Friday, June 19, 2009

A Test For Ownership

We all know what King George would have done back in the day.

By now, there would have been missives. A coach or two would have been fired. Maybe even the manager and general manager.

But the current regime, the Steinbrenner boys Hank and Hal, has been silent.

No missives.

No bluster.

No firings.

No leadership.

The fans have noticed and we are not happy.

The Yankees hit the lowpoint (we hope) Thursday, getting shut out at Yankee Stadium for the first time and losing to someone named Craig Stammen and the Nationals, 3-0. It was the first game at the Stadium without a homer as the Yankees lost the series to the lowly Nats, who hadn't won two straight since winning three in a row May 7-9.

The Yankees have lost six of nine, and were a dropped popup away from that being seven.

In this series, this team didn't even put forth a C-effort. Even in the game it won, it barely showed any fight, any life for six innings.

These are professionals and there never is any excuse for these players ever putting forth anything less than their best efforts, especially when the Yankees have the chutzpah to charge $2,650 -- now $1,325 -- for a seat.

And any time there is a lack of effort, that falls on the shoulders of the manager.

One of the big reasons the Yankees didn't want Joe Torre back was because of passive, calm nature. They Steinbrenners wanted someone who would show life and emotion. Someone who can fire up the team and the crowd.

Joe Girardi was supposed to be that person, yet this team looks anything but fired up.

Meanwhile, against one of the worst pitching staffs in the majors, the Yankees' offense disappeared. The Yankees scored seven runs in the three-game series, two in the last two games. The offense went 19-for-93 (.204) and 3-for-20 (.150) with runners in scoring position.

The primary culprit is Alex Rodriguez, who went 0-for-4 Thursday and is now 8-for-55 (.145) for the month of June. Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, I'm not saying the Yankees should get rid of A-Rod. That would be idiotic.

We saw how this team took off when A-Rod returned from his hip injury. The point here is to further illustrate how important this guy is to the lineup and the team's success. He's not hitting well right now, and it's no coincidence the team is struggling.

But this effort was against a team that was about ready to fire its manager and had lost 25 of its last 30. The Nationals' starters, who have a 4.98 ERA, allowed two earned runs in 20-2/3 innings. That's a 0.87 ERA.

During the series there has a lot of talk about the Yankees struggling when facing a pitching for the first time.

What a weak excuse. It's the kind of excuse that makes you want to scream, "Excuses are for losers!"

These are major league hitters, some of them the best in the game. They've faced pitchers they hadn't seen before every year since they broke in. These guys are supposed to know how to make in-game adjustments. They are supposed to be able to crush inferior pitching no matter how often they've seen they guy before.

And yet they don't. Pathetic.

Then there's the baserunning. Thursday Nick Swisher was gunned out at second trying to stretch a single. It was the second time in the series the Yankees had a runner thrown out on the bases and the continuation of a trend that became noticeable in the Red Sox series.

This is basic fundamentals. There is no excuse -- except for the coaching staff failing to underscore its importance.

It was an embarrassing display by the offense.

But the pitching wasn't much better.

CC Sabathia was bailed out by the offense Tuesday. Chien-Ming Wang was mediocre at best Wednesday.

Joba Chamberlain was just disappointing Thursday.

It will go into the books as a quality start, but we know better. Joba allowed three runs on seven hits and four walks in six innings. He struck out six and threw 60 of 100 pitches for strikes, but struggled with his control.

For the second straight game he issues a bases load walk. With two outs in the fourth, Joba got ahead of Wil Nieves 1-and-2 but threw two sliders out of the zone before missing with a 94 mph fastball.

Can't blame Jorge Posada and pitch selection this time. Francisco Cervelli was behind the plate.

Watching the postgame on YES, Joba said he struggled making quality pitches.

Let me translate for those who don't speak pitcher. Joba was trying to make the perfect pitch. He was afraid to throw strikes, afraid to make a mistake that would be lofted in the Yankee Stadium jetstream for a homer. In short, despite having electric stuff, he doesn't trust it.

And that's pitching coach Dave Eiland's responsibility.

Chamberlain and the rest of the Yankees pitchers are not the first to pitch in a homer haven. Bert Blyleven pitched at the Homer Dome, Minnesota's Metrodome. Yes, he gave up his share of homers, but most were solo shots and his teams usually were able to survive them. Why? Because Blyleven threw strikes and didn't allow those homers to be two-run and three-run shots.

The Yankees pitchers have to stop pitching scared. It's enough already. But I have no faith that Eiland can change that mind-set.

And that presents Hank and Hal with the first true test of their leadership. They got one thing right Thursday when they rewarded the fans who attended with a free tickets to a future game. Good move, those people more than earned that.

But now they have to show us that they understand what it means to run the Yankees. They need to show us that they won't accept mediocrity.

It's time for a move. Any move.

Yankee fans have every right to be upset, and that anger will grow if Hank and Hal don't take action by time the game starts tonight.

And if they don't, well the Yankees should feel fortunate they'll be out of New York for six games.

Otherwise things could get ugly.

Runners In Scoring Position
0-for-4 (.000)
158-for-604 (.262)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
92-for-336 (.274)
Vs. Red Sox
11-for-82 (.134)

Up Next
Friday at Marlins, 7:10 p.m., YES
Andy Pettitte (6-3, 4.52 ERA) vs. Sean West (2-1, 3.00)

Just freakin' win, will ya?

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