
In fact, the Yankees managed the feat in just twelve days from the start of the playoffs, narrowly defeating Baltimore in the American League Divisional Series before getting swept in four games by Detroit for the AL pennant. Alex Rodriguez— banking MLB’s highest salary of 2012 at $30 million, according to USA Today—averaged just .121 at the plate in his seven playoff games, before being benched for the final game against Detroit.
During an interview with ESPN radio, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman did not outright decline the recent A-Rod trade rumours. He went on to say of his shortstop-turned-third baseman, “Is he a superstar at that position? No.”
Rodriguez wasn’t the only Bronx Bomber slumping in Oct. 2011. Home Run Derby champion, Robinson Cano, broke the league record for longest post-season hitless streak at 29 at-bats. Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher—collecting $10 million per year each—batted 3–30 and 5–30, respectively.
The Yankees lost five-time World Series champion Derek Jeter in Game 1 against Detroit to a season-ending ankle fracture. Jeter finished tied for second on the team with nine hits, despite playing three less games.
Surely poor post-seasons happen to the best of clubs, but excuses are scarce when that franchise extends nearly $200 million in payroll for a single season. Not only was the 2012 ALCS the first time New York was swept since 1980, it was to a team spending a whopping $65 million less in salaries.
The Yankees weren’t the only big-money clubs struggling this season. The Philadelphia Phillies failed to make the playoffs with MLB’s most expensive pitching staff, while the Boston Red Sox finished dead last in the AL East despite the second-highest league payroll.
Reigning AL Pennant champions, Texas Rangers, had their West Division title stolen by the Oakland A’s in the final series of the regular season. Oakland never occupied first place at any point during the season, but eventually succeeded with the league’s lowest average player salary.