However the Yankees end up after the crucial weekend series against the Orioles, there’s one thing that August has pretty much demonstrated: namely, that the Yankees — as they are now constituted — are not going to the World Series this year and probably will not even win the American League East.
This isn’t to say that the return of some combination of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixiera and Andy Pettitte can’t turn things around, but the team the Yankees fielded against Toronto this week just isn’t good enough.
Midway through Wednesday’s frustrating 8-5 loss to the Blue Jays,
Michael Kay said what everyone was thinking. “When you play teams like
this” – i.e., the Blue Jays, or the Indians, who the Yankees played last
weekend – “you are really expected to sweep, especially when you’re
playing at home.” As the Yankees were against Toronto. “Nobody will
say this out loud, because they don’t want to get our opponents fired
up, but you’re in first place, you’re in a pennant fight, a series like
this is supposed to be a gift.”
Instead, the series, particularly yesterday’s game, has put
everything wrong with the Yankees in bas-relief. In the field, the Yanks
committed 3 errors, including flubs by Derek Jeter and Eric Chavez, the
latter especially damaging as it came in the crucial 8th inning and
helped give Toronto an insurance run.
Once again, and this is becoming numbingly familiar to Yankees fans,
the stripers scored early and then took most of the rest of the
afternoon off. How the Yankees can repeatedly score two runs in either
the 1st or 2nd innings and then lose their concentration is a mystery
that neither Joe Girardi, batting coach Kevin Long or anyone else has
been able to figure out.
An even bigger mystery is how this batting order can repeatedly fail
to blow games open with bases loaded and less than 2 outs. Earlier in
the season, I said it was just a statistical fluke because I couldn’t
think of any other reason why this was happening, I still can’t, but
fluke or not, it doesn’t seem like one that’s going to turn itself
around before the end of the season.
Perhaps the most disheartening thing was once again watching C.C.
Sabathia look un-hittable in early innings and then all of a sudden run
out of steam. It has become painfully obvious that he is not and
probably never will be the big game ace the Yankees have always tried to
see him as. Wednesday’s game was absolutely crucial, but Sabathia, who
whizzed through the first two innings on just 18 pitches with three
strikeouts, nearly lost it all in the 3rd, giving up 5 hits and
surrendering the lead 3-2.
Then, in the 6th inning, Sabathia gave up a game-losing two-run homer
to Yunel Escobar (who, by the way, among players whose first name
begins with Y, is the 4th leading home run hitter in major league
history, with 51). Sabathia was once a pitcher who could be depended on
to get you into the 7th or even the 8th inning and save innings for the
bullpen; now he’s a gas-gulping bullpen drainer.
Actually, Sabathia’s performance was the second most disheartening
thing in the game. Even worse was he performance by Joba Chamberlain,
who, despite all logic, was brought in by Girardi in the 9th to keep the
game at 6-5, Toronto. Instead, Joba gave up a double to Escobar which
made it 8-5 and then hit a batter.
I’ve been following Chamberlain’s career since interviewing him for the Voice
back in 2007, and I genuinely thought he was ready to bounce back and
make a major contribution to the Yanks’ pennant run this year. (He was
2-0 with a 2.83 ERA before going out last year with a major arm injury.)
But now, at age 26, he looks like a relic from Double-A ball who is
working his way back into the bigs by learning to throw a knuckler. The
old sinking fastball and hard breaking slider are gone. So, too, is the
look of barrel-chested intimidation that he used to project. Yankee
press information now lists him at 250 pounds, about 15-20 more than he
carried a few years ago when Joe Torre and his staff couldn’t seem to
decide instituted “the Joba rules,” limiting his work load while
paradoxically trying to decide whether they wanted him to be the
greatest starter or greatest reliever of all time.
This year Joba’s given up 16 hits and four walks in just 7.1 innings
for a ridiculous 8.59 ERA. Why the Yankees still have him on the roster
is another mystery, but one that they can no longer afford to try and
solve as the Orioles come to the Bronx for the biggest series so far