Losing Mariano River may turn out to be the defining moment of the Yankee season.
In 1992, the New York Yankees finished with a 76-86 record, 20 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays and tied for fourth place in the AL East. It was Buck Showalter’s first year at the helm
That year, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the 11th year in a row. Since 1992, they’ve missed the playoffs just twice.
That was 20 years ago. That was then and this is now, But a quarter of the way through the 2012 season, we may be looking at the worst Yankee team since 1992.
Here’s 10 reasons why:
1. No Mo — For 15 years, the Yankees have had the biggest security blanket in the history of baseball. Then Mariano Rivera injured his knee shagging fly balls in Kansas City. No more. No Mo.
2. RISP means RIP — Yankees routinely get into scoring position, then die at second and/or third base. Worst in the majors this month in hitting with runners in scoring position.
3. Warning track power — They’re not playing A-Rod $30 million a year to be a singles hitter. The ball doesn’t explode off his bat they way it did a few years ago. The days of 35 homers, 120 RBIs are history.
4. CC and pray — Reloaded in the off-season, the Yankee rotation was supposed to be a plus. But outside of CC Sabathia there are a lot of inconsistencies, older arms and question marks.
5. HR or bust — Only once all year have the Yankees won a game in which they didn’t hit a home run. Only twice this year have they won a game in which they scored less than five runs. Which leads to….
6. Slow stripes — Without Brett Gardner, the Yankees are plodding along, showing their age. It’s pretty much station to station. There’s very little little ball in the Bronx.
7. Tex mess — Mark Teixeira is a wreck. He’s battling a bronchial illness, his average has gone down each year he’s been a Yankee, and he absolutely refuses to hit against a shift.
8. Home groan pitching — Been an issue for many years. Hughes, Nova, Joba, the Killer Bs…and they let the best one, Ian Kennedy, get away. The Yankees haven’t developed a Cy Young winner since Ron Guidry in 1978.
9. Joe must go — In the Steinbrenner-Martin salad days, George would have already fired and re-hired Billy. If the Yankees don’t make the playoffs with the highest payroll in baseball, Girardi will be on the hot seat in New York.
10. Injuries — Not an excuse, but the Yankees have been hit hard by injuries. Mariano, David Robertson, Michael Pinieda, Gardner, Joba, that’s a fifth of the roster right there.
A.J. Burnett leaving the mound after another shelling – a familiar sight these days.
If Billy Martin was in charge, he’d have been marched to the wood shed long ago. Joe Torre’s Job-like patience would have worn thin. Heck, Casey Stengel might be rendered speechless.
That’s A.J. Burnett. a challenge for any manager. They all claim A.J .has great stuff. But pitching, like real estate, is all about location. And when Burnett winds up and delivers, who know where the pitch is going – certainly not A.J.
Forget the No. 2 starter money ($82.5M over five years) he’s being paid, A.J.should be the odd man out, the sixth man in a five-man rotation. .
When the beleaguered Burnett takes the mound, fans cringe, opponents exult and Yankee manager Joe Girardi generally has to go to Plan B by the third inning.
The Yanks should have realized what they were getting on Dec. 12, 2008, when they signed Burnett to a big, fat contract. A .500 pitcher.
Remarkably, since Burnett joined the Yankees rotation he’s three games under .500 — this for a team that’s been at or near the top of the standings for three years running. After finished 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA and winning a World Series game against the Phillies in 2009, AJ has been dismal.
Last year he was 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA in what may have been the worst season for a starter in Yankee history. And so far this year he’s got a higher ERA at .531 to go with a 9-11 record..
Burnett finished August with an 11.91 ERA in five starts — even worse than the 11.35 ERA he posted last June during a similar five-start meltdown.
Even Yankee GM Brian Cashman, who has been a staunch A.J. defender (in part due to his big outlay for the pitcher), has seen enough.
After Friday’s loss to the Orioles, when Burnett allowed nine earned runs and eight extra base hits, mixed in three wild pitches and made an error — in just five innings — Cashman voiced his displeasure.
“He was very bad,” said Cashman of AJ’s performance. “It is what it is,” he added. “He’s obviously pitching terribly right now.”
So Joe Girardi, what do you do with this guy? “With all these doubleheaders we’ve got to play games,” said the Yankee manager. “We need six men.”
Hardly a vote of confidence for the unwatchable Burnett — who doesn’t inspire any faith in Yankee universe these days.
That Joba bravado has been replaced by inconsistent relief pitching.
It’s clear the Yankees constant juggling of roles, responsibilities and pitch counts have messed with Joba Chamberlain’s head.
Today’s Joba isn’t the same Joba, who at the age of 21 made his MLB debut in 2007 throwing fire out of the Yankee bullpen. Joba set the American League on its ear that year with a 2-0 record and a 0.38 ERA in 19 appearances, and if not for a swarm of midges in Cleveland would have been a playoff hero as well.
The Yankees instituted the ill-famed Joba Rules that year and made Chamberlain a starter in 2008. And his career has gone in reverse ever since.
Chamberlain failed to win a starting spot in spring training this year, and was moved back to the bullpen, presumably to re-inherit his dominant eighth-inning set-up role of 2007.
More than halfway through the season, it hasn’t happened.
This season began well enough for Joba, who had a 1-1 record and a 2.16 ERA as late as May 14. That night he struck out the side and earned his only win of the season. against Minnesota.
Since then, he’s been highly unreliable, to be kind. Here’s a litany of Joba’s recent blow-ups.
- May 16: Gives up three runs to the Twins and takes the loss
- May 18: Surrenders four runs, Yanks blow lead and lose to the Red Sox 7-6
- May 29: Pitches a third of an inning against the Indians, gives up four runs and suffers his third loss
- June 17: Fails to retire a batter, gives up three runs to the Phillies in 7-1 loss
- July 10: In a disastrous eighth inning in Seattle, gives up three hits, including a grand slam, and falls to 1-4 as Mariners win 4-1
“I have to limit the damage,” Joba said. “It’s either been really good, or given up three or four runs. (In the second half of the season) I want to limit the damage and continue to get better to do things that are going to help this team win.”
Chamberlain’s ERA is now 5.77. In fact, his ERA has gone up every year since 2007, 2.60 in 2008 and 4.75 in 2009. That’s a striking indicator of Joba’s decline.
And as if they haven’t messed with Joba’s head enough these past three seasons, the Yankees have now put him on notice.
“I’m, not saying on a daily basis we’re going to change our eighth inning guy, but you have to earn your rules here,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said recently. “And we evaluate on a regular basis.”
Translation: Start pitching better in the second half Joba, or you’ll slip down in the bullpen pecking order. The bridge to closer Mariano Rivera needs to better than you’ve given us so far.
MLB players don’t think Joba is all that good either. In a recent anonymous poll in Sports Illustrated, 12 percent of all players said Joba was the most overrated player in the game.
Robinson Cano sure went from Rod Carew to Horace Clarke in a hurry.
And now he’s gone from the penthouse to the dog house, benched after failing to hustle on a fielding play.
Cano was given the Yankee second base job in 2005, and after a slow start wound up hitting .297. He hit .342 in 2006, just missing out on a batting title. Last year, Cano hit .306 with career highs in home runs (19) and RBIs (97).
His play reminded many students of the game of Rod Carew, the Hall of Famer who won seven American League batting titles and the 1977 MVP.
This year, it’s all gone wrong for Robby. Before he was benched, he was hitting a disappointing .260 with just 24 walks and a dismal .295 OBP. Even worse were his brain locks and uninspired attitude, both at bat and in the field.
Cano Can’t Do
The 25-year-old Cano has been a source of frustration for the Yankees this season, after he signed a six-year, $55 million deal in the off-season. His average has slumped, his run production has dwindled and his effort has been openly questioned.
“This is a game where you have to play hard every day,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said. “There are people that are hungry that want your job, whether you’re at third base, second, short, wherever.”
“That’s embarrassing,” Cano said. “You’re playing and you’re taken out of the game. … It’s a situation that no player would like to be in.”
Instead of Carew, Cano is now conjuring up visions of Horace Clarke, the second baseman on some awful Yankees teams in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Clarke hit .256 lifetime and had trouble turning the double play.
Yankee fans have gotta hope that Cano’s lackadaisical play isn’t the precursor to another “Horace Clarke Era.”