Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The giant sucking sound from the Bronx

I had to ring in on this sooner or later, but the Yanks are putrescent. Watching them last night and Monday reminds me of the last four games of the '04 ALCS and the two games in Detroit in last year's ALDS. Basically, Joel Sherman is right, whatever else the Yanks do, they need to ensure their future and not toss away talent on a futile press to make the 2007 playoffs.

No, it's not too early to panic, and it hasn't been for a fortnight. Panic time came on the Yanks' nine-game roadie after learning that they had signed Clemens. The team stank: 3-6 against Seattle, the struggling ChiSawx and the Mess. Now they're 50 games into the season and six games WORSE than the 2005 team that started 11-19. Indeed, the Yanks need to win tonight and sweep the Redsawx in Fenway this weekend just to get to a 75-win pace through the first 1/3 of the season!

The problems are everywhere: A-Rod carried the team for the first three weeks of the year, but has stopped hitting; Damon has not hit; Abreu has been awful; Cano has an OPS 230 points lower than last year; Proctor has honked key games (Angels last Sunday, Sunday night Fenway game against Blosax); Vizcaino has been a dud (20 BB in 26 IP); Rivera has been poor. And the Yanks are simply horrid in close games: 4-17 in games decided by one or two runs. Look at the scores in Pettitte's last three losses: 2-1, 3-2, 3-2. He's 3-4 with a 2.51 ERA -- it's like he's in Houston all over again.

In their current five-game losing streak, the Yanks have squandered these starts: Wang 8 IP/3 ER; Moooooooose 6.1 IP/2 ER; Pettitte 7.1 IP/1 ER. For the year, the Yanks have about eight losses in games where they received quality starts (6 or more IP, 3 or fewer ER). That's a problem with the bullpen and the hitting. That bullpen looks like last year's Indians' disaster. And don't blame the starters' early struggles, in the past month the Yanks have received good starts from Wang (3.53 ERA for May even with his 6.1 IP/7 ER loss to the Rangers), Clippard, DeSalvo, Hughes, Rasner and the stalwart Pettitte (four-straight quality starts, 1-3 record).

Ultimately, this season unraveled when Torre removed Pettitte early in the first game in Boston in April with a 6-2 lead and the Yanks bonked. Joe overmanaged, outplayed his hand, burned out his bullpen early and the team failed to execute (ask Mike Myers and Rivera about that). The Yanks have not hit good pitchers or even mediocre ones -- in the past 2+ weeks, they've turned Horacio Ramirez, John Danks, Dustin McGowan, Sean Marcum, Brandon McCarthy and Julian Tavarez into candidates for the 1966 Orioles rotation. And other than the two worst ones in the AL (Borowski and Ray), the Yanks have not hit anyone's closer (JJ Putz [Seattle] - 4/4 saves; Papelbon - 3/3 saves; Al Reyes - 2/2 saves, etc.).

With three games this weekend in Fenway, this will likely get worse before the Yanks can try to get better. In reality, the best way to get better is to improve with Clemens, make their run this year WITHOUT squandering Clippard, Hughes, DeSalvo, Chase Wright (AAA), Ian Kennedy (dominating in high-A), Joba Chamberlain (dominating in high-A), Alan Horne (AA), Deilin Betances (the Yanks' #2 pitching prospect after Hughes), Brett Smith (unhittable at AA), Jeff Marquez (AA) or George Kontos (high-A).

Otherwise, the Yanks will just revert to the Ken Phelps era.

Ye gads.

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