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Yankee Panky #11: Prolonging the Inevitable
2007-05-29 11:15
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Is 50 games too small of a sample to determine whether the Yankees are done? With a deficit of 13 ½ games in the AL East and 7 ½ in the wild card, is it too soon for the Yankees to be operating in crisis mode? If no, what’s to be done, and is it the function of the media — yes, the bloggers count — to force the issue?

The facts are simple: the Yankees are winless since George Steinbrenner issued his “Big Hook” missive to the Associated Press. Everyone is on notice and on edge. Now more than ever, players are playing to save the jobs of Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, and they know it. It reeks of Old-School GMSIII. What were the odds that the veteran columnists pounced?

Nothing seems to be working. The highly publicized one-hour, closed-door meeting prior to Monday’s game had little effect, with the team limping to a 7-2 drubbing in which they trailed 7-0. In the past, these meetings have worked. On days when Torre has held meetings, the writers would ask players what the message was, and they typically wouldn’t say anything but, “Everyone in this clubhouse respects Joe Torre, and when he speaks, we listen.” Torre’s response in these cases was usually, “These guys are professionals. I shouldn’t have to do too much to motivate them. We’re a veteran ballclub and the guys in there know what we’re about. We just have to start playing better.” You could almost write the quotes beforehand.

Even two years ago, after a 10-game win streak lifted the Yankees from an 11-19 quagmire and they subsequently fell below .500, there wasn’t the sense of dread there is now. And the media didn’t foment the atmosphere. Fan reaction to Torre and Cashman was similar, but in the locker room, there was a clear sense that things would improve. But based on what I’m gathering from the literature and from my contacts still working on the beat, there is a lack of confidence and a sense of vulnerability in that clubhouse that hasn’t existed in a long time. Buster Olney alluded to this on ESPN Radio Monday morning.

(Random ESPN note: Can you be a credible news source when a reasonably objective conversation like that occurs days after a “Joe Must Go” article runs on ESPN.com? Can you have it both ways?)

The Daily News’s Bill Madden has seen this before. He has witnessed firsthand the last two Yankees “dynasty” teams, the lean years and the mediocrity in between. When he says the Yankees are done, it may not be preemptive. When Wally Matthews writes that a turnaround could be based on “blind faith,” he might be right. Steve Lombardi at WasWatching is already reciting the lyrics from Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" to signify the Yankees' demise. There is precedent for Yankee comebacks, but as Derek Jeter has said explaining the recent spate of playoff losses, “this is not the same team.”

Too many guys are hurt. Too many players are slumping simultaneously. Save for Jeter and Jorge Posada, the aggressiveness at the plate with runners in scoring position is nonexistent.

Change is imminent. The question is a matter of “who” and “when,” and not “if.” Will it happen for the sake of change, as Derek Jacques intimates? There is a divide on firing Torre. For every Ian O’Connor article calling for Torre to finish the season and end his tenure with dignity — great hire by the Bergen Record, by the way, stealing him from the Journal News to replace Adrian Wojnarowski — there is a NoMaas.org blog presenting the annoyed fan’s perspective that enough is enough. NoMaas pinned Sunday’s loss to the Angels on Torre, claiming his “neurotic mistrust of his starting pitchers” led to the defeat. Who knows? Maybe it did. Given the bullpen’s performance to date combined with Mussina’s struggles, I’d have tried to let Mussina get through the seventh, if for no other reason than to build confidence. But that’s neither here nor there.

The tabloids rightly played the second-guessing angle to the move, but didn’t go all the way with it. They didn’t ask the follow-up question to Torre’s reasoning behind Proctor being the stopper for that jam. “Proctor has more experience in that situation than Bruney,” Torre said. The beat writers were off on Sunday to get some rest before the road trip, if the backups aren’t familiar with Torre’s moves, the editors certainly are and they need to prep the writers so they can ask questions like: “Did you believe your options from the bullpen were limited in the seventh inning?”, or, “Why not use Rivera there and save Proctor for the ninth if you still had the lead?” It’s wishful thinking that the regulars would ask the question also. It’s frustrating because many of the writers have a high level of baseball acumen, but rarely do they demonstrate it.

Torre’s move gave fans agita and led to boos. Bruney has the highest K/9 ratio on the team and is the only pitcher to not allow a home run this season. Plus, Torre has put him in this situation before. The problem is since neither Bruney nor Proctor has a steady stream of success in such situations, Torre’s options were limited.

I remember three years ago during the June-July Red Sox-Yankees series at the Stadium, Felix Heredia was entered the game in the sixth or seventh inning to face David Ortiz with the bases loaded and the Yankees holding a slim lead. Suzyn Waldman and I were dumbfounded. I asked Suzyn, “Why not being in Rivera or Gordon? This thing could get ugly fast with Heredia.” Her response: “Nope. Joe doesn’t manage like that.” Heredia struck out Ortiz to make my point moot, but I asked Torre if he considered other options in that situation, and he said flatly: “No. If Heredia can’t get a left-handed hitter out in that situation, then he doesn’t belong in the Major Leagues.”

ROGER REDUX
The Roger Clemens watch is now at T-Minus one week, according to the Star-Ledger’s Lisa Kennelly. I was actually impressed with the dual coverage of his Trenton appearance last Wednesday. Steven Goldman provided multiple blogs for YESNetwork.com, Yankees.com and the locals had representatives there as well. It was treated as a bigger story than the actual game taking place in the Bronx.

ESPN Radio in New York broadcast live and had cut-ins to the Thunder’s radio duo, who actually sounded like they cared about the game and wanted to inform fans about the goings-on on the field. They were excited yet understated, and projected a sense of the magnitude of such an event in that franchise’s history. On the Yankees mothership broadcast, John Sterling treated it as an also-ran story, because, “he’s not here.”

Another component to the Clemens story to discuss below: The Yankees have lost eight of their last 11 games and have lost eight games in the standings since the Clemens announcement. The locals are saying Clemens' energy is just what the Yankees need at this point. Do you agree? Or are the Yankees too far gone for him to make an impact?

THINGS TO WATCH THIS WEEK...
• More gasoline being poured on the “Cashman/Torre job status” fire.

• Clemens in Boston (it hasn’t been ruled out).

• The Bostonians preparing the guillotine for the Yankees.

• Mets PR director Jay Horwitz stewing at the fact that the Mets are 15 games above .500 and in first place, and can’t buy a backpage.

Until next week ...

Comments
2007-05-29 12:02:20
1.   Count Zero
Given the difficulty of catching as hot a team as the Red Sox, and the difficulty of winning the AL wild card, I would have to bet that this team's season is already over -- if I had to bet.

However, I also look at this team on paper, and know they are quite capable of playing tremendous baseball over a long stretch with Clemens and Hughes in the rotation. I mean -- Damon is one thing, but does anybody really believe that Abreu has fallen that far in just six months? I believe he's having a bad year, but he's far from done. (Maybe he needs glasses? :-) ) Likewise for Giambi and Cano. One deadline trade for a 1B or CF or DH and this lineup could still be devastating behind a rotation of Wang, Andy, Moose, Clemens and Hughes. Mariano's lack of work to this point could end up a blessing in September. (And yes, DFA VILLONE and FREE BRITTON!)

I can live with missing the playoffs though. What I can't live with is the return of GMSIII like we had in the 80s. Please God -- don't let us overreact and try to solve our problems by trading away every prospect in the house. Aging FAs are not the answer...you would think even as stubborn a man as King George would have learned that by now...Please let us not return to managing the team on the back of the News and Post.

And I remain sceptical that Donnie (much as I love the Hit Man) is manager material...one would hope he would get Girardi as a bench coach at least.

2007-05-29 12:04:55
2.   Jim Dean
Will,

We were just discussing the pitching in the last thread and Shaun summed it up perfectly:

20 quality starts in 49 games (26th out of 30 MLB teams)

Exactly one streak of three straight quality starts.

Hard to win if they ain't gettting pitching. Unfortunatly that's the same boring story it was the first week of the season.

Roger will help that so long as he goes 6+ innings each time out. That may be interpreted as "energy".

2007-05-29 12:06:17
3.   scareduck
Clemens isn't the guy they had in the rotation when he left. My guess is he'll be an okay back-of-the-rotation starter but certainly not the kind of pitcher the Yanks need; and in any event, the Bombers have a much more gaping wound in the pitching staff than just one hole in the starting rotation.
2007-05-29 12:34:01
4.   seamus
2 I question that statistic because it doesn't tell us anything about May. Most of those quality starts occurred in May. Most of those non quality starts occurred in April. Saying that the starting pitching sucked in April is like saying the sky is blue.

As I just posted in the other thread. I agree with William that the tale is of two seasons. One was bad starting pitching. The other was a combination of inconsistent relief pitching (I added this) and bad hitting (for us).

2007-05-29 12:44:11
5.   seamus
4 just to follow-up.

april: 5 QS in 23 games
May: 15 QS in 26 games

april: 9-13 record
may: 12-14 record

we won 9 games in spite of worse pitching in April, but lost 14 in spite of better pitching in May.

2007-05-29 12:58:24
6.   Jim Dean
4 5 Fair enough, but 15 of 26 QS isn't spectacular either. And I'd bet the difference in April was that Arod was out of his gourd.

I realize the bad hitting and bad bullpen, but for me it starts and ends with decent starting pitching. That they've had one run of 3 straight quality starts says more than anything. The Yanks have yet to get on a roll and it starts with inconsistent starting pitching.

And me, I'm very comfortable calling the season Lost because 6 starting pitchers went down on Oceanic flight 815. Any other team would be in worse shape, if not more. The bullpen is a direct result of that. And I wouldn't doubt that the hitting started pressing in an attempt to compensate.

2007-05-29 13:10:08
7.   seamus
6 Jim, I believe you areright. 15 QS in 26 games is not spectacular, it is just very, very good. Only the top 5 teams in Quality Starts have 3/5 of their starts as Quality Starts. 15 out of 26 actually means the Yanks were definitely in top 10 in Quality Starts in May, and possibly top 5. And this is with Moose struggling off of the DL.

I agree that the Yanks have done quite well under the circumstances of losing so many pitchers. And I think that your theories on hitters pressing and relief failing as a result are viable. Whatever it is, I hope we shake it soon. It is driving us all banters.

2007-05-29 13:15:44
8.   Jim Dean
7 Let's restrict the discussion to the last thread - sorry I just saw it had continued there.
2007-05-29 13:24:06
9.   MainLineYankee
Oh ye of little faith! I remember 1978 like it was yesterday! 14 games out of first place in July. That team had one awesome pitcher (Guidry) and one great hitter (Reggie), and a nice supporting cast that fought like cats and dogs with each other. This current Yankee team is better position-by-position than the '78 version, it's still only May, and they only have to win the wild card.
2007-05-29 13:26:40
10.   nick
re the espn split-personality credibility issue, the divide is actually very traditional in print media: the wall between editorial/opinion and news (consider the wsj as the classic example here)......of course, whether that distinction makes sense for sports might be another question...
2007-05-29 13:36:34
11.   Mattpat11
Do people seriously read No Maas for intelligent commentary and insight?
2007-05-29 13:41:12
12.   Will Weiss
Mattpat, for the sake of this column, anything goes. No Maas does represent a faction of fandom that people agree with. Why not include them in the mix?
2007-05-29 13:57:30
13.   Jim Dean
11 I do.

They jump off the deep end at times - but it's always a reasoned deep end.

Keep in mind that reading them for intelligent commentary is different from agreeing with them. But still, lately I can't find much fault in their analysis. Plus, they make me laugh.

2007-05-29 14:15:19
14.   Mattpat11
13 At times? It seems to be a constant barrage of know it all blow hard ranting and repeated failed attempts at comedy.
2007-05-29 14:28:31
15.   Jim Dean
14 Here are the headlines on the front page:

1. Torre inspires Yankees to 7-2 loss and last place in AL East

2. Old Man Damon

3. NoMaas: Phoenix Mercury fans since 2007

4. Torre should be on a "big hook"

5. Torre puts game out of reach, Yanks lose

6. For the love of God, bring up Chris Britton

7. Class organization

8. NoMaas obtains rough draft of Schilling's next entry on 38pitches.com

_______

How many are "blow hard ranting and repeated failed attempts at comedy"? The analsysi - nothing seems like ranting to me - IMHO they're spot on in every case. And of the two strict attempts at humor (3 and 8) - #3 got a laugh out of me, and #8 had me laugh at the .gif.

Hey, to each their own.

2007-05-29 14:36:29
16.   yankz
You're still at questioning ESPN's credibility? Aren't most way past that?
2007-05-29 14:42:24
17.   Shaun P
Bama - if you're reading this, yes, I had the My9 feed on Extra Innings for this past Friday night's game. I still can't figure out why; EI has never used a local (ie non-RSN) feed before. I can't tell you how many Friday night games I've missed over the last 3 years because so often, all teams put games on the local channel on Friday nights.

My only thought is that it was an HD game, and that My9 broadcasts in HD, while FSN doesn't?

Will, if you have any insight into this, I'd greatly appreciate it.

2007-05-29 14:57:15
18.   Bama Yankee
17 Shaun, thanks for the reply. Are you getting EI through DirecTV? I get it through Time Warner cable and I am almost positive I got the FSN feed for that game. Of course, like you mentioned it could be the HD thing (which is a good sign for you going forward). Since none of the EI games that I get are in HD then they might have just done what they always do and go with the RSN feed.

I hear you about the Friday night games. That, along with FOX usually showing a Braves game on Saturday is why I also have MLB.TV (we won't mention the fact that it also allows me to watch day games at work... shhhh, don't tell my boss).

2007-05-29 16:09:37
19.   seamus
gametime. It makes me nervous to have Pettitte start. He has been so good that I just figure it is time for a bad start.
2007-05-29 16:10:48
20.   Mattpat11
This is starting off fairly well.
2007-05-29 16:11:24
21.   Chyll Will
13 "They jump off the deep end at times - but it's always a reasoned deep end."

Is that anything like gulping down seasoned meatloaf? Cuz I hate meatloaf. Or is it the reverse-Isaac Newton situation, where you get clocked on the head and start theorizing on what kept it up there in the first place? Or is it a classic soliloquy of some sort... 'whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Cashman(oh we've heard this before, it's gotta be the meatloaf...)

2007-05-29 16:11:50
22.   seamus
ok. not a fan of that bunt but at least it worked.
2007-05-29 16:17:25
23.   williamnyy23
22 I hate the bunt there. After a four pitch walk, at least take one strike. That pitch nearly hit Jeter. Giving away outs with one of your few hot hitters is not the way to break out. In fact, it's kind of defeatist.
2007-05-29 16:26:31
24.   williamnyy23
If you are going to play for one run in the first inning with a bunt, shouldn't you do the same in the bottom of the inning and bring the infield in?
2007-05-29 16:29:01
25.   seamus
24 well, i think jeter does that on his own. but i agree, that was stupid. particularly when the pitcher wasn't throwing strikes. I understand why he might think it could help get something going. but since when does RISP with less than two out equal a run on this team anyhow. I just don't like the move.
2007-05-29 16:30:56
26.   seamus
I would think the young pitchers would sit together. kind of like the new kids onthe job.
2007-05-29 16:32:05
27.   seamus
nice pool shot by giambi.
2007-05-29 16:34:14
28.   seamus
holy giambi the speedster!
2007-05-29 16:35:04
29.   seamus
that replay made it look like the shortstop way nonchalanted that. that was awful.
2007-05-29 16:35:40
30.   seamus
29 nevermind. clearly never had the ball in his grip.
2007-05-29 16:35:55
31.   seamus
hello?
2007-05-29 16:38:52
32.   williamnyy23
31 I think it's just us...the last rats on the ship. I am trying not to post as much because it's only taken two innings to get incredibly frustrated.
2007-05-29 16:52:51
33.   nemecizer
I am bored with this game already. This team looks horrible. But take heart! I found this news article in my crystal ball.

--------begin---------------

"October 28, 2007

In an improbable sweep of cross-town rivals, the Mets, the Yankees last night won their 27th World Series. After starting the season 23-27, the Yankees began a long climb out of last place at the end of May that culminated in yesterday's triumph. Combined with a simultaneous collapse of the Red Sox, the Yankees ended up winning the division 96-66. Baseball historians will likely forever argue why the Red Sox collapsed so precipitously from June onward. Some will credit the return of Roger Clemens and start prospect Phil Hughes. Others will credit a resurgent line-up. This author, however, credits a little known post to the popular Bronx Banter baseball blog by a sometime poster named "nemecizer".
It was on the evening of Tuesday, 5/29/2007, that said poster "nemecizer" announced "kick a sox fan in the balls day". When contacted, he said he didn't know why he really did it, but that "whiskey was probably involved". Reached by email in his New York City home, he wrote "I guess I just got pissed off at all the Sox baseball hats on the heads of idiots walking down Bleecker street. They acted like they had already won the season. I said to myself 'these guys have no balls, I'll betcha!' So I decided to find out."
The trend started by "nemecizer" quickly took off across New York City, and then across the nation as millions of Yankees fans simply kicked a vocal Red Sox fan in the balls every time they stepped out of line. It was soon determined that, indeed, Red Sox fans have no balls. "It's not that they are actually women," said Dr. Michael Fitchens, an expert on male genitalia. "It's just, for some reason, Red Sox fans don't grow big balls". "One kick," he said, "will destroy them."
The "kick a Red Sox fan in the balls" craze began to have a dramatic effect on the team itself, when Red Sox players realized that they, themselves, had lost their balls. "I wondered what happened, but always assumed Curt Schilling ate mine on a late night bender," said Kevin Youklis. "I never had any balls at all, even as a kid," said Coco Crisp. Continuing, Crisp said "I mean, my mother named me Coco. That takes your balls off right away." Jonathan Papelbon said he might have shaved his balls off when he shaved his head, but wasn't sure, he was so confused between being a starter and a closer. David Ortiz, mysteriously, kept his balls, but attributes it to wearing a Yankees hat in an ESPN promo. Manny Ramirez simply said his balls will show up in the post season like they always do, stay until March 15th, and then disappear when he will report to Spring Training in 2008.
All in all, a surprising season for all involved. And it all started when a nameless blog poster, "nemecizer", made a simple discovery and urged all Yankees fans, when confronted with a gloating Sox fan in late may of 2007, to simple kick them in the balls.
"No argument, no counting of rings, no comparing the history of a great team with a mediocre team with some inbred buffoon from Cambridge, MA. Just," he said, "kick 'em in the balls. Once should be enough."

In related news, Carl Pavano was found dead today in his Florida mansion. Found tied to a chair wearing nothing but a bra, panties, and a KKC plastic bag on his head, he apparently suffocated during a bizarre sexual ritual. Brian Cashman, when reached for comment, said he hoped Pavano recovered in time to pitch for the Yankees by the 2008 all star break."

-----end of message----------

2007-05-29 16:55:11
34.   nemecizer
33 That should be "KFC". Carl Pavano dies with a KFC plastic bag around his head in a bizarre sexual ritual.(*)

(*) Hey, it happened to some British politician. I can hope, can't I?

2007-05-29 16:58:04
35.   williamnyy23
Arod is guessing again.
2007-05-29 17:16:39
36.   williamnyy23
I'm sorry, but this team's effort is lacking and it's body language is pitiful. If you observe Joe on the bench, it's easy to see where they get it from.

As an aside, that last AB by Cano is another example of what I have been talking about the last few weeks.

2007-05-30 10:22:06
37.   joe in boston
Emma, great writing. Really great summary.

Haven't posted this year yet - that's what a 4 yr old and a 2 yr old will do to ya....

Very frustrating year for me so far - it started with the worry about not getting the MLB package on my cable and went downhill from there! I even took down my Yankee flag from the garage this weekend (hey, it was a good time to raise Ol' Glory)

Many things frustrate me this season, all have been written about in great length on this site, but ... where is the plate patience this season ? Why do Cano and Abreau just lunge at the first pitch ? Does this drive anyone else crazy ???

2007-05-30 17:27:50
38.   Hocakes
I hope Torre lets Clip pitch; watching him struggle is more interesting than watching the bullpen struggle.

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