I shot an e-mail to Rob Neyer before the game yesterday, expressing my concern about the Yanks. Here is his reply:
What's interesting about this game is that EVERYBODY is focusing on 300, which is understandable but a little silly, considering that Clemens IS going to win 300. It's just a question of when.
What is in doubt is another division title for the Yankees. And if the Yanks lose today, they're 2 1/2 games back.
Jeez Rob, don't you know that George is making promises again?
Unlike the his team, George Steinbrenner didn't go down without a fight after yesterday's loss at the Stadium. It wasn't a full-on explosion, but the fuse has been lit. According to Murray Chass in The New York Times:
One club official and one baseball official have said in the past few days that Steinbrenner is "worse than ever." People in and out of the organization made similar observations last year, which apparently means worse has turned to worst. "He's off the wall," the club official said before the game.
Steinbrenner did speak with reporters after the game. Joel Sherman reports in the Post:
"We are still going to win this," Steinbrenner told The Post when asked about the Yankees falling behind Boston. "I'm confident. Don't bet against us. I believe our manager, Joe Torre, will get these things right. Mark down this date and remember I told you this. We are going to win. I believe in this team."
..."I'm not happy with them," Steinbrenner said. "We have to get straightened out. I think Joe will get us straightened out. It better happen."
When asked if there was an "or what" to that, Steinbrenner replied, "We'll have to wait and see." However, when asked directly if Torre should feel in peril from that statement, The Boss responded, "I will not criticize him at all. He knows what has to be done. But he also has been given everything he has asked for. What he has wanted, we have provided."
Make no mistake about it, George is putting all the pressure on Torre. If the Yanks fail this year, George will feel justified in hammering Uncle Joe. But don't be surprised if Rick Down or Mel Stottlemyre go first.
When asked if Jeff Weaver should be out of the rotation and Contreras in, Steinbrenner lowered his voice to almost a whisper and made a suggestion certain to raise Torre's eyebrows.
"Yes I do. Right now," he said, nodding. "Because I think that Weaver has gone to too much of a thrower right now. He was great in the bullpen for us before. Contreras is not that type of a pitcher. He's a starting pitcher. All of a sudden you put him (Contreras) in there (the bullpen) - he showed me he can still throw the ball 95, 96. I kinda like (Contreras), but I'm not going to be the one to say it."
Godzilla Matsui got the business too:
"All I know," Steinbrenner said, "is that this is not the guy we signed in terms of power. This falls to my hitting coach figuring out a way to straighten this guy out."
...Of the slumbering Yankee bats, Steinbrenner said, "I'd like to see more timely hitting. Giambi's a mystery to me right now. We'll have to see what happens there, but don't bet against us. Don't bet against this team," The Boss added, jabbing a finger into a reporter's chest for emphasis.
While the Boss was blustering, Joe Torre was as calm as usual. I caught his post-game press conference on ESPN, and Torre talked about how nobody was going to feel sorry for the Yankees. He said that the only thing that will snap his team out of this slump is for them to continue to show up and work hard. THere are no magic cures. He said that somebody is going to take a beating some day, suggesting his offense will finally wake up and revert to form. But Torre sounded as if he was trying to convince himself. He wasn't defeated, or exasperated, he just seemed at a loss. Derek Jeter commented that this Yankee team hasn't won anything yet:
"It was a perfect atmosphere and we didn't show up," Jeter said. "That's the bottom line."
..."Maybe that's too strong, but we didn't get him enough runs," he said. "We didn't show up with the results. The effort was there, just not the results."
..."It's happening a lot lately," Jeter said of the losing. "Anyone who says it doesn't happen to us a lot, this is a new team. That's the bottom line.
"Everyone wants to compare years past to this year, but it's not the same team as years ago. ... We have different players."