Well, it was was an absolutely terrible week in the Yankees Universe. A 2-5 week culminates Monday night as the Yankees try and salvage a split with the Royals before they head out to the west coast with two tough match-ups against the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners. If there is a silver lining, it’s that the Yankees are still a .500 ball club.
Aside from Masahiro Tanaka and perhaps the back-end of the bullpen, there is little to be happy about with the 2014 Yankees’ team. We aren’t hitting a lick, the starting pitching staff has been decimated, and middle relief has been lukewarm at best. This week, I am going to do something I haven’t done in seven years. The Bronx is boiling, folks, and I need to blow some steam.
I AM GOING TO DEFEND JOE GIRARDI
I was never on board with Joe Girardi as manager of this team. I don’t like his binders, nor do I like his by the numbers approach. As much as I enjoyed every minute of the 2009 championship season, I told my friends immediately after that series that the Yankees were doomed for years to come because this would earn Girardi a long-term extension. After watching the Yankees hoist the 2009 trophy, I still wanted our manager fired. I know, I’m troubled.
I have been mad at Joe Girardi for six and a third years, but I am starting to realize something. This season is beyond Girardi. It is quite possibly the time to realize that he was dealt a terrible hand. People want to blame Cashman, people want to blame the Steinbrenners, people want to blame Girardi, but the real blame should be on this team.
Girardi has to deal with the Derek Jeter conundrum. Jeter is one of my favorite players to ever don pinstripes, but the reality is, if this were any other 40-year-old short stop, he would be out of the lineup. Our defense is struggling at the expense of the Captain playing on a daily basis, and he is the epitome of the Yankees’ offensive struggles. Quite possibly the best natural hitter in Yankees’ history, Jeter is batting a meager .254, leading a team that is batting a dismal .253. Girardi’s hands are tied. Who wants to be remembered as the guy who benched Derek Jeter?
Girardi has to deal with the fact that CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova are either out for the season or for a very long time. Let’s face reality though, folks: all three of these guys were question marks coming into this season in the first place. Their injuries are just closure to the assumptions most skeptics had presumed in spring training. Yankees’ fans and writers all felt CC was a liability as the staff’s ace with declining velocity and the complete inability to mature into a veteran pitcher. Turns out on top of all those concerns, he’s been damaged goods. People were worried what kind of load Pineda would be able to handle after a two year layoff. We are learning early on that he is an injury waiting to happen. We wondered which Ivan Nova we would get? The Nova who got sent down after an utterly awful first half, or the one who came back after his demotion to provide spark at the end of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, we never got to find out, but his pre-injury performance was not promising.
The Yankees are stuck with an aging and fragile first baseman in Mark Teixeira that the Yankees did nothing to address in a back-up option for this offseason. Tex has already missed almost 20 games this season. They brought back a 38-year-old Alfonso Soriano, who they got in the middle of last season, already amid his decline. Now they have to deal with an old and broken right fielder in Carlos Beltran. I hoped for the best from these three, as much of the Yankees fan base and writers did this off-season, but we are slowly finding out the truth. These three players don’t have much left in the tank. These were not players that can easily be replaced. These were players the Yankees and their fans were counting on. Can Girardi pull them from the lineup? Sure, but there aren’t many better options on the bench. Shifting J.R. Murphy to the every day catcher and putting Brian McCann as the every day DH doesn’t solve much, because it currently appears that McCann has forgotten how to hit as well.
So, maybe this isn’t all Joe Girardi’s fault. Maybe he was set up for failure this season. There is no denying he is on the hot seat. Back-to-back playoff-less seasons do not bode well for anyone in the Bronx. And I’m not saying Girardi is free of blame, because he certainly isn’t perfect this season. This team has no fire, no urgency to win, and that rests on the manager’s shoulders. The best asset Joe Torre had as a manager was that he minimized his coaching. Torre took over a team that had little playoff experience and aside from David Cone, Darryl Strawberry, and Paul O’Neill, none of the future dynasty had a World Series ring. (For those of you who love to claim I don’t know what I am talking about, take it easy. I am well aware that Jimmy Key and Dwight Gooden already had rings on that ’96 roster, however Jimmy Key left town the next season and Doc never threw a World Series pitch in pinstripes.) Torre was like Max, the elder leader from The Lost Boys. He let his boys play, but he ran a tight ship and they had to play his way. He had them thirsty for blood and they wanted more and more each and every season. People tend to forget that when Torre actually managed, he was often scrutinized by the New York media. Girardi has been under this scrutiny since taking over in 2008, and rightfully so.
So what can Girardi do to fire up this team? He needs to step up and show some fire himself. He needs to make it clear to those above him that it is finally time to see what the youngsters down on the farm are made of and make some serious changes. Seriously, it can’t be worse. The Yankees just brought on Wade LeBlanc and you are going to sit here and tell me that you are unwilling to give a minor leaguer a chance because of some scouting report? WADE LEBLANC PEOPLE. Get rid of these has-beens and bring some fire back to this team. There is absolutely no excuse that Jose Pirela is knocking the case off the ball in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, while Brian Roberts is manning second base on one of the ugliest fielding infields in the American League. We have no sure fire back up for Tex, so why not give Kyle Roller a chance instead of throwing Kelly Johnson out there? If they fail, then the Yankees are no worse off than they are now. Actually, you can argue that they would be better off because at least they know that their minor leaguers aren’t worth anything.
This Yankees’ team isn’t out of it, and if things fall into place, the playoffs aren’t out of the question. The AL East isn’t a strong division, which means two things. One, no one is out of it yet. Two, the Yankees need to win this division to make the playoffs because it is going to be hard to convince me that a wild card team is coming out of this bunch. So, does Girardi have what it takes? Will he light the fire and bluff his way to the top or will we Yankee fans have no October baseball yet again?