Wednesday, May 21, 2008


NO PRIDE. No power. An embarrassment to the famous pinstripes. The team with the highest payroll in baseball hit a new season low at Yankee Stadium last night.

Hank Steinbrenner, Senior Vice President of the New York Yankees, says Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman are playing “the hand they were dealt.” To use a poker analogy, right now it’s 2-7 offsuit against a pair of aces.

Steamrolled by the Mets in the Subpar Series at the weekend – the same Mets who lost both games of a double header in Atlanta yesterday – the Yanks returned refreshed from a day off to produce another abysmal performance against the Baltimore Orioles.

Mike Mussina, the one pitcher the Yanks have been able to rely on in recent weeks, hit the self-destruct button (with the aid of Derek Jeter) in the very first inning.

The Yanks never do anything in half measures. There was no damage limitation as Mussina allowed seven runs, only one of which was earned. At 7-0 down, it was game over the way they have been hitting – or not hitting – lately.

Jeter later left the game after being hit on the hand (X-rays revealed no serious damage) and the only bright spot on a gray night at Yankee Stadium was Alex Rodriguez hitting a home run on his return from injury.

With the Boston Red Sox unearthing another young pitching gem in Justin Masterson, the last-placed Yankees (20-25) now find themselves seven and half games back.

They have lost their last four, six out of seven, nine out of 12. They have scored just 14 runs in the last seven games; yet they’ve conceded 30 in the last three.

It’s almost a carbon copy of their start to last season, when things got even worse before they got better. But as Mussina says, “If this is the same place we were a year ago, it sure feels a lot worse than that.”

Girardi and Cashman must take some of the blame

While Steinbrenner has a point about the Yankees’ roster and the legacy left by Joe Torre, Girardi and Cashman are hardly blameless.

Cashman chose not to do anything about the starting pitching last winter and his gamble on youth has so far failed to pay off. The bench could surely have been a lot stronger too.

Girardi’s job is to get the best out of the players at his disposal and, at the moment, they are letting both him and the fans down.

It may be harsh but do fans really want to see a player joking around when his team is getting shelled at home for the second successive game?

Johnny Damon has a great personality, but not everyone could see the funny side after he had scorched a line drive straight to first base and his former Red Sox team-mate Kevin Millar. This, after he had misjudged a fly ball earlier in the game.

As Ken Singleton said on the YES commentary, the Yanks had two choices when they found themselves 7-0, then 9-0 down: they could either fight or surrender tamely.

Yankees teams of old would have chosen the first option; they would have battled right to the end. This team waved the white flag and then resorted to petty retaliation after Jeter was hit.

That the Yankees will improve is as certain as a guy named David winning American Idol tonight. But in the words of Yogi Berra, “it gets late early out there” and they’re giving themselves another mountain to climb.

They weren’t good enough to catch the Red Sox last year; they’re not good enough to catch the best team in baseball this year either.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and the Yankees have 117 games left to turn things around. But, as things stand, even the wild card seems a long way off.

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