Anyone who has spent any time at all this season watching our beloved Yankees realized something was amiss. From the first series of the year, parts of the team failed to click. The problem was, nobody could put their finger on it and they were still winning, so what the hell, right?
Over the last two weeks, that nagging voice in the backs of our heads has become a full roar, overwhelming everything else in our baseball-related worlds. Six straight losses and 10 of 13. The problem is obvious, if you just step back for a moment. This is not a team; it is a collection of talented players, each one looking out for their own interests. Placing their own (often inflated) egos ahead of the group. Three incidents particularly point up the lack of leadership and chemistry.
- The Jorge Posada situation: Once upon a time, Jorge Posada wouldn’t have dreamed of throwing the type of temper-tantrum we witnessed on Saturday, especially against the Red Sox. Any player trying that would have been faced down by his teammates long before reaching the manager’s office – and Posada would have been the one leading the charge. Posada, as much as I love all he meant to past Yankee glories, quit on the team before one of the biggest games of the year. All over the perceived injustice of hitting 9th – even though his .165 batting average is dead last in the majors. Screw the team; just give me my at-bats with RISP so I can keep striking out.
- The Derek Jeter incident: The day after Posada opted out of the line-up, Jeter offered a defense of Posada instead of calling him out. I don’t mean in the press – that would have been the wrong way to go about it, and Jeter’s pretty bland answers were the right move there. I mean in front of the team. Jeter, the ostensible captain of this forlorn bunch, should have stepped up and let it be known that if anyone else wanted to quit, they needed to go through him first. Instead, he did nothing until called out by management.
- Post-game yesterday: All the reports I’ve read this morning regarding the post-game clubhouse yesterday show a clubhouse in dangerous need of repair. Rafael Soriano offered this tidy bit of analysis – “To me, I don’t think (the) bullpen (is) the problem. I think it (is) the hitters.” So, a relief pitcher who thus far has made 16 rather ineffective appearances (5.40 ERA, 76 ERA+) and now heads for the DL, is offering up half the team as sacrificial lambs.
If that isn’t evidence enough, then simply watch the results. This team is obviously distracted by something. The mental errors are staggering and affecting every facet of the game. The talent is as good as any team in either league, yet the Yankees sport the seventh best record in the AL.
I’ve read plenty of articles recommending minor tweaks – calling up a couple of minor leaguers, shifting the line-up and the like. But for any of those moves to have a snowball’s chance of working, the team needs to believe and trust in the manager. Joe Girardi, for whatever reason (maybe because he’s a clubhouse mouthpiece for the front office?), does not have that confidence from his players.
Yes, the team needs a shake-up. There are few situations in which replacing the manager is actually the correct move. Managers generally get fired because they have bad teams that not even Casey Stengel could turn into winners. But, when the manager loses the clubhouse, when he no longer effectively leads the team, then firing the manager is not only the correct response.
It is the only response.