Fact: Since 2005, when Brian Cashman supposedly “took control” of the Yankees, the team has gotten, record-wise, progressively worse.
Fact: The Yankees are witnessing a lot of money coming off the books in about two months. Jason Giambi‘s contract, minus an option, will be up. Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte will be free agents. Bobby Abreu will no longer be a ward of the Yankees. The list goes on, but the savings are quite alluring.
So where is this leading? Why, to a discussion, albeit a brief one, on Brian Cashman of course.
With this confluence of circumstances all arriving at the same time on September’s doorstep, the anti-Cashman voices will continue to make their cases. I’ll admit it; right now, these folks have some compelling arguments. The Yankees aren’t very good this year; they’re going to miss the playoffs for the first time since the first years of the Clinton Administration; and the kids — as Melky, Phil and Ian have shown — weren’t really all right.
There are, of course, other reasons for the Yanks’ disappointing season. They’ve been hamstrung by injuries. No one expected Phil Hughes to throw just 22 innings and then come down with an injury. Chien-Ming Wang‘s Lisfranc disaster has resulted in more Sidney Ponson outings than I ever hoped to see. Jorge Posada‘s shoulder problem has been more disastrous than anyone expected, and Hideki Matsui‘s aching knee cost the Yankees these years as well. Now with Joba — nearly the Yankee ace in July — has been MIA for a few weeks, that the Yanks are even as close as they are is a minor miracle.
So as the Yanks head into a stretch drive and a postseason with lots of alluring free agents and lots of money coming off the books, questions abound about the team. Do they keep following the youth movement? Probably. But, as Jayson Stark reported this week, the Yanks plan a full court press on Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and, if they don’t land Sabathia, Ben Sheets. They’re going to spend the money they have available to them.
When all is said and done, it comes back to Cashman. Is his autonomy on the wane? Should he even still be around? I’ve long said yes, and I’ll hold to that position. But the masses are growing restless, and the Yankees will again heading into November have the weight of the world on their shoulders as they look to rebuild and retool for a brand new stadium.
Spare us the pain and suffering. According to an MLB.com Press Release, everyone you wouldn’t want to see, with the exception of Dane Cook, in an MLB commercial will soon be on TV to remind us that “There’s only one October.” If there’s any consolation in the Yanks’ disappointed play this year, it will be avoiding these commercials if our team doesn’t make the playoffs. · (12) ·
Just a heads up, I’m going to hold another chat tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got some errands to run in the morning, but I figure we can get going around 2pm EST. I’ll post a reminder tomorrow with the definite time. Here’s the transcript from the last (and only other) chat we did.
Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Buffalo)
Justin Christian: 1 for 3
Melky: 1 for 4, 1 K – 6 for his last 21 (.286) after an 8 for 20 (.400) start in AAA
Matt Carson: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB – picked off second
rest of lineup: combined 0 for 19, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K – Juan Miranda K’ed three times … Shelley drew a walk & scored the run … Nick Green was hit by a pitch & committed a throwing error
Chase Wright: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 WP, 1 HB, 4-12 GB/FB – 67 of 99 pitches were strikes (67.7%) … that looks like a Dice-K-ian “he’s lucky he only gave up 3 runs” start
Steven Jackson: 0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 WP – only 4 of 12 pitches were strikes (33.3%) … just didn’t have it today
Billy Traber: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-2 GB/FB
While the Yankees are set to open their new stadium against the Indians on April 16, the team is hoping to preview the stadium with a few exhibition games in early April or late March, according to Ed Price. This seems to be a classic case of “monkey see, monkey do” as the Mets announced a similar set-up earlier this week. No word yet on whom the Yanks plan to play, but you can bet those will be some hot tickets. · (7) ·
Unless the stars align and the Yankees and Red Sox both make the playoffs this year, this afternoon’s game between the two rival clubs marked the team’s last meeting in Yankee Stadium. As the Yankees did on Wednesday, April 18, 1923, when they opened the House that Ruth Built, New York emerged victorious over Boston for one final time in Yankee Stadium.
Today’s game, in a way, was a vital one not only for the Yankees but for Mike Mussina too. Moose won his 16th game of the year on August 27, and now he won’t win number 17 until at least September. He’s going to have to be nearly perfect to earn himself that elusive 20-win season.
Of course, it didn’t have to be like that today for Mussina, and for that, we again turn to everyone’s favorite punching bag. With two on and one out in the first, A-Rod struck out. With two on and one out in the sixth, A-Rod fouled out to Jason Varitek. Until the seventh, it just seemed, yet again, like one of those games.
But while Mussina would give up his two runs when he hit the Sox’s number eight batter, so too would the Yanks’ bottom of the order come back to haunt Boston. In the seventh, with two outs, Cody Ransom doubled. He’s now 3 for 4 in his short Yankee career. With Jose Molina due up and Hideki Okajima on the mound, Joe Girardi made the right move. While the lefty-lefty matchup didn’t favor the Yanks, Jason Giambi didn’t care, and he launched a ball into center field. Perhaps sitting Giambi against lefties all year hasn’t been the best strategy.
These runs offered the Yankee faithful a glimmer of hope, but in the 8th, when Girardi started to mix and match pitchers, Mussina lost his chance to walk away with a W. He’ll have to win four starts in September to get there.
In the 9th, the Red Sox seemed destined to tempt fate. With Jonathan Papelbon at the ready, they opted to stick with Justin Masterson instead. Masterson allowed a lead-off single to Xavier Nady, and while Robinson Cano failed to advance the runner, a Brett Gardner stolen base — he’s still alive! — pushed the winning run into scoring position. Hideki Matsui was intentionally walked; Pudge Rodriguez was unintentionally walked. And in came Papelbon.
Once again, the fate of the Yankees rested in Jason Giambi’s skilled hands, and he delivered a sharp single into center field. Jason Giambi 3, Boston Red Sox 2. Game over. Yankees win.
In the end, today’s win prevented the more pessimistic among us from driving another nail into the Yankee coffin. They’re six out of the Wild Card with 29 games to play, and they have to outplay both the Red Sox and whichever team doesn’t win the AL Central. They also need to avoid losing to the Blue Jays’ far superior pitchers this weekend.
But for a day, we can forget, to a point, about these travails. In the last meeting between two archrivals in Yankee Stadium, the home team — our home team — won a thrilling game with a walk-off single, and a first-ballot Hall of Fame pitcher — Mariano Rivera — earned the win. Playoffs or not, during a season in which the Yanks would almost rather have their fans forget about the impending demise of Yankee Stadium, during a season in which the team is sending their stadium off with a whimper instead of a roar, today’s storybook game was one for the ages.
Prior to the Yankees’ afternoon’s walk-off victory over the Red Sox, Joba Chamberlain threw 45 pitches off a mound, and if a batting practice session goes well, he hopes to return to the active roster in a week. The Yanks could really use Joba this season, but they more so need a healthy Joba beyond 2008. I’m sure the team knows what they’re doing with Joba and his valuable arm, but there’s a nagging part of me that would rather be ultra-safe than sorry. Meanwhile, I sure am glad I don’t have to face Joba during batting practice. · (55) ·
Jason Giambi sits today. It’s a lefty. We’re used to this. Thing is, this time it’s a deserved benching. He’s hitting .208/.306/.458 in August. Basically, his greatest trait, the ability to not make an out, isn’t working right now. He’s got some pop, but that’s just not enough.
Chad Jennings gives us a juicy scoop: Al Aceves has been called up. No word yet on the move to get him on the 40-man. I’m guessing they’ll option Robertson. The presumption is that he’ll take Rasner’s start on Saturday. Ras would then move to the bullpen. Hopefully, this is a precursor to Hughes taking Ponson’s start on Monday in Detroit.
The Yanks have placed Carl Pavano on waivers. No doubt he’ll clear. That would give Cash and Co. just a few days to find a trading partner. They’ll get nothing for him at the end of the year, so you might as well get something, anything for him while you can.
The lineup, trying to avoid a sweep:
And on the mound, number thirty-five, Mike Mussina.
Hank Steinbrenner, the outspoken half of the Yankees management team, stopped by the stadium last night to watch the Yanks lose badly to the Red Sox. After the game, he agreed with just about everyone watching in noting that the Yankees sucked. But before the game, he spoke with reporters and all but admitted that CC Sabathia would be the Yanks’ number one priority this off-season. There will be changes, he promised. Who knows what those will be, but it’s bound to make for an exciting off-season. · (65) ·
Lately, we’ve seen Yankees fans fall into two camps. Those who have “given up” on the season, and those who haven’t. I have a question on this front, asked directly in the title: how do fans give up on the season?
We’re not the ones playing the games. It’s not like the Yanks are powered by the number of people who think they’re still in the race. Only the players can give up. You might think that they have. You have no way of knowing, but you can assume, if that’s your bag.
I guess I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what it means for fans to give up. Does it mean you won’t go to any of the remaining games? If that’s the case, you can certainly make a few dollars for your tickets. I know a number of people who would like to see the final games at the Stadium, whether or not the Yanks are contending.
Does it means that you won’t watch on TV anymore? That’s the mark of a real baseball fan right there. Watch your team while they’re winning, stop when they’re out of it. There’s a name for that type of fan. Hootie & the Blowfish know what I’m talking about. If that’s your thing, go ahead.
Does it mean you’re abandoning any expectations? I’m not sure that makes a difference, at least for me. Whether I expect them to win or lose, I still get frustrated when the Yanks fail to score runs, and when their mediocre pitchers give up five runs in four innings. I can tell myself that it doesn’t matter, but lying never got me very far.
Does it mean declaring the season dead? What does that accomplish? What, is the New York Post smarter than everyone else because they put a picture of a tombstone on the back page in mid-August? Is a blogger smarter for saying it’s over, let’s pack it in? I think not. We’re fans. We’re here to watch the team. What fun is it to sulk? How can anyone stand to go through an entire season doing nothing but criticize the team, bitching all the while? That’s not why I watch baseball, at least.
I remember back in ’96, when I was a freshman in high school, everyone started wearing Yanks caps in October. A few friends and I complained about the bandwagon mentality. Well, maybe this is just the kind of purge we need. Get rid of the fans who don’t care enough to watch a season of baseball. Of course, if the Yanks start winning next year, they’ll be back just as if they never left. C’est la vie.
So, I reiterate the question. What does it mean for fans to throw in the towel? Is it symbolic? Do you think it makes you a smarter fan? I’ve always yearned for a crop of smart baseball fans, with whom I could discuss the game with at a reasonable level. I have that with RAB. But if being a smart fan means bitching that the season is over, well, then maybe I got what I wished for — it’s just not what I had in mind.
There’s no need to declare the Yankee season over that. I’ll let David Pinto’s eloquent eulogy carry the day in that regard.
After all, just a year ago, the Colorado Rockies, the NL’s 2007 World Series representative, were 6.5 games out of the Wild Card. The Yankees are down; they’re not playing well; and Joe Girardi, as David Cone opined on the post-game show tonight, doesn’t really know what to do with this group of ballplayers. But until they’re mathematically eliminated, I’m not ready to throw in the towel. They do, however, have a very steep climb ahead of them.
Tonight, the game started and ended with the Yankee pitching. Sidney Ponson got off to a rocky start in the first inning. Before the Yanks had a chance to bat, they were facing a 2-0 deficit, and Ponson didn’t seem to have that sinker working. But Ponson seemed to right the ship for a few innings, and he pitched through the second, third and fourth without incident.
In the fifth, with the Yanks and Red Sox knotted at two, Ponson allowed another two runs, and Joe Girardi quickly yanked him. Again, a Yankee pitcher couldn’t get out of the fifth, and again the bullpen would be called up on for more than four innings of work.
The bullpen wasn’t up for the job. While Edwar Ramirez and Damaso Marte kept things under control, Jose Veras and David Robertson, once again called upon in a situation in which he was nearly obligated to fail, allowed seven runs in the eighth. That would be all for the Yankees.
Ponson allowed 11 baserunners in 4.2 innings. The bullpen allowed seven earned runs in one inning of work while tossing up zeroes in the other 3.1, and when the game ended, it didn’t matter that A-Rod was 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI. It didn’t matter that Jason Giambi blasted yet another home run off Mike Timlin. All that mattered was that Lisfranc injury to Chien-Ming Wang, that reliance on starters that just shouldn’t be here, and an offense that just isn’t doing what it should be doing.
The Yanks are down. But I’m not ready to count them out. Hope springs eternal, even with September growing closer.