Yankees Last Chance


When Raul Ibanez hit his second spectacular home run Wednesday night, he told reporters, “I’m part of a team. Everything we do is a team effort.”

After last night’s embarrassing, 13-inning, 2-1 loss to the Orioles, I’m ready to believe he was telling the truth. The rest of the Yankee batting order, seeing how miserable Alex Rodriguez was performing, decided to suck — as a team.

After Wednesday night, we can dispense with the idea that rookies are going to come into Yankee Stadium to pitch in their first playoff game and be intimidated. Even though he didn’t get the win, Miguel Rodriguez made the Yankee hitters look like rookies, and last night Joe Saunders, winner of 9 of 22 regular season decisions with an ERA of 4.07, looked like the second coming of Sandy Koufax: 5 1/3 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 5Ks. Or rather, the Orioles bullpen looked like the second coming of Mariano Rivera: 7 2/3 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 6Ks.

Or maybe the Baltimore pitchers were simply throwing to lousy
hitters. For reasons no one, including myself, can fathom, a batting
order that was second in the American League in runs scored facing a
pitching staff that was almost exactly average in league ERA (3.90) has
taken a mind-boggling nose dive.

Leaving out Derek Jeter (.364) and Ibanez (.500), Yankee batters –
Suzuki, Teixeira, Cano, A-Rod, Swisher, Martin, Granderson, and Chavez –
are, for the four games, 18 hits in 119 at-bats. My calculator tells
me that’s a batting average of .151. Those eight have also struck out a
total of 31 times or one for every 3.8 at-bats.

On ESPN Colin Cowherd this morning asked rhetorically, “What is wrong
with these guys? Do they look at tapes of their own at-bats? Is this
bad hitting contagious?” Those are good questions. If you recall, Kevin
Long has, over the last few seasons, been praised as the best batting
coach in baseball. Remember when he took the hitch out of A-Rod’s swing
and made Granderson and Cano into good hitters against lefty pitching?
Well, forget all that. Either Long has been asleep through the last
third of the season and into the playoffs, or they just aren’t listening
to him anymore.

If you’ve been watching the games, tell me if you’re seeing what I’m
seeing. A-Rod (16 AB, 2 hits, 9 Ks for the series) comes up to the
plate and stands with his legs far apart, so he’s much too slow getting
his front leg up for a forward lunge. It seems to me he used to keep his
legs closer together, which made it easier for him to shift his weight
forward and thus made his swing quicker.

But you know what? A-Rod isn’t even the worst hitter in this lineup.
Curtis Granderson seems absolutely lost (16 AB, 1 hit, 9Ks). Is no one
telling him that he is practically going down on the ground to swing at
low pitches? I swear I’ve seen his left knee touch the ground in at
least half of his at-bats. And Curtis doesn’t ever seem to notice that
the low pitches set him up for a high inside strikeout pitch. I wish
Girardi had the nuts to fine him $10,000 for each time he swings with
his left knee touching the ground.

I’m curious if anyone is seeing what I’m seeing.

What to expect tonight? I have no idea. After Ibanez’s game- winning
home run Wednesday night, I thought the mental fog Yankee hitters were
bringing to the plate had dissipated. Now I don’t know what to think.

Jason Hammel was 8-6 during the season with a 3.43 ERA. I don’t know
whether to say he is better or worse than his numbers indicate. His
ERA was good, but in 188 innings he gave up 104 hits and walked 42, so
you would think the Yankees should be able to get to him. Whatever, you
wouldn’t expect him to beat Sabathia, especially pitching in Yankee
Stadium against what will probably be 6 left-handed batters.

But if the Yankee hitters continue with these stupefying at-bats,
letting strikes go by with a bat on their shoulder with runners on base,
it won’t make any difference how well Sabathia pitches.