Another month of what Derek Jeter has termed a “nightmare” of a season, another edition of our monthly assessment here on Yanks Go Yard. I’m dealing with a bit of a Biogenesis hangover (more to come on that later this week), so let’s jump right in:
The Standing Mo-vation at the All Star Game
It’s not really a performance so much as it was a moment: when Mariano Rivera took the mound at CitiField during the All Star Game all by himself.
With the field compeltely empty of all other players, Mo tipped his cap to the best that baseball has to offer, while some of the best in the game- Justin Verlander, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper- all stood applauding from the respective American League and National League dugouts. Besides the goose-bumps that this moment induced, it was the epitome of class that it occured at Citifield, home the Mets, whose fans have endured much torment from the “big brother” Yankee fans over the years.
Despite differing allegiances, the entire stadium rose to its feet to salute the greatest closer of all time, and one of the classiest, most humble players- not just the best- that this game has ever had. Can you honestly imagine any other player- anyone- who would have gotten the same treatment? I sure can’t.
In a month consumed with endless speculation about PEDs and Biogenesis and suspensions and the dark side of the game, for one moment, fans were able to really get together and appreciate a player who went about his business the right way, and who treated the game with respect- a trait that earned him the respect of fans throughout the sport. As the farewell tour continues, this is definitely the front-runner for moment of the year.
If ever there was a guy crushing the “can he succeed in the American League narrative?” for a pitcher, it’s this guy. He was absolutely sensational throughout July, and really has been the ace this season as CC Sabathia has struggled mightily.
In July, Kuroda had a mind-boggling 0.55 ERA (as in, less than a run) in 33 IP. Over that span, he allowed no homers and only six walks to 24 Ks. Opposing batters hit .212 against the veteran as he went 3-0 on the month, despite inexplicably not being named to the All Star Team.
For the record, while I generally think that the game is a popularity contest, parading as an exhibition, disguised as a meaningful game, it is baffling to me how a pitcher with a WAR of 4.2 and a WHIP of 1.03 in the American League East missed out on the original ballots, let alone the managerial snub as a replacement. In any event, the Yankees slump would be even worse without Kuroda out there once every five days.
In a season where literally every single thing that could go wrong has gone wrong, it stands to reason that a career back-up who is stuffed into a starting role has begun to fade down the stretch. Chris Stewart is a capable catcher, of that there is no doubt (I actually think he might have one of ther quicker releases in baseball in terms of throwing out baserunners) However, in a position that is as physically demanding as catcher, it would make sense to have a clear starter and a clear back-up- not two back-ups to platoon.
Over the month of July, Stewart could not get off the interstate, hitting .148/.235/.180. That OBP… good grief.
That. Is. Bad.
Stewart collected just nine hits and six walks during July, with five RBI and no homers.
With Austin Romine start to swing the bat a bit, I would glue Stewart to the bench just to let him catch his breath for a bit. Again, not knocking on the guy, but with a team that is sapped offensively, I want every productive bat in the lineup.
There are dry spells, and then there is falling out of the sky. Travis Hafner seems to be the latter. For as bad as he was in May and June, Hafner was worse in July, hitting .143/.226/.196, with no homers, 2 RBI and eight hits. Woof.
The issue is moot now that Hafner has landed on the DL (along with the rest of the roster) with shoulder issues. In any other year, it is entirely possible that Hafner would have already lost his roster spot due to his lack of production- between he and Stewart, there are at least two black holes in this lineup.
It will be interesting to see if Hafner even gets another crack at the roster once he is eligible to be activated now that Vernon Wells is beginning to redeem himself and Alfonso Soriano is back in pinstripes.
ARod vs. The Yankees
This divorce has been a long time coming, and it is going to be acrimonious. After Alex Rodriguez effectively accused the Yankees of preventing him from joining the club after he personally complained about what turned out to be a quad strain, he enlisted the help of a doctor- who hadn’t seen him in person- to go on a radio tour to sway the public that the Yankees were trying to commit what amounted to insurance fraud.
Following that debacle, the Yankees were forced to issue a passive aggressive statement that they had followed all proper protocols, procedures and medical treatment for the ailment, and that they had, in fact, planned on Alex rejoining the team. (Note that none of this includes ARod’s answer during Monday’s three ring circus of a presser following his suspension, when he was asked if he thought the Yankees wanted him back, and he mentioned his teammates, his manager- and conspicuously left out mentioning the front office.)
Even wackier, during a presser following a Trenton rehab game, ARod threw around enough employment law terms to write a labor law textbook, effectively calling out the Yankees for denying him the ability to play. The bottom line is, in this tit-for-tat, ARod has tried to deflect blame on everyone and anyone but himself. This disaster is only going to get worse, so I have a feeling that this may be the ugliest episode that the Yankees have had with a player in quite some time, and maybe ever.
The Never-Ending Injuries
If nothing else, this year will be a tribute to the ability of Joe Girardi to manage a baseball team and to Brian Cashman for managing to hold a team together and fill holes using duct tape and glue guns. Every time the Yankees get a player, they lose a player- it’s like a baseball equivalent of “give a penny, take a penny.”
The team gets Derek Jeter back for a few games, lose him. Get him back again, lose him again. Hafner is on the DL. Francisco Cervelli was likely done for the year before his involvement in Biogenesis knocked him out for the season. Michael Pineda has had stiffness in his surgically repaired shoulder. David Phelps had a setback with his forearm strain. Jayson Nix was lost with another innocuous injury.
This team is like a cockroach in that they just will not go quietly, but the evidence is starting to show that a team of Lyle Overbays and Austin Romines and Eduardo Nunezes and the like is starting to have an effect: the team is about 10 games out of first, about five back of the second Wild Card, and no better than 25th in any major statistical offensive category (25th in runs/OBP, 27th in batting average, 29th in slugging percentage).
It’s not the worst season known to man, but for a team (and a fanbase) with impossibly high standards, this may as well be a 100-loss season. It may take a minor miracle for the team to make the post season, let alone make a deep run into October.
Other nominees: CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte,
You can check out the full August Yankees schedule from Go Tickets. They have thirteen home games this month, including A-Rod’s scheduled return to the Bronx on Friday, August 9th against Detroit.