Monday's front page of Yahoo! Sports displayed a graphic that I believe summarizes what many of us who follow the Yankees are feeling: a midnight-blue coffin bearing the Yankees' top-hat-and-bat logo underneath a banner reading "RIP YANKEES AND PLAYOFFS." Coolstandings.com, a site that calculates each team's playoff chances by simulating the remainder of the season for all 30 MLB teams 1 million times every day, has the Yankees' playoff chances down to 6.6 percent.
With 35 games left—a third of those coming against Tampa and Boston—the now six-game Wild Card deficit is not insurmountable. The Yankees are still mathematically in it, but as the losses aggregate, it's growing difficult to be optimistic about giving Yankee Stadium a proper sendoff with October baseball.
Newsday's Mark Herrmann agreed with that position in his Sunday column, advising fans not to count on a happy ending this season.
Even certain circles of the blogosphere have soured on the team. This from NoMaas on Aug. 17:
Between us declaring that this team won't make the playoffs and the organization failing to sign their 1st-round draft pick, the Yankees aren't exactly holding our interest right now.
Compared to Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and some of the baffling Olympic commentary (Al Trautwig's descriptions of Nastia Liukin stretching were borderline pedophilic, and Andrea Kremer's interviews from the Water Cube have demonstrated that she's out of her element), I'll admit, the Yankees haven't exactly been holding my interest, either. Carl Pavano starting on Saturday has me interested in the team, but not for the right reasons. I'm ready to place the over/under at five innings before Pavano discovers another injury and removes himself from the game.
On the Desperation Meter, Pavano's start isn't close to having Kevin Brown start Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, but Joe Girardi could pencil in "Last Resort" as an alias for Pavano at Camden Yards and few would know the difference. Consider the following paragraphs from Mr. GAK III of the New York Post:
How desperate are the Yankees? Publicly, none of the players spoke despairingly of Pavano re-entering their universe.
"If anything we are excited," Jason Giambi said of Pavano, who has pitched in 19 games in three-plus years and hasn't worked a big league game since last May due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Pavano missed the entire 2006 season with assorted injuries that included a bruised buttock.
"We need a win and he is a guy who can help. I hope we get the real Carl Pavano."
It's fortunate that Pavano is making this start in Baltimore. That may not be enough of a break, however. Without the Olympic coverage that has pushed baseball to mid-section status on some editors' agendas, Pavano will be front and center and a surefire headliner for the Sunday papers. His anxiety level will be high. The stress might have killed him if he was making this start in the Bronx.
Keeping with the Pavano theme, there have been some gems over at NoMaas over the past few days. The pictures alone had me rolling. Having been around the team for some of Pav's early starts and having tracked his progress through the shoulder, buttocks, and car accident/breakup with the Maxim model fiascos, laughter is the most appropriate reaction.
Today's Daily News may have the best take of all. If you haven't had a chance to check out the sports section front online, I've taken the liberty of showing you all the poll they've posted. At last check, 52 percent of voters selected "All of the above."
In all seriousness, though, if this is the real Carl Pavano, he'll make the most of the last six or seven starts of his Yankee tenure and parlay that into a semi-meaningful contract with a mid-level major league team next year. Who knows, that may be enough to help put the Yankees over the hump.
Prior to Thursday, the Knight from Aruba had rattled off six quality starts since returning to the Yankees' major league roster on June 27th. On only one occasion—July 27th vs. Boston—did he not make it through five innings, though he has pitched himself into and out of numerous jams. In his last 10 innings—a timeframe covering his last two outings— Ponson has retired the leadoff man only twice. That precedent, combined with the offense's inability to solve Roy Halladay (they were hitting .197 against him this season prior to Thursday), led to a 14-3 debacle. It was another setback at a time when every game is a pressure-cooker.
The lackluster performance prompted Baseball Tonight's Eric Young to call the team out on a lack of intensity. Young said the Yankees were "flat" and that, "The Blue Jays wanted this game more." Personally, I've always had a problem with the "he wanted it more" opinion. But when a team is outplayed, it's natural to call into question its intensity level, or lack thereof. The Yankees certainly did not play like a team scrapping for a playoff spot.
IS ANYONE ELSE LISTENING TO JOHN STERLING? WAIT, DON'T ANSWER THAT
Ah yes, the familiar caustic pen of Bob Raissman called to attention some of John Sterling's most recent on-air foibles. This is nothing new, but it's fun to check in and look at the latest jabs.
If you were to make a drinking game out of Sterling's miscues (you'd have to have the radio broadcast on while watching the game on TV to truly make this work), you'd be seeing double by the third inning. I just don't understand how people can listen to a Yankee game on the radio and believe there's a) a game going on; or b) entertainment value in the description of said game.
It's not looking good for the Yankees on a number of fronts. October gets closer with each passing day, but it's getting further away at the same time. From a media standpoint, that just means the aftermath will be covered one week earlier than it has been in each of the last three seasons.