Archive for the ‘Yankees Opinion’ Category

Hal and Hank Steinbrenner (Hal is on the left)

The Daily News reported this morning that the Steinbrenner family may have the Yankees up for sale.

“Rumors are flying in Major League Baseball and New York banking circles that the family that has owned Major League Baseball’s premiere franchise since Cleveland shipbuilder George Steinbrenner purchased the club for $8.8 million in 1973 is exploring the possibility of selling the Yankees.”

Later this morning, the Yanks issued a flat denial. Via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:

“‘I just learned of the Daily News story. It is pure fiction,’ (Hal) Steinbrenner said in a statement. ‘The Yankees are not for sale. I expect that the Yankees will be in my family for many years to come.'”

Is this a case of the Daily News, forever locked in a back-page battle with the New York Post, creating a story to spur readership? Or are the Yankees actually on the block? If this were any other tabloid, my gut would be to dismiss the story outright. But this one has Bill Madden in the byline, and over the years I’ve come to respect Mr. Madden’s ability to unearth behind-the-scenes information. So…

The answer may not lie in the perceived value of the Yankees franchise, currently reported to be around $3 billion. Instead, it might be better to examine the current ownership group for any signs they may want out of the baseball business. The two principles, Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, are near polar opposites in terms of their personalities. Hank is much more the fan and fiery competitor. Like George, he also has something of a mercurial temperament – this is the son who lambasted the NL for not having the DH, called out Derek Jeter for building a mansion in Tampa, and stoked the Yankee – Red Sox rivalry by memorably deriding “Red Sox Nation.” Hank even looks more like his father than his brother. Hal, on the other hand, is far more concerned with the bottom line. Hal once referred to himself as a “finance geek.” While it should be obvious to anyone that while he may have been one, I can’t ever picture the bombastic George referring to himself that way.

There is also the fact that Hal is beginning to realize that while Hank was probably overzealous in giving Alex Rodriguez a ten year, $260 million extension going into his age 33 season, his preferred method of building from within isn’t exactly as easy as Gene Michael made it look in the 1990’s. None of the top prospects he anticipated being part of the team’s core by now – Phil Hughes, Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez, Dellin Betances, Austin Romine, Ian Kennedy and Manny Banuelos – has been able to establish themselves as major leaguers. Of that list, only Hughes is a regular contributor; Montero and Kennedy are now elsewhere, Nunez is back in the minors and Betances, Romine and Banuelos have been plagued by inconsistency and injury while in the high minors. He understands that the Yankee fan base won’t stand for losing. In order to keep the seats filled at Yankee Stadium (and ad revenue on the YES Network peaking), he needs a winning product on the field. At the same time, Hal has made it a goal to have payroll below the anticipated $189 million luxury-tax threshold by the 2014 season – a season in which the Yankees already have $75 million in salary committed to four players and will likely be well over $100 million if they decide to resign any combination of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Ivan Nova, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin.

While I find it hard to believe that Hank would be willing to part ways with the Yankees, it isn’t hard to see Hal wanting to leave the circus and go home to heading Steinbrenner Properties. If this season’s on-the-field troubles continue, I suspect Hal may begin earnestly looking for a way out. He’ll be pressured to do something that really doesn’t work well in the New York market: find inexpensive talent to replace popular (and productive) players jettisoned for contract reasons. He got to preview the way a frugal owner gets treated in the situation when negotiating Derek Jeter’s contract last year. Imagine him playing hardball over money with Cano and Granderson, two popular players entering their prime and the resulting back page fallout from that.

The big question is whether the rest of the family trusts Hank to run the financial side of the team and keep his temper in check. Those of us old enough to remember George Steinbrenner from the 1980’s shudder a bit at the thought of Hank reprising that role. Still, if Hal actually does want out (that $3 billion price tag is awfully enticing to a “numbers guy”), I can see the family giving Hank first shot at forming a new ownership group. It would certainly be interesting, in an All My Children kind of way.

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Remember when, during the original Star Wars (Episode IV for you younger fans), Ben Kenobi pulls a Jedi mind trick on a pair of stormtroopers? “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” he intones – and the troopers repeat mindlessly after him. We Yankee fans are wondering if ol’ General Obi Wan was employed by the Yankee front office to pull a similar trick on us during the off-season. “These aren’t the pitchers you’re looking for…”

After twelve games, the Yankees are 6-6. While a .500 is hardly the record that the team’s fans expect, the Yanks could be worse off. Equally unsteady play from the rest of the AL East means they haven’t dug themselves a major hole – they’re only a game from first place (but also only two from last). That being said, the fans are grumbling and we all know that in days of yore, King George would have Joe Binder on speed dial.

Much of the grumbling seems to be centering on the offense. While it’s sputtered at times, and Yankee hitters have done a miserable job with RISP (their team .240 batting average in such situations is 26 points below the league average), the offense has still scored the second most runs in the league. Simply put, even if A-Rod and Robbie Cano continue to have dismal 2012 seasons, the rest of the team should still score enough to keep the team in any game.

No, the problem has been the starting pitching. 12 starts, but only four of them have been “quality starts” – that is, at least 6 innings and no more than 3 runs allowed. At this point, only one starter has a better than league average ERA (Ivan Nova, at 4.15). The rest of the rotation have ERA’s north of 5. The back end, featuring Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes have been particularly putrid so far: the pair have combined to allow 34 baserunners, 17 runs and 5 home runs in only 18 innings over 4 games. It’s gotten to the point that the Yankee hitters have to feel as if they’re down by four before they even leave the clubhouse on days when either of the duo pitches. The rest of the staff hasn’t been much better, although CC Sabathia seemed to finally wake up in his last start. The book is still out on Hiroki Kuroda: he threw a game for the ages during the home opener, but followed it up by throwing batting practice to the Twins last night.

And right now, hopes are pinned on the returns of Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda. While you would be hard pressed to say either can be worse than the current fourth and fifth starters, a dose of realism is in order. Pettitte is returning from retirement, will be 40 in June and hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2008. Pineda was a phenom for Seattle during the first half last year. His fastball disappeared after the 2011 All-Star break, along with his success. The Yankees diagnosed him with a shoulder strain during Spring Training, which is why he is currently on the DL. If Pettitte is a victim of Father Time and/or Pineda can’t rediscover the velocity that made him a feared righty last year, then the Yankees season might well be sunk. Because let’s face it: Kuroda might be experienced, but he lacks the stuff to be a true number 2. Nova is probably in the right spot as a number 3 guy. But Garcia is quickly proving that last year’s high batting average against isn’t something that you can pitch around consistently. Hughes is showing that 2010 wasn’t a break-out season for him, but rather a wondrous year in an otherwise sub-par career.

Tonight is another game and another start for Hughes. It’s time for he and Garcia to prove they can get guys out in the major leagues. If they can’t, then 2012 is going to be a long season.

***UPDATE: Game in progress, top 1st. Hughes wasn’t helped by an Eduardo Nunez error, but he’s allowed four runs. ***

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Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News

Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News

Jack Curry broke the story via Twitter:

The Yankees have signed Andy Pettitte to a 1-year minor league deal worth $2.5 million. The team is thrilled to have 240-game winner back.

Who saw this coming? I can’t say I did, although when I first heard he was retiring I thought he would have an itch to come back. The man is only 39 years old, and that’s not so “out there” considering how many pitchers play into their 40’s these days.

The Yankees rotation looks like this as of now: Sabathia-Kuroda-Nova-Pineda-Hughes-Garcia. When, and IF Pettitte makes it up to the major leagues, someone is going to have to bepushed out of the rotation. Obviously, we can’t predict the future (injuries, trades, etc.), so there might even be a spot available depending on how the season plays out. It’s going to take some time for him to get in playing shape, so he won’t be joining the team anytime soon.

Yankees Universe has a really great love and admiration for Andy. The outpouring from fans in response to this news clearly shows how happy we all are to have #46 back. The man came to spring training this year as an instructor, and he clearly got that itch to put the pinstripes on again. Welcome Back, Andy.

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AJ & Phil: Thinking About Their Yankees Future?

AJ & Phil: Thinking About Their Yankees Future?

Remember back when the Yankees were in search of starting pitching? Well, barring a trade, Joe Girardi and the Yankee brain trust suddenly have a different problem. Quantity is no longer an issue, but the quality may leave something to be desired.

While the team and the fans should be comfortable when CC Sabathia takes the ball, the next three spots in the rotation figure to be taken by two second-year players and a 37 year old Japanese import from the NL. Hiroki Kuroda has enough of a track record that I’m reasonably confident he can fill out the third or fourth spot in the rotation, pitching to an ERA of around four and chewing up 180 or so innings. Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova were rookie sensations. The question isn’t whether they have the talent to compete in the majors, but rather if they can duplicate the success they had last year. Still, those questions pale in comparison with the headache that awaits Joe Girardi when trying to find a fifth starter.

The Yankees look to head to Tampa with three options for the 5 hole. Each could conceivably be the best 5th starter in baseball. Or any one of the trio could be the worst pitcher in the league. I’m talking, of course, about AJ Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes. One will break camp with that job, one will be in the bullpen as the long guy/spot starter and one should be a set-up guy.

Hughes: The Yankees desperately want the former first rounder to prove he can be a starter. After all, they’ve invested a ton of time and money into the Southern California native, and starting pitchers prove more valuable over the long-term than relievers. The problem is, Hughes has been a mediocre starter, but has proven lights out as a short reliever. In 71 career starts, Hughes has thrown to a 4.90 ERA while allowing opposing hitters to whack him around to a .751 OPS. In 49 relief appearance, he has a 1.44 ERA while holding opponents to a .470 OPS. To top it off, this is a kid who has spent considerable chunks of time on the DL since coming to the show. And yes, I know he was 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA in the first half of 2010 as a starter. But those numbers were an enigma, as his FIP (essentially, an ERA that doesn’t depend on fielders making great plays) was closer to his career normal ERA, 4.57. In other words, Hughes’ one great stretch as a starter came thanks to his teammates bailing him out more than anything else. And when that luck wore off in the second half, he returned to giving up runs in bunches. (Anyone remember the way Texas clubbed him mercilessly in the ALCS?) So while I can understand Hughes’ desire to be a starter, his best career move is to accept a role as a short reliever. Oddly enough, the Yankees should also accept that eventuality.

Garcia: Look, there’s no doubt that if comparing Freddy Garcia to AJ Burnett stuff-wise, this isn’t even a contest. Garcia is routinely around 89mph now with his fastball, while that’s about the speed AJ throws his change. Despite that, Garcia has outpitched AJ over the past few seasons. The problem for Freddy is that he hasn’t outpitched AJ by enough to get the nod for the fifth rotation spot out of Spring Training. The crafty veteran earned his contract for this season by figuring out ways to wiggle out of men-on-base jams all last summer, but it’s too much to expect a similar magician act this year. Besides, Garcia is on a one year, $5 million deal while AJ still has two years and $31 million left on his. Although the Yankees never admit that contracts come into these decisions, we all saw last season that they do – and will again this year. Freddy will still make the team, replacing the departed Bartolo Colon as the long man out of the pen.

Burnett: I’m not sure what the Yankees were expecting when they handed Burnett that ginormous contract in 2009, but I doubt a 34-35 record and 4.79 ERA was it. (Hopefully, they never spend like that on an erratic, 32 year old pitcher again). Still, it is one of the factors working in his favor when it comes time to pick a fifth starter. There can be no doubt that the Yanks will never be able to deal AJ and that albatross of a contract by burying him on the bench. Besides, there is one other thing that keeps AJ in the rotation: the fact he still has one of the best arms in the game. There is always the hope that this is the year he finally figures out how to be consistently good. Let’s face it: all you’re really hoping for is 25 starts and 150 innings of 4.75 ERA pitching out of the final rotation spot, and AJ is certainly capable of that. Of course, he also has the kind of talent that could turn in 20 spectacular starts. And he’s proven enough of an enigma that he could just as easily turn in 20 of the most horrendous pitching performances known to man. Since he has to be the odds-on favorite to be the 5th starter, we all better hope for the former.

So, there you have it. My best guess as to how the rotation will shake out come April. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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Joe Girardi has chosen the NY Giants to prevail over the New England Patriots to win Superbowl XLVI. I’m not going to argue with a prediction like that. He says the G-Men will win 27-24. Girardi said that he’s a fan of Tom Coughlin’s work and they’ve even been known to exchange text messages after a victory.

I can only imagine the texts that those two send. I love Coughlin, but I’m quite surprised that he knows how to send text messages. Maybe Girardi texts Coughlin to run more with Bradshaw after referencing his trusted all-knowing binder?

I figured in honor of the Giants, I would make this post. GO GIANTS!

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Ubaldo Jimenez

Some things are a given in life. The sun rises in the east. Commuter trains in New York are overstuffed and never run on time. The Yankees always make a trade in July.

Only, this year that last one might not happen.

It’s not for lack of need. The starting line-up is solid and the bench features guys who could start for better than half the teams in baseball. But the pitching staff, both in the rotation and the bullpen, is loaded with question marks. CC Sabathia is an unqualified ace; Mariano Rivera remains the king of closers and David Robertson has turned into one of the game’s most reliable set-up men. But the rest of the staff doesn’t inspire confidence on a daily basis.

The Yankees are plagued by the fact that among the presumed LCS teams, they’re the only team without a bona-fide number 2 starter. The Red Sox feature Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. The Phillies send Roy Halladay
and Cliff Lee. The Giants have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Yankees keep hoping that AJ Burnett will be that number two guy – but after 2 ½ seasons of watching him implode at the most inopportune times, I can’t think of anyone who truly thinks he is. Bartolo Colon, based on his performance this year (7-6, 3.29 ERA, 8K/9) is probably the current #2, but he’s already thrown more innings than over the past 4 seasons combined and you have to worry about how much longer he can continue. Freddy Garcia keeps pulling magic acts on the mound, but his xFIP is nearly a half-run higher than his ERA; you get the feeling that sooner or later his luck is going to run out. Phil Hughes exploded on the scene in the first half of 2010, but since then he’s been less than a pedestrian pitcher (7-7, 5.76 ERA). Ivan Nova was sent back the minors earlier and despite showing signs of improvement when he was with the big club, he is nowhere near being a number two starter.

Likewise, the bullpen has a few holes. Rafael Soriano was brought in to be the primary set-up man, but he’s spent most of the season on the DL and was largely ineffective before getting hurt. Boone Logan is the supposed lefty specialist, but left handers are tuning him up to a 138 OPS+. While Cory Wade and Luis Ayala have been reasonably pleasant surprises, neither has experienced this level of success before. And heaven help us all if the abysmal Sergio Mitre is reactivated and added to the post-season roster.

So, like I said, the Yankees certainly have needs. The problem is there doesn’t seem to be anyone available in the trade market that can fill those needs. There’s been a lot of discussion regarding Ubaldo Jimenez, but the Rockies
asking price (3 or 4 of the Yanks blue chip prospects) is insane. Jimenez had a terrific first half of 2010. Otherwise, he’s a sub-.500 pitcher with a career ERA of 3.87 – while pitching in the offensively challenged NL West. If Brian Cashman adds him at tomorrow’s deadline, I’ll be underwhelmed. The other starters rumored to be on the market also aren’t overly impressive. They range from the oft-injured Erik Bedard to the recalcitrant Hiroki Kuroda
to baseball’s version of a spoiled two-year old, Carlos Zambrano. In short, barring some sort of unexpected blockbuster, there simply isn’t anyone available who provides an upgrade over what the Yanks currently have on hand.

In terms of bullpen help, the Yanks are certainly looking for a left hander – but good luck finding anyone. The Orioles probably want to rid themselves of Mike Gonzales and his bloated contract, but he has had zero success in the AL. The A’s might be willing to part with Brian Fuentes, but I can’t imagine the Yankees assuming around $8.5 million in contract for a guy who has actually been worse against lefties than Logan. The only other name I’ve seen available is the Cubs John Grabow. Like Fuentes and Gonzales, he’s been more piñata than pitcher.

So, there you have it. Unlike past deadlines, this one is looking pretty quiet for the Yankee front office.

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For the past 2 ½ seasons, we Yankee fans have been on the Jesus Montero hype train, with appetites whetted by amazing tales of baseballs launched into orbit by the 21 year old phenom’s bat. Last season, we were shocked when we learned that Montero was nearly sent to Seattle for Cliff Lee. I think the shock was even more palpable when we discovered the reason the deal fell through wasn’t Yankee reservations about dealing the stud prospect. It was Brian Cashman‘s reluctance to send along Eduardo Nunez.

Still, entering this past offseason, the general assumption was that Montero would be joining the Yanks for 2011, sharing catching duties with Jorge Posada and perhaps Francisco Cervelli. Instead, Cashman signed Russell Martin. Martin has been solid this season – especially defensively. And that’s where the story of Jesus Montero seems to constantly wind up – with his defense, or rather, lack of defense. We all watched Jesus demonstrate how not to play catcher during Spring Training and further solidify the case that Montero actually projects to more of a Victor Martinez type – good bat, but his best defensive position is the bench.

And if that’s the case, he becomes a luxury for most teams: in the NL, he has nowhere to play. In the AL, he locks up the DH spot.

To make matters worse, the occasional rumors about his mental make-up seem to be holding true. He was recently benched for “attitude problems.” He seems to be taking his defensive struggles and expectations into his at-bats. So far at AAA this year, he’s hitting .283 with only a .747 OPS – or around 125 points lower than last year. More worrisome, his strike out percentage is higher: 22% this year from 17.7% last season while his power numbers are way down. Last year, he homered once every 24 plate appearances. This year, it’s once every 44. It has to concern the Yankees that this supreme talent may not be able to get his head into the game.

We’re now a year later and already Montero’s name has come up in trade rumors. Once again, the Yankees seem more willing to deal him than other top-flight prospects – and he recently dropped out of the top five baseball prospects for the first time since 2009. The organization obviously has reservations about his ability at the big league level, otherwise we wouldn’t have Cervelli on the ML roster. (Or Martin, for that matter). If he survives the trade season still wearing Baby Pinstripes, he will need to perform over the second half of the season and then show something in September with the big club. If not, I suspect will be gone this offseason in some package or another. And we’ll remember Montero the way we remember other über prospects who were never able to realize their full potential, from Ken Phelps to Roberto Kelly.

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Alex Rodriguez will have knee surgery tomorrow, and expected recovery will take about 4-6 weeks, reports Anthony McCarron of the NY Daily News.

This was the smart move to make. It’s very important for this club to have a healthy Alex Rodriguez in the lineup going down the stretch. There’s no need to take any chances with him.

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As I’m writing this, the Yankees are in first place, 2 ½ games ahead of the hated Red Sox.

Stop to think about that for a second. Despite all of the injuries and preseason prognostications calling Boston the greatest team since the ’27 Yanks, It’s the Yankees who have the best record in the league. So much for predicting baseball, eh?

So how did we get here? And what about the next 84 games – can they keep it up?

CC and the 7 Dwarves

The starting rotation, if unspectacular, has been steady. That CC Sabathia  (10-4, 3.25 ERA) would turn in a typical ace-like season was not in much doubt. But when Phil Hughes broke camp without a fastball or command, an already shaky rotation seemed destined for trouble. Instead, AJ Burnett (8-6, 4.05) has seemingly put last season’s demons on hold, Freddy Garcia (7-6, 3.28) keeps junkballing his way to wins, Ivan Nova (7-4,4.26) has gotten progressively better as the season has moved into the summer and Bartolo Colon (5-3, 3.10) found the fountain of youth. Even journeyman Brian Gordon has turned in a couple of credible starts. With Hughes and Colon due back from the disabled list within the next week, the Yanks still may not have a “name” #2 guy, but the team won’t suffer from a lack of credible rotation options in the second half.

Mo and the other 7 Dwarves

At the beginning of the year, the bullpen was supposed to be the best in baseball. And it started out that way. But Pedro Feliciano was injured before camp even opened. Then Rafael Soriano (1-1, 5.40) followed up an erratic first month by hurting his elbow. Joba Chamberlain (2-0, 2.83) needed Tommy John surgery. Suddenly, a lock-down bullpen had holes everywhere except closer, where the ageless Mariano Rivera (1-1, 1.72, 21 SV) remains incomparable. Stepping into the breach has been Houdini’s reincarnation, David Robertson (1-0, 1.11) and a bunch of guys that barely earned a mention in the media guide: Hector Noesi, Luis Ayala, Buddy Carlysle, Lance Pendleton, Cory Wade, Jeff Marquez, Kevin Whelan, Amauri Sanit. Even the much-maligned Boone Logan has managed to become effective lately. Here, too, reinforcements are on the way, as Soriano looks to be ready by mid-July. And just to add to the laugh factor, yesterday the Yankees re-acquired Sergio Mitre.

The EVIL Home Run

Call it a sign of baseball experts not being as expert as they thought. A common refrain is that the Yankees hit too many home runs. Maybe I’m thin-skinned, but I take it to mean that the Yankees “cheat” because they do what they do best: hit home runs. They lead the majors in homers (115), runs scored (416) and OPS (.793). If the rest of baseball is jealous simply because the Yankees sport an offense that means they’re never out of a game, let them eat (AJ) pie. Oh, and for all of those NL “small ball” types: the Yanks are third in steals, with 71.

What probably scares the bejeezus out of the rest of baseball is that as good as the offense has been, it hasn’t really clicked on all cylinders yet – even though it’s beginning to heat up. While Curtis Granderson (.276, 21, 56, along with a ML leading 70 runs) is having an MVP type year and Mark Teixeira leads the majors with 24 homers, Nick Swisher (.250, 10, 43) and Jorge Posada (.240, 9, 27) have just started to hit over the past couple of weeks. Derek Jeter (.260, 2, 20) was playing old before his injury and Alex Rodriguez (.299, 13, 51) still hasn’t recovered his power stroke. Robbie Cano (.289, 14, 49) is hitting 30 points under last season.

The Manager

I’ve never been a fan of Joe Girardi. I probably never will be. But I have to give credit where it’s due and this season, Girardi deserves mention for Manager of the Year. He has stumbled a couple of times, but for the most part he has managed to string together enough oddball pieces to keep this team playing better than the sum of its parts.

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Have the Yankees upset Jobu? If last night’s game is an indicator, than maybe they have.

The other day I posted about the Yankees all-or-nothing offense and pointed out who I think are the three main culprits behind the inconsistency: Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner and Jorge Posada. As I mentioned, I’m not so worried about Jeter and Gardner is fine in the 9th spot in the order. However, Posada is positively killing the team right now. Mike Axisa at RAB also has a piece on Posada’s horrible season thus far.

Since that article posted, I’ve received numerous comments through Facebook
and Twitter
about other Yankee sluggers who haven’t done the job lately. Their lack of production is, as far as I can tell, more due to messed up mechanics than anything else. Has Alex Rodriguez slumped terribly over the past ten games? Sure – and if you watch his at-bats, you notice his head flying open before the bat head on breaking balls. Nick Swisher? From the left-hand side, Nick is holding his bat lower and diving into the plate too much; he can’t get decent wood on anything on the inner half.

The point is, every major leaguer in history has had slumps. 98% of them make their peace with Jobu and resume hitting. The rest end up behind the counter at your local Wendy’s.

I strongly suspect that the Yankees principle culprit is plain old exhaustion. They’re in the middle of a stretch where they will play 32 games in 33 days. That kind of grind will take its toll on anyone. Which brings up a point not totally off kilter that I’ll expand on in a later post, the decline in offense generally (overall AL OPS is at .714, 20 points lower than last season and 62 points lower than in 2006). I personally think it has to do with two things: the number and quality of pitchers each team carries –and the number of quality reserves on each team’s bench. Stay tuned…

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The Yankee offense has been both exciting and frustrating over the first 5 weeks of the season. Exciting, because they’re mashing home runs like it’s 1961 again. Frustrating, because they seem to leave runners on the bases every inning.

Three players have particularly drawn attention due to their offensive liabilities: Brett Gardner and two Yankee stalwarts, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Of the three, Jeter is the one I’m least concerned about. First, if you look at him in terms of playing his position, he still rates as a top 5 shortstop. Yes, the numbers this season (.276 BA, .331 OBP) are far from the numbers Jeter has put up over his career. But if anyone honestly thought he was still a .320 hitter at age 37, they probably need a good psychiatrist. Here’s how Jeter stacks up with other AL shortstops right now:

Jeter is 2nd in batting average, 4th in on-base and 5th OPS. This list also represents only those AL shortstops who have amassed at least 100 plate appearances – something has to be said about durability. Note that none of the other players on the list have hit their 30th birthday yet. The other reason I’m not worried about Jeter is who knows how the chase for 3000 is affecting him? I doubt the added stress is helping. Let’s see how he does after hit #3000 is in the books before passing judgment.

We may be seeing all we’re ever going to see out of Gardner: a guy who can fly but lacks aggressiveness, both at the plate and on the basepaths. Working a count is one thing, but taking strike one on fastballs down the middle is ridiculous. As is his approach on the bases: great basestealers don’t read pitchers; they force pitchers to read them. Maybe the Yankees can hire Rickey Henderson as a special instructor and have Gardner hang out with him for a couple of weeks. If he doesn’t go completely insane, he may just pick up some of Rickey’s attitude.

That leaves us with Jorge. I’m afraid that Posada may be done and we’re seeing the death throes of a terrific career unfold before our eyes. I wouldn’t be so worried about him except for this: Posada has always demolished pitchers in April and May during his career; slumped badly in June and July and then picked it up as the playoffs approached. But this year’s numbers look nothing like a typical Jorge Posada April and May:

The drops from a typical Posada season to this one are alarmingly extreme: he strikes out more often and when he hits the ball, it’s without much authority. The result is the 130 point drop in batting average and 261 point decline in OPS. While he is homering more frequently, this looks more like the career of Rob Deer than Jorge Posada. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so lost at the plate, lunging at breaking pitches and unable to catch up to fastballs. Maybe the switch to full-time DH this year affects him more than he lets on. Regardless, I doubt either Joe Girardi or the front office will put up with this for too much longer, and I would hate to see one of the all-time greats go out on such a sorry note.

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