From the collective sound of things this past weekend, things are over in Yankeeland as a direct consequence of Mariano Rivera’s three consecutive blown saves. Granted, it was the first time that the legendary closer ever blew three straight saves, a fact that is made all the more jarring by the length of his career and the consistency he has had. However, the idea that the Yankee season is over because Mo is fading is borderline comical. If the Yankees season is over, it has very, very little to do with Rivera and everything to do with the rest of this roster.
The Yankees have much, much bigger problems than a bad week from Mo. (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)
For starters, the Yankees entered Monday night with a 2.3% chance of taking the second wild card spot, the only realistic option for them given that they are about 10 games out of first place. That’s it, 2.3%. If I told you that you had a 2.3% chance of winning the lottery, you probably wouldn’t quit your day job and plan that trip to Bora Bora. The Yankees would have to win almost twice as many games (32-15 or so) for the rest of the season to even get to 90 wins. Considering that this team has won only one series over the past month, I just don’t really see that happening.
Given that Rivera doesn’t hit and that he doesn’t come into a game unless the team is winning, I can’t exactly see how blowing a couple of saves within the last week is also responsible for the last month of terrible baseball.
To that end, have you looked at this roster? This isn’t a decent core with a couple of fringe players thrown in for good measure due to some unforeseen injury. No, this roster is down to the JV squad, since we already ran through first string (Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter), second string (Kevin Youkilis) and are now down to Lyle Overbay and Jayson Nix and that legendary tenure of Chris Nelson (insert “Do you think he’ll go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee?” joke here) starting.
In fact, the third base position has been a veritable carousel of players- Nix, Youkilis, Arod, Nunez, David Adams, and Vernon Wells. Yep, Vernon. Wells. Oy. Outside of Robinson Cano, no infielder or catcher is realistically good enough to be a full-time player at the major league level. I like Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, but there’s not enough offense to convince me that either can hold their own for an entire season as the main guy. Again: problems worse than blowing three saves.
With all those Hall of Famers on the roster, it’d be a sure bet that they are blowing the doors off with a potent offense, right? Except no, not at all. In fact, the Yankees currently rank: 27th in runs scored (440); 27th in batting average (.240); 26th in on-base percentage (.303); and 29th in slugging percentage (.366). For those of you keeping score at home, there are only 30 teams in all of baseball. That kind of offensive production is a recipe for not scoring a ton. While it can be argued that pitching is king, and the key to getting deep into the playoffs, in order to win a game, a team must actually, you know, score. If you can’t score, you can’t get a lead; if you can’t get a lead, you can’t even bring your closer in, so, really, you see where I am going with this.
Speaking of pitching, the Yankees can’t even rely on anyone not named Hiroki Kuroda these days. CC Sabathia has been better, but had previously been dreadful for the last month, and mediocre at best for most of the season; Phil Hughes has remained absolutely confounding; Andy Pettitte is starting to finally pitch like he is the oldest starter in the majors; and Ivan Nova, while progressing the last few starts, can still have his outings unravel quickly with all of the hits he gives up. In fact, the collective ERA of those non-Hiroki pitchers: 4.34, surrendering 63 homers and 24 wins. Yep, 24 wins (Hughes only has four?!). While I am not a huge fan of any of these stats alone, it does paint a picture of bigger problems to be had with the Yankees than the fact that one reliever had a rough game or three.
The Yankees can’t pitch. They can’t hit. Those two facts are a lot more important that the fact that one reliever had a bad week. Without the first two things going well, that reliever doesn’t hit the field.
To be clear, I am not knocking any of these guys to be mean. The facts are the facts: this team is just not very good. I enjoy taking time to see a group of guys I have never seen play baseball; I don’t like the fact that it is at the expense of my team making the playoffs.
The Yankees have suffered some devastating injuries, and kudos to Joe Girardi & Co. for keeping them alive this long. As Yankees fans, we have been spoiled rotten having my team make the playoffs an absurd amount in recent memory, and between age, struggles, other teams also being really good, and injuries, we are watching our team come back to earth a little bit. And that’s okay- we can, in fact, enjoy a season without making the playoffs or winning a World Series without the sky caving on us all. However, the fact that Mariano Rivera is struggling is the least of this team’s issues. So please, the next time Mo blows a save, take a deep breath, and get a little bit of perspective- this team has much, much bigger issues than that.