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Panic!
2005-04-17 17:07
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

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.

Comments
2005-04-17 19:28:44
1.   markp
Panic in the streets of London
Panic in the streets of Birmingham.
Sorry.
I have a question: will a few more losses cost Torre his job? If so, I'm all for it.
Back to reality. While I'm not as down on Womack as a lot of other people, if he dips very far below Mendoza and Cano continues to tear up AAA, will someone insist... Nah, nevermind.
I guess Yankee fans will have to hope the sheer talent on the team is enough to overcome the sheer mismanagement from Torre and Stott (Jeff Weaver did what?)
2005-04-17 19:45:48
2.   claybeez
Unfortunately, I've witnessed most of the losses on the baseball package. Today, I had the chance to observe an incredibly lackluster Yankee team in person. It wasn't a lot of fun, with tens of thousands of O's fans in a frenzy of bloodlust. It was horrible.

What's clear - to me, anyway:
1. Womack, besides his ineptitude with the bat is an horrific fielder. His misplays, while not scored as errors, cost us dearly.

2. A-Rod is at his best in non-pressure situations. He does not have the make up of some of his teammates, say Jeter, for example.

3. The pen is old and, well, old. There is not one arm to be counted on for a shutout inning...so far.

4. Giambi is an albatross, in every way imaginable.

5. We do need speed - but, in the OF to aid our slow corner outfielders.

6. The team lacks youth. It needs potential. It needs energy. It needs all these things badly.

7. I love Bernie and Tino, but, it just ain't happening.

8. Stottemyre should leave - Now!

9. Polanco and Beltran would be useful.

2005-04-17 19:57:47
3.   rilkefan
How did Crosby's at-bats today look?
2005-04-17 20:34:54
4.   NetShrine
12 games.
75% of them started by Unit, Moose, and Pavano. 25% by Wright and Brown.

Unit was only Unit in one of his three games. Pavano was good in just one of his three games. Wright was good in only one of his two. Brown pitched today like it was Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

Torre always says that it comes down to pitching. If the SP would have been better, then A-Rod the master of the "K, F8, K, F8" in game scorecard, and all the other non-productive bats, and the bullpen, wouldn't matter.

I think it's time to wish Mel an early retirement. If the team doesn't respond to that warning shot, then perhaps nothing will work.

The question is: Who can replace Mel?
I would go radical - make Girardi the pitching coach and tell Joe "You're making a ton of money, do you really need a bench coach?" And, see what happens.........

2005-04-17 20:37:27
5.   seamus
rilkefan, Crosby was awful if Sterling and Waldman are to be believed. Waldman blamed rust which is believable.
2005-04-17 20:59:06
6.   brockdc
It's still VERY early. This Yankees squad will bounce back to have a decent year, possibly even make the playoffs for the eleventh straight season.

Still, I had an epiphany today. My girlfriend - a casual baseball fan at best - was watching the game with me. Halfway through, she said (and I quote), "How come the Yankees players are all so old - except for that Bubba guy?" Food for thought.

2005-04-17 21:04:55
7.   brockdc
One more thing:

I know this is blasphemous from a Yankee fan's standpoint, but if for some crazy reason this team is out of it come July (and I don't think they will be), I wouldn't have a problem with Cash unloading a few superstars (if anyone will take 'em) for some talented prospects. The hard truth is, at some point we're going to need to start rebuilding this farm system.

2005-04-18 00:09:05
8.   Cliff Corcoran
Wow! That headline wasn't an order, but if it was you'd have done me proud. The Yanks have played just two teams this year and split with one of them, the one that just happened to be the defending World Champs. Calm down.
2005-04-18 01:59:33
9.   debris
Before the season started, all the sportswriters picked the Yanks to win, even those from the Boston Globe. All the statheads at BP picked the Sox. Yankee Fan Joe Sheehan even picked the Yankees to miss the playoffs. What they pointed out has come to pass.

Womack has a .319 career obp. Did Cashman think he bacame a hitter at age 34? Tino, Giambi, and Bernie are a shadow of their former selves. They have no batspeed left.
Posada is a 34 year old catcher who has averaged an ungodly 485 abs the last 5 years. A sudden and rapid decline would not be surprising?

The bullpen is old and tired. While I expect Mariano to return to form, who's going to pitch in front of him?

Pavano and Wright are unproven with but one good year each to their credit. Why did Cashman take a 39 (now 40) year old guy with a $15 million contract, a bad attitude, and a chronic back problem?

The two biggest problems with this team are Cashman and Stottlemyre. Name one pitcher in the Stottlemyre era who was a better pitcher for the Yankees than he was before he came to NY?

Meanwhile, the only undefeated team in baseball is the Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox AA), who just won their 10th game. Hanley Ramirez is hitting .381, Dustin Pedroia is hitting .412. Their pitching prospects are pitching the lights out

2005-04-18 03:31:16
10.   Murray
So, I left for Europe on Sunday, April 3, 2005 at 5pm and got back yesterday afternoon. What did I miss?
2005-04-18 04:43:26
11.   Simone
Panic much?! It is real early and the Yankees will turn it around. They just need some solid starting pitching efforts. Of course, it would help if Giambi would start to hit and A-Rod would get a damn hit when a man is on base.

Joe Sheehan said when the Red Sox were struggling in the middle season that they wouldn't make the playoffs and we all know how that turned out so it is saft to say that his word isn't gospel.

2005-04-18 05:15:13
12.   Nick from Washington Heights
"Name one pitcher in the Stottlemyre era who was a better pitcher for the Yankees than he was before he came to NY?"

Tanyon Sturtze. Boo ya!

Let's relax, but if they get swept by the Rays, let's flip over cars and set things ablaze.

2005-04-18 05:41:32
13.   Beth
I think age is the biggest problem on both the Yankees and the Red Sox. Both teams have spent too much on older FAs and have not seen their farm systems come to much fruition of late (or, they've traded away valued prospects for older free agents).
2005-04-18 05:48:03
14.   Alex Belth
Joe Torre is not going to be fired. You can take that to the bank. If the Yanks missed the playoffs this year and then started off poorly next year, then I could see him getting fired. But Torre will get a pass if the team bombs. Do you really think Torre has been the difference so far?
2005-04-18 06:00:32
15.   Alex Belth
Weird week coming up too. Two against the Rays at home, then two in Toronto, then back home for three v. the Rangers.
2005-04-18 06:04:46
16.   Alvaro Espinoza
Few items to remember:

- it's April 18th as of this writing. April 18th!!!

- even if Womack (please stop complaining about this guy) hits to the tune of .220/.305/25 and boots 15 gb's, this $200mil juggernaut is still supposed to win the pennant. 2nd basemen DON'T win championships and they certainly don't lose them for you. Did they goof on the entire 2B off-season situation? Yes. Does he look bad at the plate and in the field? Yes. Get over it. You're stuck with him. The other 8 all-stars are supposed to make up for his deficiencies and Yankee fans whining about Womack is what gives Yankee fans a bad name. Talk about spoiled...

- More of an aside: How much of a bad-ass hitter is Tejada? Does anyone hit lasers the opposite way w/ the gusto this guy does? He's a pleasure to watch hit.

- Torre: Been more down than up on Torre since Game 2 of the 2002 ALDS. Regardless, while I'd love to see an attitude adjustment on this team including more aggressive play (steal more bases, some chin music to an opposing batter), these guys still have to perform. As a whole, they're not. Hence the record.

- No news here: if the pitching comes around, everything else falls into place. Give it some time to breathe and find its groove. In 2 weeks, even a month, look back at all this chatter and you may be embarrassed by the hysterics.

Go Yanks!

2005-04-18 06:24:03
17.   Dan M
We all cringed when Stott said, "Retiring?? I never told anyone I was retiring" over the winter. It's time for Neil Allen (who, Cliff, may have been the unrecognized man in the Sheffield ruckus. As the bullpen coach, he would've had the opportunity to be there in a hurry) to take over.
2005-04-18 06:46:48
18.   Alex Belth
I agree, Tejada is a pleasure to watch hit. He's my pre-season MVP pick (my sleeper would be Vernon Wells). He looks like a hacker, but he's got great plate coverage and it's impressive how hard he can hit the ball the other way. When he's hot, he's a really tough out. Plus, he's in the prime of his career. Is there any shortstop that that's even close to him right now?
2005-04-18 06:48:30
19.   Alex Belth
Also, I'm not as worried about the starting pitching as I am about the bullpen.
2005-04-18 07:11:56
20.   Cliff Corcoran
It has been confirmed that the overzealous bullpenner was Tanyon Sturtze. The good news is Allen is already working with the pitchers on their mechanics etc.

Meanwhile, Tejada is phenomenal and I can't stand him.

2005-04-18 07:31:58
21.   Simone
Yep, it was Tanyon. If there is fight, one can count on Tanyon to do his part whatever he deems that to be. You could see someone grabbing his jacket and pulling him away before he jumped into the stands.

I can't stand Tejada either. I'll never forget him as an Athletic stopping to argue with the ump in that ALDS against the Red Sox. Low baseball intelligence and juiced baseball players are Oakland's legacy to the game.

2005-04-18 08:06:20
22.   jkay
The difference so far has been the bullpen. If Mo and Gordon get the job done, the team is 8-4 or 7-5.
2005-04-18 09:01:08
23.   Alex Belth
Simone,
I think Tejada has matured a good deal as a player. Also, it's that's a short-sighted statement about the A's. I'm guessing you are commenting about the Bash Brothers-Giambi A's teams. Well, the recent Oakland teams will be remembered quite well for Sandy Alderson and Billy Beane and three very good starting pitchers. Oh, and the A's will also be remembered for one Charlie A. Finely and that little feat of winning three straight World Championships.
2005-04-18 09:14:57
24.   Pete
Wow, Jon Leiber is 3-0 for the Phils?
2005-04-18 09:58:09
25.   JohnnyC
Let's stop fetishizing Torre already. He's been manager for ten years, the last four have been burnouts in the post-season (spectacularly in 2004). Is it disrespect to see him as a fallible human being whose time has come and gone with this Yankee team? Is it unreasonable? I am beyond blaming Cashman for Torre's own failings. Was it just me who saw this year's Spring Training as yet another iteration of Torre's complacent management style? Instead of gathering the best 25 man roster he could muster (which would have included the youth and speed the team sorely lacks), he continues to be "surprised" when his aging pitching staff and bench...age before his very eyes. He panics before we fans or George does. What's with the ever-changing line-ups, the "resting" of players in first two weeks of the season, and the mind-numbing pitching changes which contradict each other each succeeding day. I thought Spring Training was for getting to know your squad not early bird specials at the Tampa IHop.
2005-04-18 10:21:05
26.   markp
I was trying to be funny. I really don't think Torre has much to worry about. (The Boss has done stranger things, tho'...)
I also realize that, barring injury, Womack will play 140+ games and Sanchez most of the rest. Cano can hit 500 in AAA and it'll mean diddly. I agree that the problem isn't Womack. He's basically Cairo with more speed.
I do think Torre's misuse of the bull-pen has long been a serious issue and seems to have gotten about as bad as it can be in 2003 and remained that way right through to the present. He's the anti-Earl Weaver: he gets along with everyone, players (and especially the media) love him, and he can't manage his way out of a wet paper bag. (Earl was universally disliked, got along with no one, and could manage his butt off.
2005-04-18 12:31:05
27.   Cliff Corcoran
I bash Torre with regularity over details, but I honestly believe that he's a good manager in the big picture. I even think he's pretty solid at in-game decisions (I remember an instance in the 1999 ALCS when he tricked Jimy Williams into emptying his bench over one at-bat end Joe wound up getting the match-up, and result, he wanted - I was so impressed I wrote it down . . . somewhere). But he does have his faults, and they have become glaring as there has become less room for error on his roster (which is in part his fault, though he did get the Bubba/Rolls/Glanville thing right).

JohnnyC, as for resting players this early in the season, you can't wait until the players get worn down before you rest them. You rest them consistantly to keep them from ever getting worn down in the first place. I'm very pleased with Joe starting Bubba and Flaherty once a week and mixing up Tino and Giambi (though I wish Sierra didn't play into it), that will make Bernie, Jorge and Giambi more effective down the stretch.

2005-04-18 16:00:14
28.   brockdc
Stupid digression:

Who would you LEAST like to see Mo face in the bottom of the ninth, with a one-run lead:

A. Tejada
B. Ortiz
C. Damon

2005-04-18 21:25:20
29.   Cliff Corcoran
Mueller. Of your three, Tejada.
2005-04-18 23:01:39
30.   brockdc
Damn. Forgot to add Jorge Cantu to the list.

Mueller doesn't scare me. He should because he wrecks Yankee pitching, but, COME ON - he can't even pronounce his own last name!

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