Monday, May 28, 2007

Requiem for a Team

On Memorial Day, I feel fairly comfortable declaring that the season is over for the Yankees. Like the film referenced in the title of this article, I half expect this season to end in the triple tragedy of electro-shock therapy for Steinbrenner, Carl Pavano having his injured beyond repair arm amputated, and Cashman and Torre going ass-to-ass on a double sided dildo for money. Almost everything that could have gone wrong has.

Predictable Problems

1) The First Base Situation- You simply can not carry 3 players that can not play anywhere but first base, especially when 2 of them are not very good hitters. Even the Bush Administration would recognize this as poor planning. Mientkiewicz has been as useless as expected and Phelps has been only marginally better. Both of these men should be playing out the rest of their careers in Triple-A, hoping for an injury to a real Major Leaguer. Instead the Yankees are carrying both of them.

(This Yankees season should permanently put to rest the notion that any team can "carry" a bad hitter, particularly a first baseman. This notion has always been ridiculous and coincides with the equally ludicrous idea that a team can have too many superstars and not enough role players. Baseball is unlike the other major sports in that every one of your starters has nearly an equal amount of opportunities to affect the offense. The Lakers can run nearly every offensive play through Kobe Bryant. They would be wise to surround Kobe with guys that don't need many touches in order to have an impact on the game. Baseball does not work this way. The Yankees can not decide "This is an important spot. We want the bat in Jeter's hands." He only gets to bat one out of every nine plate appearances for the Yankees. In baseball, one can never know who he will need a big hit from in any given day. Therefore, teams should try to field a lineup in which all nine guys can get a hit.)

2) Carl Pavano's Injuries- This guy is likely to finish his 4 year Yankees career with 19 starts. I have nothing original to contribute to the discussion about the most deservedly maligned New York athlete of my lifetime. I will just say that I would depend on the late Mr. Perfect/Curt Hennig (the backstabbin'est backstabber in an industry of backstabbers), before counting on Carl Pavano to stay healthy for a season.

3) Kei Igawa's Struggles- I gave Cashman the benefit of the doubt on this signing at the time, hoping he saw something nobody else did. He was wrong. Igawa pitches as effeminately as he looks.

4) The Bench- The thing that intrigues me most about Wil Nieves is how he manages to suck and blow at the same time. He put up a .644 OPS last year in Triple A. This year his is 3 for 29. I know pickin's are slim at back-up catcher, but Cashman should have found SOMEONE a bit more competent.

Miguel Cairo is in his third year of riding out his surprisingly mediocre 2004 season. It's amazing how many chances guys get once they receive the label "Major Leaguer". Cairo's resume shows nothing to suggest that he is of any value to a Major League team at this point.

Unpleasant Surprises

1) Injuries to the Rotation- Wang and Mussina missed significant time with leg injuries. Capable replacements, Jeff Karstens and Darrel Rasner are both out for several months on injuries suffered on come-backers. Phil Hughes pulled his hamstring in the midst of a no-hitter. The Yankees have used already used 11 starters this year. Nobody could have predicted that.

2) Age Catching Up with EVERYBODY AT ONCE- Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Bobby Abreu are all looking like shells of their former selves. Mike Mussina is rarely touching 90 MPH anymore. Mariano Rivera has joined the ranks of the mortals this season. If you told me two of these guys were going to slip, I wouldn't have been shocked. That all 5 of them have played as poorly as they have is killing the Yankees.

3) Robinson Cano's Junior Slump- In his third year, the league seems to have adjusted to Cano's free-swinging ways, by consistently throwing him garbage. Recently he has shown signs of life, but his season has still been an unmitigated disappointment.

4) Bad Luck in Close Games- As poorly as the Yankees have played, they have still outscored their opponents by twenty runs this season. Based upon this, they should be 26-23. However, they are 21-28, due mostly to a 2-9 record in one run games. While a teams record in one run games is mostly a function of luck, that is of no consolation when faced with a 13.5 game deficit in your division.

With Clemens joining the team and Phil Hughes returning soon, I think the Yankees will finish the season with 86 to 88 wins. That will probably be about 5 games too few wins to win the Wild Card. Despite his mistakes, I hope Brian Cashman is able to keep his job and Joe Torre is given the Jeff Van Gundy treatment.

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