Tuesday, April 28, 2009


THEY'RE not in last place in the American League East…yet. But when it comes to pitching statistics, the New York Yankees are rock bottom of the AL pile.

Nineteen games played, 117 runs conceded, and an ERA of 6.18. Not bad for a franchise that spent close to $250 million in the winter in an attempt to improve their pitching.

Left red faced by the Red Sox, and tamed by the Tigers last night, it’s fair to say that things have not gone according to plan for general manager Brian Cashman and team manager Joe Girardi so far.

Okay, so they’ve had more than their fair share of injuries, losing Alex Rodriguez, Xavier Nady and Cody Ransom. But as one New York radio host put it, how can a team with an annual payroll of more than $200 million have so many needs?

Are the Yankees free from blame over Chien-Ming Wang’s complete loss of form? Shouldn’t they have seen the warning signs during spring training? Did they work him hard enough to rebuild his strength? After all, surely that’s what spring training is about.

Cashman has been given more money to spend that any other GM in baseball. Yet here we are, with the season less than a month old, and the Yankees’ roster is already looking threadbare.

There are more players lining up for the DH spot than a closing down sale at Circuit City. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon look as though they are ready to draw their pension. Jorge Posada, and dare I say it, Derek Jeter are not far behind them.

And therein lies the problem. A lot of the Yankee stars are growing old together – and, unlike the Boston Red Sox, the youngsters being groomed to replace them are not up to the job.

Optimism that Brett Gardner could become the everyday center fielder looks misplaced. Angel Berroa may be a good fielder but he can’t hit either. Melky Cabrera has not developed in the way the Yankees had hoped for.

Nick Swisher was signed to be a bench player, which is exactly what he looks like now the honeymoon period is over, and with Mark Teixeira (.220) failing to make an early impression, rejuvenated Robinson Cano is the only batter over .300.

Yankees’ many failings reflect badly on management

That might not have been such a problem had CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett justified their exorbitant wages. But Burnett couldn’t hold a six-run lead in Boston and Sabathia has been no better than okay so far, which isn’t good enough when you come up against someone pitching like Justin Verlander did for Detroit last night.

Am I the only one sick and tired of listening to Girardi wax lyrical about how good the opposition pitcher was? Let’s not forget that Verlander lost his first two starts so maybe some of it was down to the fact that he was facing a team devoid of form and confidence.

The Yankees are paying the price for continuing to believe that they can buy success, while other teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates build from within. Remember Carlos Pena, Russ Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens? Just three of the many Yankee rejects making the most of a second chance elsewhere.

In New York, eight years is a long time without a World Series. Patience is not a virtue among the fans. Anyone who listened to the phone-in shows on Monday morning will know that. Getting swept by Boston – and having your nose rubbed in the dirt by Jacoby Ellsbury – is just not acceptable.

Maybe the Yankees will turn it around when A-Rod returns. No pressure there then on a player not renowned for producing his best when it’s needed most.

Messrs Cashman and Girardi had better hope so because they’re drinking at the Last Chance Saloon. Cashman’s judgment is being questioned…and rightly so. How could he let the Yanks go into the 2009 season with such a weak bench?

When Girardi took over from Joe Torre in October 2007, many were expecting him to manage with a “bulldog spirit”, to drill his troops like a sergeant major. Instead, he has become an apologist.

Torre had the Midas touch. He was able to pluck the right man for the right situation from the bullpen. Girardi is exactly the opposite. He seems to micro manage and every move he makes backfires.

Maybe he’s just unlucky. Or maybe Torre was fortunate enough to have better players at his disposal.

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