Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed, as I'm sure all Yankee fans are, by the lack of performance by our team. It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in baseball would start the season in such a deep funk. They are not playing like true Yankees. They have the talent to win and they are not winning. I expect Joe Torre, his complete coaching staff and the team to turn this around.
The above words were issued by George Steinbrenner immediately after today's 8-4 Yankee loss to the Orioles dropped his team to 4-8 on the season, their .333 winning percentage better than only the triple-A squad in Colorado and equal to that of Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay, three teams with a combined 3 winning seasons since 1992 (all by the Royals).
The Yankees 4-8 record is their worst this "late" in the season since 1991, Stump Merrill's last season as Yankee manager, when the team opened 4-8 and finished fifth in the east at 71-91.
After this afternoon's loss, Joe Torre held a closed-door team meeting. The panic button has been pressed. The shit has hit the fan(s). So what's gone wrong? I have no idea.
The Yankees have played 12 games, 6 against Boston and 6 against the Orioles. They split the 6 against the Red Sox and, if not for a Mariano Rivera blown save aided to a great degree by an Alex Rodriguez error, they could have gone 4-2 in those games. Even at 3-3, a split with the Sox, who have been the Yankees equal for the past two seasons and remain so, is just fine.
The problem is the Yankees 1-5 record against Baltimore. Remember, that one win came in part as the result of Hideki Matsui's flared ground rule double behind third that Miguel Tejada lost in the sun last Saturday. The Yanks could easily be 0-6 against Baltimore.
Here's a quick summary of the six games against the O's:
4/8 @ NY: The Yanks score 5, but Jaret wright allows 6 in 4 innings, Steve Karasy allows 3 in the fifth, and Paul Quantrill, Felix Rodriguez and Mike Stanton each contribute a run a piece. 12-5 Orioles
4/9 @ NY: The Yankes score 8 to give Randy Johnson a no-decision and TanGorMo nails down the win with three scoreless innings. 8-5 Yankees
4/10 @ NY: Rodrigo Lopez turns in a gem, holding the Yanks to a run through 8. Carl Pavano gets hit in the head with a line drive and leaves the game in the third. Tanyon Sturtze allows Pavano's two baserunners to score and then allows 3 more of his own before Quantrill tags one on. 7-2 Orioles
4/15 @ Bal: Bruce Chen turns in a gem, holding the Yanks to a run on four hits in a complete game effort. Carl Pavano melts down in the sixth and with help from Felix Rodriguez the Orioles score 7 runs in the inning. 8-2 Orioles
4/16 @ Bal: The Yanks score 6, but Sturtze and Gordon cough up five runs in the seventh. 7-6 Orioles
4/17 @ Bal: Kevin Brown gives up 6 runs in the first two innings. The Yanks claw back to score four, but Quantrill, Stanton and Karsay give up 2 more in the seventh. 8-4 Orioles
Removing the two gems pitched by Lopez and Chen, whom I'm willing to give full credit for their performances, the Yankees scored an average of 5.75 runs in the other four games against the Orioles. Last year the Yankees scored an average of 5.45 runs per game, which was good for second best in the majors. Perhaps they could be hitting better with men on base, but I'm loathe to blame their offense.
The reason the Yankees won just one game against Baltimore is that the Orioles scored an average of 7.83 runs in these six games. By comparison, the Red Sox, who lead the majors with 5.86 runs per game in 2004, have scored an average of just 5 runs in their six games against the Yankees this season.
So do we credit the Orioles' hitting, or criticize the Yankee pitching? In today's game, five of the six runs Kevin Brown allowed came on home runs (a solo shot by Mora and a grand slam by Tejada), but both of those pitches were right where Brown wanted them to be, and both came with two outs. In the postgame show, David Justice said that Brown couldn't have located the pitch that Mora hit out any better. The pitch Tejada hit over the center field fence almost hit him in the knee caps and had some nasty action low in the strike zone. You can't fault Brown for that (though you might be able to fault him for the two walks and the single that loaded the bases in the first place).
On some level I'm tempted to believe the Yankees ran into a hot Oriole team that is better than expected (I'm willing to eat some crow there, though nobody could have expected Brian Roberts to tie his career high in homers in the season's first eleven games, not even his mother). However, such a belief means that the official panic that set in today could do far more harm than good. This team doesn't need to be scolded, it needs to believe it can do better and that the Orioles were a fluke. I'm all for Joe Torre being creative with his line-up (as long as he stops batting Ruben Sierra in the middle three!!!), but the more he tinkers with it, the more harm I think he's going to do. He needs to stick with something for a few games. Let it ride.
More importantly, he needs to stop using his pen according to whom he trusts (TanGorMo pitch with leads, QuanKarRod pitch when behind, Stanton faces lefties in emergencies) and start giving everyone an equal share of the work so that he can figure out who's rusty and who's just not pitching well. Then the Yankees need to eliminate their twelfth pitcher, because with 7 men in the pen, everyone gets rusty because there aren't enough innings to go around, even when the Orioles are scoring nearly 8 runs per game.
Beating the tar out of the Devil Ray's (who share the Yankees 4-8 record) over the next two days wouldn't hurt either. For those optimists out there, Tuesday's game will see Randy Johnson take the mound and tickets in the upper deck and bleachers are $5. I've got mine already.