Last year's team may have been one of the worst in recent memory, but it still had Robinson Cano, who finished fifth in the MVP voting and ranked third in the AL in Wins Above Replacement (7.6).
But that guarantee of stardom is a pipe dream this season.
For the first time in nearly 25 years, the Yankees will not have a player with more than 5.0 WAR, a mark that is considered the threshold for a “Superstar” player. Entering this week Brett Gardner leads the team with 4.4 WAR and its unlikely he'll be able to add half a win in the final 13 games.
The last non-strike season in which the Yankees did not have a 5-WAR player was 1991, when Steve Sax led the team with 4.1 WAR. That 1991 team was legitimately one of the worst in team history (5th-lowest win percentage), and was completely devoid of stars – not a single player received a vote in any of the major awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of Year).
This year's team is probably going to avoid the same fate as the 1991 squad, with Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances in line to get some Rookie of the Year votes, but the story is very similar – a team without a legitimate star.
Being a superstar is not just about having gaudy stats on the back of your baseball card. I believe it's also about consistently performing at a high level for an entire season and accounting for a significant amount of the team's production – hence why Tanaka or even Betances cannot be a considered a true superstar this season.
The Yankees lack of an everyday superstar player becomes even more apparent when looking at the team leaders in various stats.
For the first time since 1968, the Yankees are not likely to have a player with 75 RBI (Jacoby Ellsbury leads the team with 67). Also for the first time since 1968, the Yankees probably won't have a player with an average of .280 or better qualify for the batting title (Ellsbury is the leader at .273).
Part of that is due to the fact that the Yankees are averaging roughly four runs per game and hitting under .250, but even last year's team and its similar offensive struggles still had a 100-RBI guy and a .300-batting average guy in Cano.
Adjusting for the fact that runs and hits are down across baseball as a whole this year does not increase the likelihood of finding a superstar on this team. Entering this week the Yankees leader in OPS+ (OPS adjusted for the league, era and park) was Gardner at 118, meaning his OPS is 18 percent better than today's average player.
If that holds, it would be just the second season in the last 100 years that the Yankees did not have a player qualify for the batting title with an OPS+ of 120 or higher. The only other season that happened was in 1991, which we've already recognized as possibly the most “un-superstar” team in modern franchise history.
While there are many things that will define this season – the injuries to the rotation, the underperformance of the lineup, etc. – there is one thing from the 2014 Yankees that stands out as being unlike any other Yankee team in recent memory: the lack of an everyday superstar player.