Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Let's Have Another Year, Just Like the Other Year
It's doom-and-gloom time in Yankee land. The season is 1/8th kaput, and despite the off-season moves, nothing has changed from a year ago. The Yanks are in dire straits, and here are 10 reasons why we won't make the playoffs:
1) Injuries - Just like in '08, the DL has apparently become mandatory service. A-Rod, Bruney, Ransom, and Wang have fallen prey so far, and if you think Matsui and Posada won't be missing time, along with one or two others, I've got a front row seat at Yankee Stadium for cheap, cheap, cheap!
2) Disappointing Starting Pitching - AJ Burnett has shown great stuff, and Andy looks better than last year. Those two aside, our rotation is a mess. CC is struggling, and it will take more than last night's decent performance to convince me he's back, Joba looks like someone who should never have left the bullpen (where's the swagger, big man?), and Wang is a disaster. Was it too much to ask that we could go twenty games without having to dip into the minor leagues? Phil Hughes starts tonight, and even though he's been great in AAA Scranton, I'm not hopeful.
3) Feckless Managing - Girardi looks like a lost child in the dugout, and the moments of desire seem completely manufactured. He's already cost us one game in Kansas City, beyond debate, and his bullpen moves continue to puzzle. Calling on Mariano in Friday's game in Boston with one strike on a batter in the 8th was a strange, panicky move, and a prime example of the incompetence he's demonstrated since he began. Could any Yankee fan who's watched Francona for the last five years honestly say they wouldn't switch skippers in a heartbeat? Joey G. will be gone by the end of the year.
4) Inconsistent Bullpen - They can look great, as in the 14-inning win over Oakland, or terrible, as in the slew of games when we've conceded 15 runs or more. Right now, though, the trend seems to be that they only look good against teams with weak line-ups. Watching them work against Cleveland and Boston was a couch-gripping affair that never ended with a sigh of relief.
5) Lack of Fire - I love Derek Jeter. Don't get me wrong. He's a professional in every sense of the word, and he's a Yankee legend and future Hall-of-Famer. But would it kill him to show some passion? He's the damn captain! We have nobody, and I mean nobody, that can light a spark under this team. The passive manager certainly won't. Our best hitter, Robinson Cano, is young and quiet. Joba, a guy who was a firebrand out of the bullpen, has been neutered in his starting role. Melky, our most enthusiastic guy, stinks. AJ Burnett, our best pitcher, is never anything more than stoic. Johnny Damon is strikingly stupid, Posada and Mariana and Pettitte are even-keeled veterans, Texeira never says boo, Nady has no personality, Wang and Matsui can't speak English, A-Rod is the village idiot, and CC is dealing with his own demons. That leaves Swisher, who seemed like he might be a good influence, but even he's coming back to Earth in a hurry (current BA: .284). When he reaches his destined plateau of about .260, what real influence can he have?
In contrast, look at Boston. Sure, they have their steady Eddies too, but they also have guys like Youkilis, Pedroia, Papelbon, and Ellsbury, who are flaming balls of energy. I hate every single one of them, but they light up that team and create a winning atmosphere that everyone else can settile into. Same thing with the Rays.
So where are our sparkplugs? How did we become a boring, soulless team? I don't question our desire to win, but without those charismatic personalities, do we really want it as badly as the next team?
6) No Opportunistic Hitting - This is another carry-over from '08. We routinely have more hits than the other team in losing efforts. Last night, Detroit had 6 hits and 4 runs. We had 10 hits and 2 runs. How can you possibly score only 2 runs on 10 hits? By having 9 separate batters leave a man on base. Total, we left 20. 20 fucking men on base. The maximum you can leave is 27. And Detroit? They left 3.
It's just too typical. Whether we're popping up to the infield, striking out, or grounding into double plays, this team has a knack for blowing their chances. (In the AL, we're #2 in hits, and #7 in runs scored)
7) Weak Bottom Third - For all the money thrown into this team, our 7-9 batters are inevitably some combination of the following: Melky Cabrera, Cody Ransom, Ramiro Pena, Brett Gardner, and Jose Molina. Those five are rally-killers, and will not get the job done.
8) "Slow Starters" - Sabathia, Texeira, Matsui, Joba, Wang. Those are the worst culprits, but the truth is, only Cano and Burnett came out hot. Sweet Robbie is the sole Yankee batting above .300. Our team ERA is the worst in the American League. I put "slow starters" in quotes because I think it's a misnomer. It implies a temporary lull, follwed by an explosion, in an ultimately successful season. But in this league, you can't afford to come out of the gates limping. We're already four games back in MLB's strongest division. How far can we sink before it's time to panic? Do we really think the Red Sox and Rays won't take advantage of our "slow starters"? I'm getting so, so sick of people telling me it's a long season. Really, it's not. It's a season where patterns emerge and are rarely broken, and twenty games is a good sample size. Poor performance becomes a habit, and even if one or two of these guys break out, we can't expect a full recovery.
9) No Winning Instinct - This is intricately tied to numbers 1-8. What happens when we torch the great Josh Beckett and wind up scoring 11 runs on the Red Sox? We give up 16 with our best pitcher on the mound. What happens when CC has a sorely-needed strong outing against Detroit, holding them to 4 runs in 8 innings? We can only manage 2. What happens when Joba keeps pitching out of jams against the Sox, and we have countless chances to break the game wide open? We leave men on base, and Jason Bay hits a two-out home run off Mariano in the 9th. What happens when we're on the verge of sweeping Kansas City and recovering from a poor start? Girardi puts in his least reliable reliever, Veras, and we blow the game.
One way or another, this team snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. And when we do manage a win, we can't build any momentum. Win a game, lose a game. Win three, lose four. And on and on and on. At this pace, talent alone will put us 5-10 games over .500 by year's end. But that won't be enough for the playoffs, and we'll have only ourselves to blame.
10) The Curse of the Moose - Since acquiring Mussina in 2001, the Yankees have never won a World Series!
Hey, if Boston gets to blame Babe Ruth for 80 years, we should have someone too. And it's way more fun to believe in a curse than to admit your team doesn't have the winning pieces in place, and has spent a decade suffering from the same fatal flaws.
Goddamn you, Moose!