The old guard gone, Yankees recognize time to find new core group of players

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NEW YORK — The Yankees began life without Derek Jeter on Monday, facing a future full of holes in an offense already among the American League's worst.

The renaissance under the Core Four that produced five World Series titles and seven AL pennants from 1996-2009 has run its course. New York missed consecutive postseasons for the first time since 1992 and '93, and at 84-78 the Yankees have had declining wins totals in three straight seasons for the first time since 1986-90.

"Who's the person that's going to become the next great Yankee that people really latch onto?" manager Joe Girardi said Monday. "Maybe you establish a different core. Maybe it's not called the Core Four. Hopefully it's called the Core Eight."

Losing many regulars to injuries for the second straight year, New York set team records for players (58) and pitchers (33). While four-fifths of the starting rotation spent time on the disabled list, offense was the chief cause of mediocrity. The Yankees scored 633 runs, 13th among the 15 AL teams, and their .307 on-base percentage was ahead of only Seattle.

Mark Teixeira's .217 batting average was 143rd among 148 major league qualifiers and Brian McCann's .232 average was 134th.

So much for Bronx Bombers: McCann's 23 homers were the fewest for New York's leader since Paul O'Neill's 22 in 1995, according to STATS. McCann's 75 RBIs were the fewest for the Yankees' top run-producer in a non-shortened season since Roy White's 62 in 1968.

"If we hit this year, I feel like we would have been in a better spot," McCann said. "A lot of that was on myself. I felt like early in the year I wasn't who I was supposed to be."

The void left by the departure of second baseman Robinson Cano wasn't filled. New York isn't sure what to expect from third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who went on the disabled list in six straight seasons and then missed all of this year while serving a suspension for violating baseball's drug agreement and labor contract.

And in the outfield, Carlos Beltran drove in just 49 runs after signing a $45 million, three-year contract.

Girardi wouldn't reveal whether he envisions changes in his coaching staff.

"We haven't had a chance to sit down and talk about it," he said.

But could hitting coach Kevin Long have done differently?

General manager Brian Cashman, who is expected to be given a new contract, brought in pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano to patch his rotation, and he added Martin Prado and Chase Headley in an effort to boost offense.

Prado is signed for next year, but several other key players could depart in addition to Jeter. Closer David Robertson is eligible for free agency.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, New York's most durable starting pitcher during the last two seasons, turns 40 in February and hasn't said whether he wants to pitch next year. Ichiro Suzuki turns 41 next month and may decide to play elsewhere in his quest for more plate appearances and the 156 hits he needs to reach 3,000. Masahiro Tanaka missed 2 1/2 months this season because of a small elbow ligament tear the Yankees say doesn't need surgery.

Still, Girardi sees mostly positive.

"I look around and say we have a lot of good pieces," he said. "I'm not sure how big the task is."

New York opened the season with the oldest average roster in the major leagues at 31 years, 225 days, according to STATS. That made the Yankees more prone to injuries.

"At times ran out four guys, five guys over 35 years old this year. I don't think that will happen next year," Girardi said. "I think we'll be younger, and I think guys will be healthier."

One bright spot: At 26, Dellin Betances emerged as a dominant reliever and made the All-Star team.

Yankees fans were angry after New York failed to make the playoffs for just the third time in 20 seasons. Attendance rebounded in Jeter's farewell season: New York drew 3,401,624 for 80 home dates, an average of 42,520, and had 16 home sellouts. That was up from 3,279,589 for 81 home dates in 2013, an average of 40,489, and seven sellouts.

And on television, the Yankees averaged 288,000 viewers for games on the YES Network, up from 244,000 in 2013 but below 2012's 355,000.

Now New York will have to find other attractions.

"Will there be more pressure on me?" said Girardi, who completed the first season of a four-year contract. "It won't change who I am, just because the pressure that I feel is from within."


AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman contributed to this report.

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