Monday, August 11, 2008


IT’S TOO SOON FOR INQUESTS. Standing four games behind the Boston Red Sox in the wild card standings, the New York Yankees could yet make the post-season.

But after their three-game sweep in Los Angeles, the odds have shortened considerably on them missing out on October baseball for the first time since 1993.

Disgruntled fans are already playing the blame game with general manager Brian Cashman getting most of the flak.

Joe Girardi, in his first season as manager, seems to be getting a free pass. In fact, Girardi is being praised for keeping the team afloat, given the seemingly endless list of injuries he has had to deal with.

Girardi is not blameless. Like any manager, he makes questionable decisions. With yesterday’s game a “must win” for the Yanks, why did he wait until Dámaso Marte had walked the Angels’ No. 9 hitter to allow two men on base to bring in Mariano Rivera?

Rivera threw just one pitch as Chone Figgins’ dribbler escaped both Robinson Canó and Wilson Betemit.

In former years, the Yanks have been good enough to overcome such errors. Not this year.

Every team has injuries. The Red Sox have been without Curt Schilling for the whole season and have lost players like David Ortiz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and now Tim Wakefield for lengthy periods of time. Not to mention the issues with Manny Ramirez.

Bullpen implodes after Farnsworth's departure

Of course, that’s nothing compared to the Yankees’ problems. But surely an organization with a $200 million payroll should be able to overcome them?

Cashman made all the right moves by bringing in Xavier Nady, Marte and Ivan Rodriguez before the trading deadline.

At the time, not too many fans were complaining about the decision to let Kyle Farnsworth go. But, in hindsight, it may not have been as good a move as it looked.

Since Farnsworth’s departure to Detroit, the hitherto reliable bullpen has imploded, allowing 27 earned runs in their last 30 innings for a combined ERA of 8.10.

Edwar Ramirez, David Robertson. Marte, and to a lesser degree, José Veras, have been shelled, begging the question: are they mentally tough enough to pitch the 8th and 9th innings?

But for Mike Mussina, the Yanks would be below .500. Mussina has been the one shining light in the starting rotation.

Undoubtedly the biggest blunder made by Cashman and the Steinbrenners was overvaluing the team’s young pitching.

Trading Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes – and even Melky Cabrera – for Johan Santana today would be a no-brainer. Sadly, the youngsters have failed to come up to expectations.

Cashman and co. overvalued young talent

Kennedy has made more comebacks than Brett Favre yet the simple fact he is not ready to pitch at Major League level…and probably never will be. 

There’s an old saying in sport that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Joba Chamberlain is a prime example of that.

Kennedy and Hughes have yet to win a game between them this season. If and when one of them finally manages to do so, the season will probably be over.

Forget the injuries. Forget the pitching problems. To me, the biggest disappointment has been the batting. 

A team projected to score more than 900 runs has amassed just 569 in 118 games so far. They haven’t come up with the big hits and they’ve left far too many men on base.

Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada are sorely missed. While Nady looks a player worth keeping, it’s beyond me why the Yanks brought in Richie Sexon. He can’t hit any pitching, left-handed or right.

With Jason Giambi, Cano, Cabrera and Derek Jeter all hitting well below average, the Yanks haven’t been able to overpower their opponents in the early innings.

Even Girardi’s attempts to play small ball have backfired. Jeter bunted in an attempt to extend a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning on Saturday and they ended up losing the game 11-4!

The truth of the matter is that the Yankees have never been – and hopefully never will be – a small ball team. After all, why bunt when there’s another All Star coming to the plate behind you?

This season, however, the New York Yankees have had too many Old Stars rather than All Stars.

Right now, a 27th World Championship has never seemed so far away.

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