Yankees end with a win; Joe Girardi keeping his options open for next season
HOUSTON - It's not Derek Jeter's job to worry about the offseason. That's general manager Brian Cashman's responsibility.
Still, that didn't prevent him from being asked about it Sunday as the Yankees head for their most challenging offseason in years, certainly since Jeter has been with the club.
"We've had questions before,'' he said on his way out of the clubhouse after the Yankees ended the season with a 5-1, 14-inning victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park. "There's been questions most offseasons we go into. There might be a few more this year, but there's been years when there's been a lot of guys who you weren't sure if they were coming back.''
But none like this one.
The victory allowed the Yankees, wracked by injuries all season, to finish 85-77, out of the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years. They used a franchise-record 56 players in doing so, with two of them, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, officially seeing their storied careers conclude Sunday.
"No, no sadness at all,'' said Rivera, 43. "I did everything that I could. We fell short. Can't do anything against that.''
The holes that need filling seem endless. There is the potential that three-fifths of the rotation will need to be addressed -- CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are the only givens -- and there is uncertainty on the left side of the infield with Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
A gaping hole also could open at second base if a deal can't be reached with free-agent-to-be Robinson Cano.
"Now the vacation starts,'' Cano said, adding that he won't sweat things if his free agency lasts months, a very real possibility. "Later on, see what the family says, see what decision we're going to make and see what's going to happen.''
All of the voids -- and the aforementioned don't represent all of them -- will need to be taken care of by Cashman with a payroll threshold of $189 million. Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has stated his desire to bring the payroll to that number in order to avoid stiff luxury-tax penalties in 2014, and all indications are that he still feels that way.
Jeter, sounding very much like Steinbrenner, scoffed at the dire way that figure has been discussed. "Come on. If you can't win with 189 million dollars,'' he said, his voice trailing off. "It's not like we're sitting here saying our payroll's 50 million. I don't pay any attention to that.''
The entire offseason will be a stiff challenge, one Joe Girardi might or might not be a part of. Before the game, he spoke to reporters for nearly 30 minutes, and about half the time was spent looking ahead rather than back at the season.
Girardi, hired in October 2007, provided plenty of material for those given to reading between the lines. "I haven't really made up my mind,'' he said of next season. That means managing the Yankees, who want him back, or someone else.
The decision, he said, won't come until he sits down for a "powwow'' with his wife and three kids, ages 7 to 14.
"I'm going to sit down and talk because I have a wonderful wife who's been supportive since Day 1, since we met in college, and she was my biggest fan then and still is my biggest fan,'' he said. "I have three kids whose lives are precious and extremely important to me, and I've got to make sure that everyone is taken care of.''
Girardi said the potential offseason tumult isn't a factor. "There's no challenge that really scares me, that I would ever shy away from,'' he said. "So that has very little impact on it whatsoever.''
He didn't dismiss the possibility of taking a year or two off, then returning to manage.
"It depends what everyone wants,'' Girardi said. "If I wasn't to manage next year, I don't think that would be the last time I would manage. I guess that's the way to answer the question.''
Notes & quotes: Mark Reynolds broke a 1-1 tie with a long home run off Lucas Harrell (6-17) in the 14th inning. Eduardo Nuñez (three hits, including two doubles) added a two-run double and scored on a long single by J.R. Murphy, who picked up his first major-league RBI. Garden City's Matt Daley earned the win . . . The Astros (51-111) went 2-for-43 after the first three batters, had four hits in all and struck out 19 times in concluding the season with a 15-game losing streak, the longest at the end of a season since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders dropped their last 16, according to STATS. The Astros' season total of 1,535 strikeouts set a major-league record.