Thursday, July 3, 2008

Decision Time Is Looming For The Yankees

  • Red Sox 7-Yankees 0:
Even the most hardcore, ardent and irrationally arrogant Yankee fan has to be concerned
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by what he's seeing from this team. The argument will naturally be that they're still within striking distance of the Red Sox and the Rays are a young and inexperienced challenger without the pennant race experience of a team like the Yankees. The major concern right now should be that they're not doing the little things to win games. The Rangers beat them two out of three and would have swept them if Rangers manager Ron Washington hadn't put an ill-equipped and inexperienced rookie to pitch in relief; the Red Sox came into Yankee Stadium reeling from a sweep at the hands of the Rays and five straight losses overall and manhandled the Yankees "big game" pitcher in Andy Pettitte as Jon Lester dominated them easily. They're in serious trouble if this continues.There will also be references to the Yankees teams of years past that came back from stunning deficits because of their experience fortitude and...their manager. That's one of the keys that will determine whether or not the team is going to go on a run to the playoffs.
Joe Torre and his calm, confident and historically successful demeanor is no longer there;
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Joe Girardi is and despite Girardi's impressive managerial attributes, he's still very inexperienced with only a year and a half as a manager at any level and no real success other than a surprising 78-84 with a Marlins team that was expected to lose 100 games. (With each passing day that a similar Marlins team plays well under Fredi Gonzalez, Girardi's accomplishment becomes less
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and less impressive.) Torre always had his veteran cachet and championships to fall back on; Girardi doesn't. Another important thing that Torre had that Girardi may not have is even more important to a team trying to rebound from a slow start----personnel.
This is quite possibly the weakest Yankee team in recent memory top-to-bottom. Their starting rotation is short due to the injury to Chien-Ming Wang and even when Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy were pitching, both looked like they were inches away from being sent back to the minors. Their bench is atrocious and their bullpen, other than Mariano Rivera, is filled with journeymen and youngsters. Players they were counting on like Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera haven't done their part and
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Derek Jeter is starting to show the age in a player who is in his mid-thirties and plays clean. Even with that, their lineup is formidable, but not formidable enough to make up for guys like Darrell Rasner and Dan Giese being part of the starting rotation; or for Joba Chamberlain's strict pitch count that precludes him from pitching longer that five or six innings in most of his games. It's always been dangerous to count out the Yankees when they've had mid-season struggles and large deficits to overcome, but this might be the year that they finally do miss the playoffs because not only are they short on talent, but there's a hungry Rays team that isn't going away.
The Yankees still have their financial advantage and they're lucky in that the Wild Card is there for the taking if they have a hot streak. Teams that were expected to be in contention----the Indians, Mariners and Blue Jays----have fallen back, so the Yankees still have that possibility very available to them; but what are they going to do? GM Brian Cashman was reluctant to deal any of his young prospects to try and get Johan Santana, so how's it going to look if he reverses course and gets a lesser pitcher for an equal or greater package than what the Mets gave up to get Santana?
There will be pitching available. The Mariners will likely be perfectly willing to move Les Miserables, Erik Bedard, but will Cashman want to bring Bedard (standoffish and nasty with
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the media and even teammates; let's see him try his attitude with the New York media) into his clubhouse? Bedard is starting to appear to be the epitome of the old football term, "coach killer". Would he be worth what it would take to get him? Presumably the likes of Melky Cabrera and a young pitcher or two? How about the reeling Braves and Tim Hudson? Would Cabrera and Robinson Cano get that done?
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Would Cashman be willing to do it? Or possibly Roy Oswalt? Then there are the massive risks like Rich Harden; would Cashman ante up to get the ultra-talented and ultra-fragile righty who's going to be traded? Or maybe a guy who'll go out there and leave his guts on the mound like Joe Blanton; perhaps even the Reds would be willing to deal Aaron Harang for a massive package of youngsters.
The Yankees are smart enough to have known that this was going to be a year in transition for them and that the young pitchers were going to experience growing pains. I saw Kennedy last season and wasn't impressed even with all the propaganda; I felt Hughes would contribute
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his 12 wins and Chamberlain would be solid in whatever role he was placed; but Wang was going to have to win his 17-19 games; Pettitte was going to have to come up big in games like tonight; and Wang's injury and Pettitte's loss tonight leaves the Yankees wondering what to do next. Mike Mussina can't possibly be expected to pitch as well in the second half as he did in his surprising and resurgent first half; what are they going to do? Will they bite the bullet and surrender a package similar to that they refused to part with to get Santana on a lesser pitcher? Or will they take the heat; sleep in the bed they made and hope everything works out? That's a question they're going to have to answer within the next few weeks because as the calender turns, there's not the guaranteed spot in the playoffs, nor the weak teams in their division to brutalize. There are deals to be made for immediate help; will they make them?
  • Does anyone care about Roger Clemens's DNA at this point?
I get the impression that people had completely forgotten the whole Roger Clemens fiasco and moved onto the actual doings on the field, but now there's the story asserting that Clemens's DNA will be found on drug paraphernalia provided by trainer Brian McNamee. Does anyone even
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care at this point? Does the point have to be proven that Clemens was lying in front of congress? To Mike Wallace? To everyone? All this will do is dig Clemens's baseball grave another foot deeper; any further and he'll almost have completed a journey to the center of the earth. Maybe the Mole People or the C.H.U.D. will believe him because no one up here does anymore.

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