Friday, June 01, 2007

The Titanic Is Sinking

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
At first it was a slow start, chalk that up to injuries. Then it was a slump, still too early to count them out, a few wins and they are right back in it. A statement from the owner and a team meeting led by the untouchable manager, surely the Yanks would rally. Now its become a full fledged four-alarm fire, responding to the owner and manager pep talks with five straight losses, the last two at the mercy of unheralded Blue Jay starters who absolutely handcuffed the Yanks fierce lineup. The team is playing each game waiting for a bad break, expecting to lose. The fans are starting to expect it too.

Over the past week or two, we have all debated whether Boston’s lead was insurmountable, and if the Yanks should fire Torre, Cashman, or both. At ten and a half games, the division race was an argument. Now at fourteen and half games, it is a moot point. After dropping the first two games at Shea I kissed the division goodbye, not because the ten game lead was too much, but the team showed no signs of life, and the Red Sox are too good to give it away. The last week solidified that. The Yanks keep losing, the Sox keep winning. This is not 1978. That is once in a lifetime, and that Yankee team was above .500 when they started the comeback.

Forget first place, the team formerly known as the Bombers should be concerned with avoiding last place. They are further out of first place than any team in baseball, including the hapless Royals and Pirates. In the immortal words of Jim Mora, how can they even talk about the playoffs? Forget playoffs, try starting with a win.

The problems read like a 300-pound lineman’s shopping list. When the team hits, the pitching fails, when they pitch well, nobody, not even the Captain, can get a hit with runners on base. The latter has victimized the team the last four games. Cano, A-Rod, Giambi, Abreu, Damon, Melky, you can point the finer to any or all of them on a given night. The problem, and the fix for that matter, is not one player, it’s the whole lineup top to bottom. Each night the stats get worse, middle of the lineup is 0-16 one day, another day is no hits with runners on second or third. Any way you slice it, they are not performing.

The fundamentals have also deserted the Yanks. Giving up a straight steal of home, dropping cutover throws, and Cano’s string of careless errors, are not hallmarks of the good Yankee teams. It actually sounds more like the Royals. Even worse, the players look defeated, shoulders slumped when they run on and off the field, playing scared, as evidenced by Derek Jeter trying to bunt a runner over in the first inning against Toronto, and the somber looks in the dugout. This is what the great Yankees used to do to other teams.

Firing Torre is not the answer, Clemens is not the answer, jettisoning Abreu, as if anyone would actually take him, will not help. The only answer is for the guys they have to start playing better, and soon. Thanks to long-term, big money contracts there will not be significant changes during the season, outside of maybe a Kyle Farnsworth trade, or bringing in a decent reliever or bench player here or there, so its time for the players to put up or shut up. Another two weeks of this effort, and the Yanks could well be out of the wild card race.


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