Monday, April 13, 2009


STILL WONDERING why both New York teams missed the playoffs last season?

Well, if any further evidence was required, just look at the way the Yankees and Mets contrived to lose games yesterday.

If he’s not the best starting pitcher in baseball – and he gets my vote – then Johan Santana is certainly the most dependable.

When Santana starts, the Mets must win. It’s as simple as that. You can’t rely on the rest of the rotation to produce on a regular basis.

Santana could hardly have done more against the Florida Marlins, striking out 13 in seven superlative innings.

But all his good work was undone when Daniel Murphy dropped a regulation fly ball from Cody Ross with two out. That enabled Josh Johnson to emerge the winner, even though he gave up five hits compared to Santana’s three.

So the Mets return to New York for today’s home opener against the San Diego Padres with a 3-3 record. It could be worse, but it could be so much better.

The Yankees are also 3-3. Not so bad, you might say, after losing their first two games.

But if you harbor serious ambitions of making the playoffs – let alone winning the World Series – you need to have a better than 50-50 record against the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

Quite frankly, the Royals stink. They’re perennial losers. The Yanks had them on the ropes but failed to deliver the knockout blow with a really sloppy performance that denied them the sweep.

New York teams show their soft center

Joba Chamberlain pitched well and they led 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth with two out and none on. But manager Joe Girardi’s faith in 26-year-old Phil Coke to get the final out proved misplaced.

Coke gave up the lead, plus another two runs, to leave Girardi’s critics (and there are quite a few of those now after last season) questioning why he didn’t call on mighty Mo – the game’s greatest closer, Mariano Rivera – for a four-out save.

Coke showed great potential at the end of last season, and again in spring training, but he was untested in pressure situations.

For all the money they spent in the winter, the Yanks lineup still has plenty of holes in it, especially without Alex Rodriguez and, now, Mark Teixeira, who has a wrist injury.

Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom have, so far, failed to reproduce the form they showed in spring training. Ransom is 1 for 20 and neither has done enough to convince that they can be an everyday player.

Add Jose Molina and Melky Cabrera to the starting nine and you have a National League batting lineup.

Hideki Matsui looks a shadow of his former self and the Yanks’ batting is nowhere near as fearsome as it was with Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu in it.

Less than a week into the season and Girardi is resting players. I’m sorry, Joe, but without A-Rod and Teixeira, that’s a luxury you can’t afford.

Instead of heading to Tampa today, and a difficult three-game series against the Rays, on a four-game winning run, the Yanks are on a down.

If they’re to succeed this season where they failed in 2008, then both the Mets and Yankees need to replace their soft center with a real ruthless streak.

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