THERE'S a fine dividing line in sports between experience and youth. The teams with the right balance are usually the ones that are successful.
According to Jason Giambi, the New York Yankees are currently playing “like a bunch of old men.”
Asked what was ailing the Yankees after they had been shut-out by the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday, Giambi replied: “You look around and you’ve got young kids over there running around like maniacs, and we’re playing like a bunch of old men right now.”
A refreshingly frank assessment from the oldest man in the Yankees line-up … and a player who may well be at the root of the problem.
Giambi is 37 and in the final year of a seven-year, $120 million contract. He still has a good eye, but opposing pitchers have figured out he’s one-dimensional.
They block off the easy base hit to the right side of the field and expose his lack of speed around the bases. He has managed just one hit in 18 at bats so far and has an average of .056.
That the Yankees will start hitting before the summer’s out is as certain the price of oil rising again.
But, on current form, predictions that they will score between 950 and 1,000 runs look well wide of the mark. They have managed just 25 runs in nine games and have yet to steal a base.
Too Many Thirty-Somethings
Could the problem be that they have too many thirty-somethings? Giambi (37), Posada (36), Abreu (34), Damon (34), Jeter (33), Matsui (33) and Rodriguez (32).
Some will argue these are players in the prime of their careers. Others will say that the wear and tear of everyday baseball is catching up with them.
That certainly looks to be the case with Jorge Posada and, to a lesser extent, Derek Jeter. The idiots at MLB who slated the Yankees to start the season in dank, drizzly New York may well have contributed to Jeter’s thigh injury. However, there was a time when a broken bone wouldn’t keep the skipper out of the line-up.
Like most catchers, Posada has learned to live with aches and pains. But if his “dead arm” means he can’t throw the runner out at second, then he can’t play. And that’s a major blow to the Yanks’ run production.
Robinson Canó and Melky Cabrera make up the youth element among the Yankees batters, which makes manager Joe Girardi’s decision to send Shelley Duncan down to the minors to make room for shortstop Alberto Gonzáles a little surprising.
The one thing Duncan brings to the team is raw exuberance. And if ever the Yankees could do with that, it’s now.
As for the starting pitching, it’s too soon for definitive judgments. However, it’s fair to say that Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy have a lot of improving to do to justify the decision not to trade them to Minnesota for Johan Santana.
Hughes, the man fans hope will become a No. 1 one day, was alarmingly wayward against the Royals. You’re going to get inconsistency with young pitchers but they have to learn fast how to make adjustments.
Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera have looked great. But with the likes of Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins hemorrhaging runs, the Yankees need more than those three to stop the bleeding.
With 16 of the next 18 games on the road, it’s not hard to envisage them finding themselves in a similar hole to last season, which they spent playing catch-up.
With a new manager at the helm, I, for one, expected them to come out of the gate running. Instead, to bastardize Giambi’s quote, they’re plodding around like old carthorses.