The season is now ten days old and Mr. Mailbag’s inbox is filling up. While Mr. Mailbag never pretends that the sky is falling when the season is less than two weeks old and the Yankees have a winning record, there sure are a lot of pessimistic Yankee fans out there. So here are the four most often asked questions I’ve received:
- Have Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada reached the end of the line? I hope not, but both players are aging and not necessarily gracefully. As of tonight’s game, Jeter is batting only .206 with one extra base hit in nine games. He’s abandoned the new stance and looks slow on fastballs. If you’ve watched the games, you can see Jeter is back where we left off last year – getting beat on fastballs inside, fishing for slow stuff outside and hitting weak grounders at the middle infielders. Were he playing stellar defense, you could overlook the slow start offensively. But in the field, he’s been caught cheating either in the hole or up the middle in an attempt to make up for his diminished range. That combination of range and cheating has resulted in 5 or 6 hits so far that most shortstops would have cut off. Unfortunately, DH isn’t a real possible position switch because Jorge Posada is sitting in that spot. Posada, other than a two-day power surge, has been even more atrocious than Jeter so far, hitting a mere .138. Take away those days and Jorge is hitting .048 with no extra base hits and 9 strike outs. (At least he’s been consistent). As much as we love these guys as fans and respect their past glories, the fact remains: both look old, slow and overmatched. For the Yankees to contend, both of these old warriors need to turn it up a few notches.
- What happened to Phil Hughes‘ fastball? For all the questions about the starting rotation, Hughes wasn’t supposed to be one of them. Yet, over his first two starts, Hughes has thrown 6 innings, allowing 12 hits and 11 runs, while walking 4 and watching three of his pitches sail into orbit. What’s more, for a strike-out pitcher, he’s only managed to sit down 1 of 33 batters faced so far. The reason seems to be a general loss of velocity. Everyone in the Yankee brass insists that Hughes is physically fine, but the sudden case of Javier Vazquez-itis has to trouble everyone. If Hughes’ next start on Wednesday is as bad as his first two, it is officially time to swap spots with Bartolo Colonwhile Hughes gets himself straightened out.
- How will Freddy Garcia pitch this year? We’ll get our first glimpse on Friday,when Garcia finally gets his chance to shine. Unfortunately for Garcia and the Yankees, that start will come against the Rangers, a team that is scoring at will so far this year. But right now there can be little doubt that the team needs a strong start from Garcia. Otherwise, the bullpen and CC Sabathia will collapse from overwork before we get to May.
- When is the 8th inning not the 8th inning? The Yanks head into tonight’s tilt with the Orioles (weather permitting – it looks pretty nasty right now) with a 5-4 record and at least one of those losses can be hung directly on the shoulders of one Joe Girardi. That loss was the extra-innings tilt against the Twins, when Clueless Joe inserted Rafael Soriano into the game in the eighth inning with the Yanks leading 4-0. Never mind Soriano’s history of awful performances with both Tampa Bay and Atlanta when there isn’t a save situation, it was the eighth, so in went Soriano. 6 batters later, it was David Robertson being asked to bail out the team. He almost did, but a blooper tied the game and sealed the Yanks fate. After the game, Joe insisted on using some type of convoluted logic for using Soriano in the game. Here’s hoping he learned that just because you signed a guy to pitch the eighth inning doesn’t mean he always has to pitch the eighth inning.
- Where has Nick Swisher gone? For this, I have no answer. There’s certainly a guy in right field wearing #33 that looks like Nick Swisher. And some dude calling himself Nick Swisher has been showing up around town, handing out tickets. But I strongly suspect that a deranged Red Sox fan has kidnapped Swish and replaced him with a robot that can’t hit and can’t field. I am hereby calling for his immediate release.
In exchange, I’ll return the real Carl Crawford. :)