Yanks need to open the checkbook for starters

Memo to Brian Cashman: Starting Pitching Matters

Memo to Hal Steinbrenner: Open the Checkbookgerrit cole

Want proof. Look no further than Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, where Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer pitched brilliantly in leading  the Washington Nationals to their first World Series championship.

Or take another look at Gerrit Cole’s, right, performance in Game 5, which brought the Houston Astros to the brink of their second title in three years.

Starting pitching throughout the playoffs ran counter to such noveau strategies as the opener, bullpen games  and the super bullpen.

For years now the Yankees have been building a powerhouse teams with a stacked lineup and the best bullpen in baseball, a team capable of winning 100 games each of the past two seasons, and reaching the ALCS two of the past three years.

While spending big bucks on Giancarlo Stanton and fortifying the lineup and bullpen, Cashman and the Yankee brain trust have taken the cut-rate route on starters. Lacking a true number one ace (save for Luis Severino in the first half of 2018), the Yankees have used duct tape and baling wire to piece together a rotation, both at the front and back end.

Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton have been serviceable pitchers, but not aces. Domingo German’s future is uncertain, based on his domestic abuse issues.

hal-steinbrennerOver the last few years they have had opportunities to acquire Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Kuechel, among others….and have passed on all of them.

Instead, the Yanks banked on CC Sabathia, who had nearly as many injured list visits as victories the past two years, and JA Happ, the so-called Boston killer who has wilted against the Red Sox.

Sonny Gray, a 2017 trade acquisition, turned out to be another Ed Whitson. Lance Lynn didn’t last. Michael Pineda. Jaime Garcie. Need we go on.

It wasn’t enough. While the Astros and Nationals thrived on starting pitching in the playoffs, the Yankees couldn’t hit in the clutch. Eventually their vaunted bullpen wore down, saddled down by innings, opposing batters becoming more familiar and comfortable with each appearance.

brian-cashman-yankeesIt’s time to open up the purse strings and act like the bullying George Steinbrenner Yankees. The team has been on financial restraint the past few seasons, trying to remain below luxury tax levels.

Well Hal Steinbrenner, above left, austerity no longer flies with Yankee fans. We know you have the money. Heck, your father wrote an $80,000 check in 1973 when he fronted an investors’ group that bought the Yankees for $8.8 million from CBS.

The Yankees earn 20 percent more than the next wealthiest baseball team, and their $4 billion market value is second in sports, behind only the Dallas Cowboys.

Well Brian Cashman, above right, time to bring on some pitching. Cole would look good in pinstripes. Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner too.

There’s work to be done. 2020 is up next. Time to bully up Yankees.

Forecast always cloudy when Sonny pitches

97058946GM Brian Cashman has made many shrewd moves the past several years in making the Yankees a contender once again. The acquisition of Sonny Gray isn’t one of them.

Cashman dealt three prospects – James Kaprielian, Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler —  to the Oakland A’s for Gray before the trade deadline last July. At the time, most thought the Yankees were getting a solid, young No. 2 starter.

Instead, Sonny has evoked nightmare visions of guys like Ed Whitson, Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa, Javier Vasquez and Kevin Brown, all of whom flopped in pinstripes.

Facing the Red Sox on the last day of June, Gray crumbled in the first inning. After retiring the first two batters, Gray loaded the bases and then surrendered a grand slam to Rafael Devers. He couldn’t get off the mound fast enough midway through the third inning, trailing 6-0 with boos cascading down from irate Yankee fans..

“That was embarrassing for me and for everybody in here,” Gray said in the home clubhouse after the 11-0 loss. “If I was out there, I probably would’ve booed me louder.”

Statistics tell the story, and it’s not good one. In fact, Gray’s performance as a Yankee has been historically bad. All Yankee pitchers are expected to pitch well at home….and show a propensity for beating the Red Sox. Gary has done neither.

Since coming to the Bronx, Gray has a 4-6 record and a 7.10 ERA, highest of any Yankee pitcher in history who has started at least eight games at Yankee Stadium.

This year, Sonny has an 8.25 ERA in eight home starts, the worst in Yankees history. Pavano was the previous leader in this dubious category with a 6.89 ERA.

Against Boston, the Yankees have lost all four of Gray’s starts in the past two seasons. His ERA against the Red Sox is 9.35, better only than Jose Contreras (16.43) and Andy Hawkins (14.44).

In eight career starts against the Red Sox overall, including his lone win while a member of the A’s, Gray is 1-6 with a 6.98 ERA.

“I mean, I haven’t beaten a lot of teams since I’ve been here. I’ve been bad against the Red Sox. I’ve been bad against a lot of teams,” Gray said. “So I don’t think you can say one particular team has my number. I’ve been bad against multiple teams.”

At least you got something right, Sonny.

In Yankee Universe, A.J. Means Absolute Joke

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..

August Disaster
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.

It’s Over for the Yankees

The season got off to a bad start when the Yankee Stadium opener was rained out.

The off-season has already begun for the New York Yankees.

Oh sure,  they still have 20 some odd games to play, and they’re not mathematically eliminated….yet.

But the numbers don’t lie, When it’s over, it’s over. When you dodge the ultimate futility of having a pitcher nearly throw a no-hitter against you in his first major league start, it’s over

Yeah, and you know it’s over when A-Rod goes on a tear. Now that the pressure is off, he’s gonna have a blockbuster September.

Where did it all go wrong? When did the Yankees begin the death spiral towards the team’s worst finish in more than 15 years?

Pitching Woes
Start with the pitching. Somewhere along the line, the Yankee brain misplaced the knack for finding good pitchers.

So instead of bringing in guys like Jimmy Key, David Cone, David Wells, El Duque, Mike Mussina and yes, even Roger Clemens, Yankee fans were subjected to the likes of Jeff Weaver, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa. And now they have Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson and Carl Pavano in their rotation.

A familiar sight: Joe Girardi makes another pitching change.

The Yankees had the opportunity to right some of those wrongs this past off-season, the chance to get Johan Santana, one of the premier pitchers in the game. They didn’t want to give up Melky Cabrera, who lost his center-field job and was banished to the minors, or two young pitchers, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, who have combined to win zero games for the Yankees this year.

They passed on Santana. With him, they might still be alive in the American League chase. Instead, he’s cross-town trying to lead the Mets to the World Series.

Of course, pitching isn’t the only reason the Yankees are fast-fading out of the playoff picture. The starting lineup, supposedly the strength of the team, has been inconsistent at best, and pathetically inept with runners in scoring position.

Showing Their Age
The Yankees began to show their age in certain spots, and the younger players did not develop as expected.  Injuries have hurt, particularly the losses of Chien-Ming Wang and Jorge Posada for most of the year.

And then, the Yankees are facing the odds — nobody makes the playoffs every year. Heck, there are college kids today who weren’t old enough to remember the last time that happened.

“It’s certainly something that is hard to watch,” said general manage Brian Cashman, the team’s chief architect. “We’re losing right now and we’re better than this. At some point, you are what your record is until you prove otherwise.”

The Cash-man, with unlimited resources at his disposal, may take the fall for these underachieving 2008 Yankees.

Whoever is in charge will face the task of rebuilding this team quickly. Next year, the Yankees move into the new Yankee Stadium, and Hank Steinbrenner, above, and company will be hell-bent to bring a winner to the Bronx. The pitching needs to be improved, the team needs to become more athletic.

The off-season has already begun for the Yankees, and it promises to be a busy one.

Quick Hitters V — Observations of a Sportslifer

Phil Hughes 0-3, 8.82 ERA, Ian Kennedy 0-2 9.04 ERA. Do you think Hank Steinbrenner is keeping an eye on Johan Santana and reminding Brian Cashman about the trade that was never made….like every 10 minutes or so. That’s what George would have done.

Hughes’ blog sure gets more hits than sportslifer…..but he gives up more hits too.

We’ve seen just about enough of Jason Giambi in the middle the of the Yankee lineup. He can’t hit, he can’t field, he can’t throw and he can’t run. Other than that, he’s a great guy.

But now that A-Rod has a strained quad, we’ll no doubt be treated to even more of the Giam-balco. Unless the Bombers decide to bring back Joe Pepitone.

Considering the lack of starting pitching, clutch hitting, and a lot of road games, it’s amazing the Yankees are 10-10.

Over the years, Yankee fans have come to take the playoffs for granted. The last time they failed to make the playoffs was 1993 (remember 1994 was the strike year). There are college kids who can’t remember the last time the Yankees didn’t get into the post-season.

Suns vs. Spurs has to be one of the best first-round series in NBA history. Double OT in Game One. Remindful of some of those Knicks-Bullets encounters of the late 60s and early 70s.

Speaking of past Knicks, loved the headline the New York Post on Saturday — BYE-SIAH! Wish GO-LAN for James Dolan was next.

German Pope visits the White House and Yankee Stadium, baseball season opens in Japan. The world has changed since WWII. And that’s a good thing.

Rangers over Devils was not a surprise — Rangers dominated the regular season, and had more firepower. The surprise was the sieve-like effort turned in by Marty Brodeur, who has carried the Devils on his back all these years.

Brodeur missed a bunch of pucks throughout the series, and he missed Sean Avery’s handshake on the receiving line at the end of Game 5.

Couple of dozen blogs ago, sportslifer posed the question: Name the only college football team to have three players make the NFL Hall of Fame? The answer: the 1951 University of San Francisco Dons, with Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, and Bob St. Clair.