After tonight’s stink bomb, you can officially forget the post-season because it ain’t happening. No way. It’s been at best a small chance for some time, really since Joba got hurt. But watching this team not only fail to hit, not only fail to hold Boston down, but to absolutely roll over and die seals the deal. The biggest series of the year, the last time the Yankees will play Boston in the old stadium, and the Yankees played poorly then, near the end, indifferently. Yet again this year, the Yankees have disgraced themselves. Sadly, they have 14 games left in Yankee Stadium before moving into the new one next year. Sadly, they won’t have any more playoff games in it. Sadly, they often played like chumps the last year the Stadium is open. Sadly, I’ve watched most of it with the expectation, then hope, then desperate hope, then mounting unlikeliness, then in futile helplessness that they would play well, make the playoffs, and make a run to the Series.
Injuries have mattered a lot, as I’ve consistently posted. But come on now, this is a team with tons of talent and most of the same core, plus some new and good talent added late with Nady, Marte, and Pudge. Don’t tell me that this team, with those players, couldn’t at least be a playoff team, couldn’t at least outscore teams and keep up, injuries notwithstanding. The poor start was an early killer, but the grotesque inconsistency, well before the injuries piled up so badly, before Wang and Joba went down, call the injury excuse seriously into question.
Start with the star-laden roster, for they are mainly the same guys who have at least made playoff runs before. A-Rod seems to have focus every other year and, while he’s having a darn good statistical year, is a joke with RISP. Giambi’s contract can’t expire fast enough for me, that two-trick steroid shooter who lived up to his massive deal all of one year and in blazing spurts in stretches of a few others, but never consistently, never for average any more, never for a whole year. His swing-for-the-fences approach is just the bane the Yankees need to eviscerate from the roster and fast. He’s deserved to be yanked from the five-hole for the last few weeks, but there he sits like so much non-clutch excrement, not to mention his so-called brain taking a powder in the 7-3 loss in the field. Pathetic through and through.
Cano had one of the worst first-half runs I’ve seen for such a talented player, looking clueless, pouting, and lacking any discernibly intelligent approach at the plate for over three months. He’s needed Bowa, whose loss is one of the great casualties of the last off-season. He’s needed a Red-Ass, and Bowa was that to a tee. Melky was a joke when he was up, making stupid mental mistakes in center field–and Melky is NOT the Yankees’ center fielder of the future–and looking even more clueless at the plate than Cano as the season wound on. Melky clearly regressed and, if rumors of his partying with Cano are true, Melky needs to shape up or be gone, and might be banished in an off-season move. Cano too.
Speaking of Red-Asses and the excesses and mistakes of youth, exactly where has the veteran leadership on the Yankees been the last few months? Other than trite platitudes from Pettite, whose wearisome apologies for his poor starts are nice and the right things to say (since he assuredly cares about winning) but nonetheless increasingly bothersome, and shallow banalities from Jeter about picking up the play, where has the leadership come from? Last year, I heard a lot about how Mariano increasingly became the voice of veteran leadership. From whom has it come this year? I realize there’s only so much we as fans can know about what’s happened behind closed doors. But I read the same blogs and papers that I did last year when so much was made of veteran leadership, and I have heard precious little in them this year about who has stepped up to lead this team, especially without Posada, the guts of the team in my opinion. That’s pathetic. Losing seems to have snowballed on the Yankees and engulfed them.
I’m not impressed in the slightest with how the team has responded to the latest stretch, utterly failing to show against Boston. I’m also not impressed with how Girardi has handled the team. He’s well prepared, he works hard, he means well, and he was the best candidate for the job of the three interviewed. I believe that and the rest above. But he hasn’t gotten results, and those results have gotten steadily worse. Various people, from Sam Borden to regular reader Mike have questioned, rightly, what job Girardi has done especially compared to what Torre had done. Whatever his other faults, Torre successfully motivated similarly built Yankees teams, and certainly the offenses were not this woeful, not with this much talent. Whatever the issue, whatever he has or hasn’t said and done, Girardi must bear a good deal of the blame for this team’s routinely wilting. And wilt they have, many times throughout the year and without question now. They seem to have quit.
Jeter bears responsibility as well. With being the captain comes accountability, surely that’s no surprise to him. I’m sure he and others play important roles privately with players, and likely say and do more than we as fans know, and much we’d want them to say, do, and more. But this team has wilted on his watch as well. He’s picked it up of late, but whatever he’s done as captain and leader hasn’t come close to being enough. Again, I hear nothing about who has stepped up. This team has lacked leadership, and I’m sick and stinking-ass tired of watching this team get stomped as the players sit quietly in the dugout. I don’t need water coolers smashed, just some good vocal leadership, some rooting each other on and not just when things go well. The morale on the Yankees appears to have been muted, or downright stunk, most of the year.
The 2008 Yankees have been downright poor for a lot of reasons and in some key situations. They’re not mathematically eliminated yet, but only a miraculous turnaround–something they haven’t shown all year–and the outright collapse of Boston and Minnesota can prevent them from missing the playoffs. I don’t see that happening. I’m not a believer of flipping a switch and playing, getting, doing better at anything. The last games, days, weeks–months–have seen plenty of opportunities and necessities for that and it hasn’t happened. It won’t now simply because the level of desperation and necessity has increased.
I don’t say it because I want the Yanks to stay home this October, because I don’t care, because I don’t believe in them. I say it because there are no signs that this woefully under-achieving, overpaid group will achieve such a historic turnaround. I’ve watched, analyzed, waited, and hoped for 132 games through a lot–A LOT. I’ll be there for the final 30, but the final 30 they will be for 2008, sad though it is to say.
It’s not mathematically so yet, but it’s painfully obvious and–let’s be honest–has been so for a while this year. The Yanks are done for 2008, and they’re playing like it more than ever. They’re playing out the string regardless of what pronouncements to the contrary they make.
[Edit: I added a link to Mike's comment from last night, which I forgot to do. It's well worth reading.]