Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Price You Pay For The Life You Choose

Coming home on Amtrak Saturday night, I kept hearing on an endless loop, the voice of my friend/enemy and fellow Yankee fan Willie aka General Zod. He was yelling in my ear
...."Darth, you jinx. Stay away from my team! Stop going to see my team on the road! Give up your season tickets!! I beg you! Go jinx the Mets! Stay away!"

That's what I hear whenever he hears that I attended a traumatic Yankee loss. Now as you've probably figured out, I attend a lot of Yankee games. Probably about 20 plus home games and three to five road games a year. In the seven years that I've decided to travel, I've seen far more wins than losses. Hell, of the 20 plus Yankee road games I've seen, I can only count six losses. Two at Camden Yards (2000, 2005), one at Dodger Stadium (2004), one at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati (2003...they won the next night) and two at Shea (2004,2005).

You think any of that matters? Hell, no. This bitter hen-pecked shell of a once proud Yankee fan (who now lives in Cubbie-land) kills me whenever he hears that I've witnessed a loss. It doesn't matter that he kills me 'cause he's jealous. It still burns my arse.

So when I had to witness firsthand that monumental collapse Saturday....I had his annoying voice ringing through ears the entire time home. It's not often when a loss showcases everything that's wrong with a team. But Saturday and Sunday was definitely one of those times. What can I Michael Corleone said, "This is the price you pay..for the life you choose." If I'm gonna continue on this sports oddysey, some haters are going to materialize now and then.

Offense: I've written in the past that the Yankees still have enough offense to win games. But here's how you miss Sheffield and Matsui. The Yankees would have scored two touchdowns or more against the pitching Saturday with them in the lineup. Why? Because there's a difference between having a good lineup that can score five or six runs a game and having an relentless one that's capable of batting around in an inning several times in a game. That's what the Yankees had with Sheff and Godzilla in there. On a day where your starter is lacking, it doesn't matter, because the other side is so demoralized that you just dropped 10 runs on them in an inning. And it's only the fourth. When the back of your rotation isn't giving you length and your bullpen is spent. You better have guys that can put runs on the board. Which leads me to my second point.

Weak back of the rotation: Small's magical run hit a brick wall and he was designated for assignment. It appears that the magic pixie dust or the deal that Shawn Chacon made with the netherworld has run its course. I think he can pitch better than what he did Saturday but he's still not more than a five guy on a good team. Wright's pitching better, but seems to have a mental block when it comes to getting past the sixth inning. Torre says that he's planning on splitting them up in the rotation, so the bullpen's not worn out on consecutive days. Great idea. I'm sure Wang would have applauded the move today. The only positive out of his performance is that he finished the game and the bullpen got a blow. The Yankees actually had a series several years ago at Shea versus the Mets. They were on the verge of sweeping them for the first time. But the bullpen blew a lead in the bottom of the eighth. Torre refused to go with his front-line guys because they were overworked. Cashman made some move to bring some extra arms here. Maybe he can do it again.

Defense: You need no other example than Posada's throw into left field that scored Soriano Saturday. The defense is not to be trusted in close games. Pitching and defense are part of what did the Yankees in last October. If your defense is sub-standard than you better be able to pitch well. And the Yankees don't do either well enough to win consistently against good teams in October.

I still like Farnsworth and Proctor. But not if they're being used every day. Mo is still Mo, but you can't throw him out there to save games that you should have been garbage time wins. What happened on Saturday and Sunday was proff positive that the Yankees should go after another arm for either the rotation or the pen. They need another pitcher far more than another bat. Dotel should help some, but what they need is another starter who can eat some innings (not a big name, just a guy like Livan Hernandez or the sort who has a rubber arm). That way you can move either Chacon or Wright to the pen (Chacon probably, since he has pen experience). That gives you another arm to throw into the mix to give your main three some rest. If you can get a quality top line starter for the right price, fine. But a guy like Hernandez can be a perfect back of the rotation guy like Lieber was in 2004. You don't need perfect games, you need length.

All this Burrell and Abreu talk is sexy talk for the tabloids, but in baseball terms, it's not going to help the Yankees one bit. If I could make one offensive move, I'd get a first baseman with a little pop who has a great glove. Like Olerud in 2004 or Johnson in 2003. You don't need Gehrig, just someone who can keep pitchers honest. And can turn the 3-6-3 DP. That way Giambi can fulltime DH and you maintain strongest team defensively and offensively. I'd love to move Cano to left and get a stronger glove at second. But that's not going to happen for a few years. I can live with Posada behind the plate. He's never going to be Pudge, but he's not a liability either. Jeter's fine at short and I think once A-Rod gets all the clutter from the slump out of his head, he'll be fine in the field.

Speaking of Alex, the last couple of days have kind of answered the questions for me...but I was wondering what side I was going to come down on his situation. Initially, I thought Jeter saying something to the public could help matters, but then I He still has to go up there and hit a 95 mph fastball with movement. Torre's right. He's going to have to work his way out of it. It doesn't matter how the fans or Jeter or anyone else feels about him. He has to go up there and produce. Noone can do it for him. In 1977, Reggie Jackson had his manager and his captain hating his guts. In the end, it didn't matter because he came through when it counted.

All this media talk about how there's still some tension and bad blood between Jeter and A-Rod over comments Alex made about him several years ago....Who cares? I'm sure the Captain is not rooting against him so what does it matter if they're still friends or not? And this lockerroom isn't nearly as bad as the Bronx Zoo of the late 70's.

It looks as if A-Rod is breaking out of this slide and if that's the case, he has the ability to carry a team over an extended period of time. And all this talk about Jeter coming to his rescue will be moot.

And maybe he can save me from another long train ride with General Zod whispering in my ear. I'm just glad I wasn't there on Sunday after Wang's loss. It would have been in Bose surround sound.


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