Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hook 'Em, By George

This much we know about the current state of the New York Yankees: The numbers are ugly and there's no sign that things are gonna get better. In fact, all the omens are pointing to a wasted year in Los Bronx. The players seem to know it, the owner can sense it, and the fans can feel it in their bones.

What a difference a week makes! Last Wednesday night, after winning the rubber game of the Boston series, the Yankees were rightly feeling optimistic about their playoff chances. But after another lost weekend against the Damned Angels and then an alarmingly non-competitive opening-series-game loss in Toronto, it sure looks like 2007 will go down as one of those cursed seasons. The injuries cannot be overcome as before. All the bad personnel decisions have come home to roost.

On the rare occasions when the hitters hit, the pitchers don't pitch, and vice versa. The managers and coaches -- the collective "brain trust" -- have more often than not exacerbated things. At this point the jury is out on the effectiveness of bench coach Don Mattingly and pitching guru Ron Guidry: having a successful former career as a Great Yankee Player is no guarantee of Future Coaching Success, as it is so sagely worded in the cover-your-ass parlance of mutual funds and stock portfolios. Joe Torre, never the most adept at handling a pitching staff, has lost what little touch he had. Managing in the American League all these years, on most days his biggest decision was when to bring in Mariano to protect a lead. This year all Joe's flaws have been on display for all to see, and folks it hasn't been pretty. Joe has mismanaged the pitching staff this year to an absurd degree -- using Andy Pettitte in relief twice this young season already being only the most obviously boneheaded stratagem thus far employed.

This weekend alone Torre made what turned out to be the wrong decision on two starting pitchers, taking Mike Mussina out Sunday against the Blue Jays after one out and one on in the 7th, on one of those rare days this season when Moose had his stuff working. The day before, he takes out Tyler Clippard after only four innings, despite a bullpen that is overworked and undependable, a deadly combo that shows no signs of righting itself.

"I probably could have thrown a few more," said a sullen Mussina after the game, having thrown only 95 pitches. Torre, showing his usual deft touch this year, hands the ball to Scott Proctor, who proceeded to issue a pair of bases loaded walks, handing the game to the Angels 4-3. Good teams do not lose games in this fashion. Not regularly, as the Yankees have this year, or else they simply cease to be good teams. Instead, these kinds of teams fall seven games under .500, and drop 13 1/2 games out of first place. Even the umpires joined in on the misery, making a series of hideous game-turning calls against the Yankees over the past week.
On Friday night, Torre lifted Clippard after only four innings and 76 pitches. Clippard, making only his second start, was anything but sharp, but he had given up only three runs, so why not let him work his way through another few innings? It seems Joe couldn't resist trotting out his bullpen, and who can blame him when he can make the call to such stalwarts as Matt DeSalvo (21 pitches, 9 strikes), Luis Viscaino (29 pitches, 12 strikes), Ron Villone, Mike Myers and Scott Proctor. Myers is an awful pitcher at this stage of the game; I'd rather have the actor Mike Myers coming out of the pen. Proctor is slightly above-average but is already overworked less than a third of the way into the season. Last year Proctor appeared in a mind-blowing 82 games, which I believe was a record for appearances by a reliever; this year he's on pace to perhaps surpass that total, having appeared in 26 games already out of the Yankees total of 49.

So the Yankees find themselves in the midst of a make-or-break road trip that takes them to Toronto, Boston and then Chicago to battle the White Sox. They're already 13 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, tied for last place in the AL East. The owner has put the GM on notice, the manager knows he's sitting squarely on the proverbial hot seat, the team is pressing, its confidence shot, and across town the Mets are making headlines for all the right reasons. And if you think the Mets own the back pages of the City's heinous tabloids now, wait till Pedro Martinez comes back in a month or two!

It would take two or three vintage Roger Clemens to get this old battleship turned around and pointed in the right direction, and since full-fledged cloning is at least a good year, year-and-a-half away, it looks like this is the army the Bronx Bombers are going to have to go to battle with for the rest of the year. All the bad karma has come crashing down upon the Yankees in a headlong rush of ill will, poor timing and rotten luck. It's probably too late to salvage this season, but perhaps out of the ashes of this disaster, something good will arise. And since you can't fire the team, you don't have to be the Amazing Kreskin to know what's coming next. Brian Cashman, you may not want to buy any green bananas for the office this week. And who knows: by the time the Yankees complete the last leg of the Subway Series in a few short weeks, there may be a new skipper bringing out the lineup card and exchanging greetings with Mets' manager Willie Randolph -- the guy who should be managing the Yankees right now.


Vincent said...

Boy you jumped off that Band Wagon in a hurry !!!

So who do i root for ? Between Red Sox and Mets I have to to say i will go with the Red Sox I know its an awful thing to say but I can't watch the Mets win. or do i go off the Radar Lets go Brewers ????

When does Mini-Camp Start ??

Wardens World said...

Yeah, I got off the bandwagon in a hurry. Tough call, tho. Hope Atlanta or Philly gets hot to challenge the Metsies. Root for a nice season ending injury to David Wright or Jose Reyes. Someone will knock them outta the playoffs and the whole year will be a waste, just like last year, while some of their key players get another year older -- Glavine, Pedro, Wagner, Delgado. I agree with you that I hate the Mets more than the Sox. Back in '86 I rooted for Boston! Don't worry: Football will be here before you know it. Is this the most boring NHL & NBA playoffs ever?!