Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Child, please: The 2012 Yankees are not the 2004 Red Sox

Warning: long rant ahead! I knew the Yankees were going to lose the game last night when I first saw Joe Girardi's bizarro world lineup. When you're going up against one of the best pitchers in baseball in Justin Verlander, you should have your best lineup. And Girardi didn't. Not only was Brett Gardner, somebody who should have gotten at-bats earlier, batting leadoff in Nick Swisher's place, and Eduardo NunEEEz playing (although the latter one worked out well) but Alex Rodriguez, somebody who has great numbers against Justin Verlander, was riding the pine, again, in favor of Eric Chavez, who only went from 0 for 11 to 0 for 14 and made an error that cost the Yankees a run.

Oh, and how about that photo above? It's Robinson Cano watching Justin Verlander pitch. Yes, folks, this is how a postseason hitter who went 0 for 29 until getting a ninth-inning hit -- the worst streak in MLB history! -- intently watches the game. Sure, A-Rod is a big goat for this postseason. But Cano should be the biggest one. He is the superstar who is supposed to be this team's best player, and he has gone 3 for 36 this October. To put those numbers in perspective, bench players Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez have two hits each. Yet Cano has mostly gotten a pass in this postseason. He shouldn't.

This postseason should put an end to the canard that October is all about pitching. The Yankees couldn't have had better pitching -- every single starter has been terrific, and the bullpen, other than Phelps, has been stellar -- yet they can't win, due to their lousy hitting (Ichiro, Jeter, Tex and Ibanez are the only exceptions).

* * *

I was on the Staten Island Ferry yesterday afternoon when I checked my iPhone and saw a note on Facebook from our friend Larry, a longtime Squawker reader. He wrote, "I am now convinced the Yankees have decided to eat 130 million dollars and dump A-Rod for a bag of balls. I am sure he wants out now." When I saw the lineup, I figured out what he was referring to! Because there was absolutely no justification in benching Alex, other than if the Yankees are sending him a message that they want him off the team, and Girardi is sending the world a message designating Rodriguez as the 2012 postseason scapegoat.

Or perhaps this was punishment for that New York Post story about A-Rod allegedly getting the digits of some chippies during Game 1. (If that story is true, A-Rod did a mind-numbingly stupid thing, but it's still shouldn't be worthy of him being benched in a playoff game the Yanks are trying to win.) I think that if you want to send a message, call Western Union (or Western Onion, as Bugs Bunny used to. Boy, am I dating myself here!)

Here's the thing: Rodriguez didn't just have very good career numbers against Verlander in his career (8 for 24 with 3 homers), he also had excellent numbers in 2012 against him (4 for 6 with 2 homers.) This wasn't ancient history; this was just a few months ago. And, as even A-Rod hater Wally Matthews noted, Rodriguez "ended Sunday's Game 2 at Yankee Stadium with good at-bats his last two times up, lining out to left and then singling up the middle." The ESPN writer said that A-Rod's "bat may have been sick, but it seemed to be recovering." He certainly looked better at the plate Sunday than Cano or Curtis Granderson did, to name two examples.

Also, as Christina Kahrl of ESPN writes, Chavez, Girardi's choice as Rodriguez's postseason replacement, "hit .200/.244/337 with more than 120 postseason at-bats -- his consistent failures in October made him Oakland’s A-Rod-level postseason disappointment a decade before A-Rod got there."

But hey, let's throw Chavez out there again, to look terrible at the plate, and make another bad play in the field -- this one costing the Yankees a run. Yippee! As even Derek Jeter biographer Ian O'Connor noted, "If nobody knows for sure that Rodriguez would have made the play, everybody knows for sure that his replacement didn't." I have said it before and will say it again -- it is one thing to have Raul Ibanez, the hottest player on the team at the time, pinch-hit for A-Rod. It's another thing to continue to run Eric Chavez out there, when he has yet to do a thing to contribute positively in this postseason.

What's the endgame here? Girardi has lost Rodriguez -- as bad as Joe Torre was to him, you'd have to argue that Girardi cut him off at the knees even worse here.

Are the Yankees trying to get A-Rod to retire? It's not going to happen. Yesterday, Cashman made references to A-Rod's numbers in September being the reason for his benching, not just the postseason. (Of course, Chavez had even worse numbers that month, but why confuse Cashman with the facts?)

Sure, A-Rod went .261/.341/.369 in September after King Felix broke his hand. Which begs the question, if the Yankees thought he was physically unable to perform due to this, why did they rush him back from the hand injury? Why didn't they at least give him the dignity of benching him for physical reasons, and not mental ones? Because this is a world-class humiliation, and it doesn't speak well for either Cashman or Girardi.

Rodriguez isn't even trying to put on the "good soldier" act with the media -- he's obviously ticked off, and didn't talk with the press before or after the game. I think they are going to have to trade him, but they will have to pick up 80% to 90% of his contract to have him play elsewhere. If you think that paying $20 million a year for Alex Rodriguez not to play for the New York Yankees for the next five years is a great idea, you may very well get your wish.

* * *

If the New York Yankees really took seriously their bogus "the season is a failure without a World Series ring," then there should be a whole lot of heads on the chopping blog within the next day or two. But there won't be. There never is. Brian Cashman will get to keep his job, as will Girardi, as will Randy Levine and Lonn Trost, whose overpriced postseason tickets resulted in lame crowds and no sellouts. Maybe hitting coach Kevin Long will get fired, but that's about it.

And sorry, folks, but these 2012 Yankees are not the 2004 Red Sox; there is not going to be a miraculous comeback. (For one thing, Jim Leyland, unlike Joe Torre in 2004, isn't going to help the opposition by doing the equivalent like not bunting off Curt Schilling and not running when Jason Varitek is catching Tim Wakefield. Not that I am bitter or anything!)

Even though I mentioned to my friend Sully Baseball that maybe this team's offense could use a shot of an adult beverage before a game, that still wouldn't change things. CC may pitch well tonight, but 2004 Sox hero Derek Lowe may be in the bullpen, but this team isn't going anywhere.

And why doesn't anybody in the media remind Brian Cashman, architect of this disaster, that he had this to say just 11 days ago, bragging about how he put this lineup together, which he claimed was like the late 90s Yankees, which is a joke in and of itself. (hat tip to my friend Steve of
“I want a team that walks and mashes,” Cashman said. “And if you can mash and hit home runs, then you can hit singles and doubles, too. We’re not going to hit triples. But we’re built the way we are for a reason.

“I’m still using the Gene Michael playbook, and this is about getting big, hairy monsters that mash and are selective at the plate. There’s a reason we’re perennially at the top of runs scored.”
Big, hairy monsters? More like a big, hairy disaster! Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 New York Yankees!

What do you think? Tell us about it!


Paul said...

There's one question I'd like to know the answer to. Suppose the Yankees did trade Alex Rodriguez and paid most of his remaining salary. Would that payment still count as part of the luxury tax threshold? This could be a very important consideration since Hal Steinbrenner has said he'd like to lower the total Yankee payroll to under $189 million after the 2013 season which will be the threshold then.

Unknown said...

Lisa. Doubt if Alex will be back next spring. Would have been nice to say "goodbye" to him; guess we will have to wait for interleague games.
What a shame.

$200M payroll and they can't buy a hit. Before the playoffs began the Daily News declared that the Yankees were becoming "Cano's team". Really? well then they are in big trouble.

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