Monday, April 20, 2009


THE GOOD NEWS is that, somehow, the New York Yankees are 7-6. The bad news is that there are more holes in their lineup than a Swiss cheese.

Despite spending $423.5 million on upgrading their playing staff in the winter, the early indications are that this is going to be another long, hot summer for Yankees fans.

The Indians were circling the wagons this weekend, outscoring the home team 40-19 in four games, yet the Yanks escaped with a 2-2 split.

Yes, it’s still early days; the pennant isn’t decided in April. But, right at the moment, you get the feeling that manager Joe Girardi is desperately trying to paper over the cracks.

The acquisition of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett has been offset by the inexplicable loss of form by Chien-Ming Wang.

Wang, a 19-game winner in 2007, has given up 23 earned runs and 23 hits in just six innings for a whopping ERA of 34.50.

The coaching staff secretly fears he has lost his velocity after being out for nearly 10 months with a foot injury. He’s certainly lost the sinker that gets him most of his outs.

Fenway Park is no place for a pitcher to try to regain lost confidence so it would be madness to throw him out there again on Friday.

Joba struggles as starter too

Then there’s Joba Chamberlain. Will the issue of whether he should be the eighth inning guy or a starter ever go away?

For what it’s worth, I’ve never wavered in my view that he should have stayed in the pen.

His pitching – and his psyche – is much more suited to one explosive inning, and who better to hand the ball over to Mariano Rivera?

With Brian Bruney pitching the seventh, Joba the eighth and Mo the ninth, nine times out of ten, the Yanks are going to hold on to a lead.

Not only that, you can use Joba two or three times a week, rather than just once every five days.

And if he’s going to be limited to throwing 150 innings this year, you’re going to be able to stretch him out longer from the pen.

Of course, with Wang struggling, that’s even less likely to happen now. The Yanks have Phil Hughes waiting in the wings for another chance, but he may have to stand in for the man from Taiwan.

With the notable exception of Rivera and Bruney, the bullpen has looked anything but solid so far this season.

Bullpen reliant on Bruney and Rivera

Phil Coke is a work in progress; there are no in-betweens with José Veras – he’s either brilliant or rank bad – and Dámaso Marte, the man signed to fool lefties, can’t fool anyone.

As for the batting lineup, there are too many easy outs without either Alex Rodriguez or Xavier Nady in it.

In the American League, you simply can’t afford to play Cody Ransom (.150), Brett Gardner (.244) and José Molina in the same team. Yet Girardi has no other choice on the days he wants to rest Jorge Posada.

Hopefully, A-Rod will be back in early May, and there’s a chance that Nady may play again this season rather than undergo Tommy John surgery on an elbow injury.

Nick Swisher’s hot bat has been a bonus but the once-formidable Hideki Matsui is hitting .194 and as one New York baseball reporter put it, you get the feeling that the Yankees are one more injury away from serious offensive problems.

When you factor in that the Yankees are not a great defensive team either, it’s hard to see them putting together the winning streaks you need to win the division.

A pessimistic point of view, certainly. But, right now, a realistic one too.

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