I’m not ready to write the obituary for the 2008 Yankees. At least, not yet.
While they’re not going to overcome the 9.5 games separating them from first place in the AL East, they can still make a run at the Wild Card. After all, the team still has a combined nine games against the White Sox and Red Sox, two teams in front of them for playoff spots. They don’t play the Twins, but they do play the Angels and two series against the Rays. That’s a schedule that will force the Yankees to earn a playoff spot and stave off that 2008 season obituary.
Of course, there’s a catch: The Yankees have to start winning, and tonight’s game — a rather discouraging 7-3 loss to the Red Sox — wasn’t a stellar night for boys in the Bronx. The papers tomorrow will begin and end with one man. Alex Rodriguez, at the long end of a season in which he has struggled in the clutch, went 0-for-5 and hit into two double plays. He single-handedly accounted for 26 percent of the Yankee outs and left seven runners on base.
Topping it all off with a throwing error, Alex drew the boo birds and Bronx cheers long into the night. When he grounded into a double play with one out and the bases loaded in the 7th, the crowd expressed its collective, season-long frustration with an underperforming team. When, fittingly on this night, A-Rod struck out to end the game, whatever was left of the 55,058 fans who paid for this game booed perfunctorily. I guess they meant it.
For better or worse, though, the Yankees will rise and fall with A-Rod. Tonight’s game was a rather drastic illustration of that point, and while maybe tonight, for one night, it’s ok to boo Alex Rodriguez, he’s going to be around for the next nine years. The Yankee brass may be, according to Jon Heyman, very skeptical of A-Rod’s extracurricular activities. But they knew what they were getting when he inked his name in blood on that $275 million contract. Until death do us part.
After the game ended, Joe asked me if this was the worst game of A-Rod’s career or just the worst game of his five-year tenure on the Yankees. While Game Six of the 2004 ALCS comes to mind, at least A-Rod can only go up from there. I hope.
But forgetting A-Rod for a second, another Yankee didn’t come through when the team needed him most tonight. That man — Andy Pettitte — will get a pass in the papers tomorrow but only because of A-Rod. Coming off a strong outing in Toronto, Pettitte couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning. He needed 101 pitches to record just 18 outs, and along the way, he allowed six runs on 10 hits and three walks. The Yankees needed more from Pettitte, and the lefty just didn’t come through.
So now, the Yankees will turn to Sidney Ponson, and that is never a comforting thought. Ponson as a Yankee faced the Sox at the end of July, and the results were not pretty. But that obituary just isn’t ready to go, and the Yanks shouldn’t be ready to give up. Tuesday’s game wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was probably one of the worst of the season. But later on tonight, the Yanks play again for another shot at narrowing that October deficit. There’s always more hope.