Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why We Suck

Before I get into my award-winning analysis on why my beloved team sucks ass.... Let me start off by saying that I think there must some folks former Nazi war criminals or Pol Pot type despots in a prevvious life among the regular Friday night fans at Yankee stadium. How else can you explain the rotten luck they've had at home on Fridays the last couple of years?

I went 3-0 at Yankee games last week until I had the misfortune of attending the latest Friday night fiasco against Anaheim. When I think about LA, I think of Princeton. A very strong team fundamentally, but outside of Vlad, there's noone on their team that scares you offensively. These Vlad teams are very different from the team that won it all in 2002.

That team was an impressive offensive team with a so-so rotation and a killer bullpen. This team's rotation is much deeper than in 2002 and their bullpen is still very good. But this team is more of a pesky, opportunistic type team offensively. Kind of like the Cardinals of the 80's. There's no reason why the Yankees don't roll over this ballclub, but it seems that they're in their heads. Losing 3-1 and 4-3 to this team is ridiculous.

Anyhow, here's why I think the Yankees are this close to conceding the division to the infidels and strictly running after the wildcard for the first time in a decade.

Damon, Giambi, Abreu: Forget Jeter, A-Rod and the rest. These are the sparkplugs that make the Yankees go offensively. When we lost Sheffield and Matsui last year, they scuffled a bit at times on offense, but they were able stay afloat because Damon and Giambi were in the lineup despite playing hurt. Damon was the first real leadoff hitter they've had since Knoblauch and Giambi was a great left-handed at bat with power who was a high on base percentage guy. When they acquired Abreu, it enabled them to move Giambi down in the lineup to protect A-Rod, gave the lineup another .300 hitter with a.900 OPS to boot to protect Jeter and Damon.

When those three went south, not only did they lose their main tablesetters, but their protection for Jeter and Alex. It's not coincidence that Alex stopped hitting homeruns once Bobby and Giambi stopped hitting. Pitchers stopped throwing him pitches to hit so he's had to go outside of his zone to get hits. Jeter is Jeter, so he's going to get his. But that's because he doesn't hit homeruns,so pitchers are more willing to pitch to him than Alex. Who cares if he gets a single or double if he's going to be stranded on base? And because Damon and the bottom of the lineup stinks, he's not getting RBI chances either. Losing those three has killed the team's chances to score runs in bunches.

It was the main reason the lineup was even deadlier without Sheffield. Forget all the talk about how it was a mistake to get rid of him. He was a liability defensively and destroyed the chemistry this lineup had in the playoffs when Torre felt compelled to play him at first even though he never played the position on this level. If you got rid of Giambi, then maybe you can keep Gary. But Jason's contract makes him impossible to move and you can't have two DHs of their caliber because you won't have enough at bats.

But Torre, like all of us, fell in love with the idea of a Death Star lineup to face Detroit. The problem was that Sheffield was still very rusty after all the time lost and he did nothing to help their struggles. Matsui was a much better fit when he came back because of his left handed bat and the fact that he's a decent outfielder. Sheff, unfortunately, was a luxury that we could not afford. Torre should have made the executive decision to have Gary come off the bench. Which brings me to my second reason...

Joe Torre
: I know it's sacriledge to some to criticize the man who has brought us to the promised land four times and to the playoffs 11 years in a row. I'm a big fan of the man myself. But let's be honest, we knew weren't getting Sparky Anderson or Casey Stengel. Hell, in terms of in-game strategy, we knew we weren't getting a sober Billy Martin or Lou Piniella. Torre's strengths are his even temperament and his ability to deal with egos as well as his deft handling of Steinbrenner and the media. His in-game managerial have always been average at best. He got away with a lot of things because of the talent on this team and because of Mariano Rivera. But because our team isn't as deep as it once it was and because Mo isn't invincible anymore, Joe's inability to compensate has been exposed time and time again. Let me list a few of the more egregious mistakes he's made this year (Don't get me started on not attempting to bunt against Schilling game 6 2004, or batting A-Rod eighth in game 4 against Detroit. My head might explode.)

I don't fault him taking Mussina out of the game on Sunday. Moose is basically a 100 pitch pitcher at this stage of his career. But if you're going to let him start the inning, you might as well let try to finish. This batter by batter approach is stupid. Pull him before the seventh starts or not at all. No reliever want to be brought in with runners on base.

How is Clippard ever going to learn how to get out of jams if you have him on such a short leash? He gave the team a huge reprieve by beating the Mets in that Sunday night game. We were only down 3-2, why not let him try to keep them in the game? He threw about 75 pitches. Give him another inning. And on top of that, you bring in another rookie who never relieved on this level to replace him? A horrible panic move.

His handling of Mariano and the bullpen has been awful. Save situation or no, you can't have a 37 year old closer not pitch for a week and expect him to be on his game. And the quick trigger he's had with starters when his bullpen was on fumes earlier in the year hasn't helped matters either. It almost seems like he's trying to get fired at times.

I could pile on right now, but what would be the point? A manager is supposed to put a team in the best position to win. When you think about it, a good manager only probably means 10-15 wins a year for a team. Torre has cost us at least five wins. At least. There have been a number of opportunities for Joe put his imprint on the game. But his manage by numbers style clearly isn't working right now. I'm not saying he should be fired. But he needs figure out a way to right this ship.

Banged up pitching:Our pitching was relatively healthy when Sheff and Matsui went down this year. What happened this year was ridiculous. Between Karstens and Rasner's freak injuries, Moose, Wang and Hughes' leg problems and Pavano having reconstructive uterus...I mean elbow surgery, there's no way you can plan for these types of hits to your rotation. I thought we had a pretty solid bullpen when the season began. Now it's hard to tell how good they are with all the problems we've had in the rotation. And now when it looks like we've turned a corner with our pitching, we can't hit the ball out of the infield. We're letting pitchers we've owned in the past like Kelvim Escobar and Oliver Sanchez look like vintage Marichal and Carlton.

We can't lose another series. We do and we're done. More after the game.


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