Monday, June 22, 2009

Yanks Now Owned By Hess Family

Silly me. I thought George Steinbrenner left control of the Yankees to his sons Hank and Hal.

Maybe they were adopted, because right now they seem more like the sons of Leon Hess.

Remember Leon Hess, the long-time New York Jets owner?

Hess, but all accounts, was a good man, a gentleman. But ask and any Jets fan and they'll tell you he was an awful owner.

Is it possible Hank and Hal are that bad?

The Yankees' season continued to scrape along rock bottom as CC Sabathia left with left biceps tendinitis in the second inning, Brett Tomko blew a two-run lead by surrendering two homers, Melky Cabrera uncorked a wild throw to allow a key run to score and a ninth-inning rally fell short in a 6-5 loss to the Marlins in Miami Sunday in a game the Yankees finished under protest.

The Yankees lost the series to Marlins and went 2-4 four against Florida and the Nationals this week. On June 8, the Yankees stood 11 games over .500 and led the AL East by a game. They've gone 4-8 since, falling four games behind the Red Sox and winning just one series that they really deserved to lose.

The team is a mess, lifeless for long stretches during games, scuffling to play with any confidence, consistency or urgency.

And it's tough to come up with any reason why things will change any time soon.

Once upon a time, the Jets were in a similar situation.

Hess's philosophy was hands-off ... and it created a leadership vacuum for the team. In the mid-to-late 1980s, the Jets under coach Joe Walton developed a tendency to fold in December before finally putting together a miserable 4-12 season in '89.

By that season, Jets fans had enough of the coach and when the team got off to a terrible start, they were begging Hess to fire Walton, chanting, "Joe Must Go!" during home games.

Hess refused to make a move, waiting until the end of the season and infuriating the fans. They knew the team was in trouble and sure enough, it was shutout in its final two home games.

The Yankees appear to be at a crossroads of the season. They have the talent and they are still in the race, but they are foundering, lacking fire and leadership.

With a day off today, the timing is perfect for Hank and Hal to make a move.

But something tells me they won't ... even after this latest debacle.

The game started on a worrisome note with Sabathia giving up a run on Wes Helm's single in the first and then Joe Girardi and trainer Gene Monahan paying Sabathia a visit after he finished his warmup throws in the second.

Jorge Posada had alerted Girardi that something wasn't right with Sabathia, and sure enough Sabathia was having trouble with his left biceps. Once CC gave up a one-out double in the second, Girardi had seen enough and lifted the Yankees' big $161 million investment.

Sabathia is day-to-day, though to tests are scheduled, which is strange. Why not check it out thoroughly just to make sure? Is there any harm in doing that?

Initially, things seemed as if they would work out for the Yankees in this game.

Mr. Versatility Alfredo Aceves pitched 2-2/3 scoreless innings and the Yankees grabbed a 3-1 lead on a two-out, RBI double by Mark Teixeira and a two-run single by Alex Rodriguez, who snapped an 0-for-16 skid.

And then everything unraveled. The offense went silent, getting just one more hit until there were two-outs in the ninth, and the bullpen came apart.

But Tomko (0-2, 6.28 ERA) continued to show he's nothing more than a mopup man, allowing a two-out, two-run homer to Henley Ramirez in the fifth and a two-out, solo shot to Cody Ross in the sixth to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead. It was the first runs allowed by the bullpen in six games.

Girardi did not go to Phil Hughes there because Hughes as going to be the eighth inning guy. Though Brian Bruney did not pitch Saturday, he had warmed up and was not available Sunday. That meant Girardi had to find someone to pitch multiple innings. Tomko couldn't get the job done.

He's has had few good moments with this team and the only reason he wasn't cut when Bruney was activated was because the Yankees still had Jose Veras.

It's quite possible we'll see Edwar Ramirez or Jonathan Albaladejo recalled by Tuesday's game.

The Marlins continued to apply the pressure in the seventh. After Alejandro de Aza popped out in what the Marlins indicated was going to be a double switch, Chris Coghlan singled off Phil Coke.

David Robertson replaced Coke and struck out Helms, but Henley Ramirez followed with a walk before Jorge Cantu lined a single to left to easily score Coghlan. Melky Cabrera charged the ball quickly, fielded it cleanly and released a throw that was well off the line, getting past Posada and rattling around the backstop to allow Ramirez to also score from first and make it 6-3.

The extra run proved costly. The Yankees mounted a two-out rally in the ninth against hard-throwing closer Matt Lindstrom with Posada and Cabrera singling and scoring on Brett Gardner's triple. But after Johnny Damon pinch hit and walked, Jeter swung at the first pitch he saw from Lidstrom and hit into a forceout to end it.

Asked about his lack of patience, Jeter said it was the wrong situation to be patient.

"You can't be too selective with a guy throwing 98," Jeter said.


This is not the first guy they Yankees have faced who throws that hard. And Jeter should know better. He was on those championship teams. Even against the hardest throwers, they were always patient and grinded out tough at-bats. Lindstrom had just thrown four out of five out of the zone. Patience was exactly what Jeter and the Yankees needed there.

Instead Jeter ended the game ... but not exactly.

Girardi played the game under protest because in the eighth, after the Marlins called for that double switch, Coghlan returned to his position in right. After reliever Leo Nunez fired the first pitch of the inning, Girardi pointed the error out to the umps.

The umps huddled for 10 minutes trying to figure out the rule. None of them had ever come across a situation like this and there isn't anything black letter in the rule book. Eventually they ruled de Aza and Coghlan were ineligible and the Marlins inserted Jeremy Hermedia in right, hitting ninth.

But Girardi also wanted Nunez out of the game, too, because he had been inserted into the leadoff spot in the lineup, and when Coghlan went back into the game, the Marlins had two guys hitting first.

Protests are very rarely upheld. The Commissioner's office traditionally doesn't like to overrule the umpires. But given the highly unusual nature of this situation and the lack of any direct precedent or on point rule, there is a fair chance this protest could be upheld.

If it is, the game would revert to the eighth inning with the Yankees trailing 6-3 and Nunez out of the game. However, don't expect this game to resume unless the either team is involved in a tight playoff race late in the season.

But that protest doesn't change that fact that this game currently stands as a loss and the team just is playing terrible baseball.

The team needs a shakeup and Hank and Hal do have options.

They have ample reason to fire Girardi. His in-game strategy has not been as sound as we thought it would be, and he seems to get tight and become reactionary in big games.

He also seems to still have trouble with the veterans in the clubhouse, with Mariano Rivera publicly questioning him when he elected to intentionally walk Even Longoria two weeks ago.

Girardi also does not seem to have a good read on the players (see Rodriguez's bout with fatigue) or a good feel for the clubhouse.

Of course, by firing Girardi, Hank and Hal would also be admitting they made a mistake with Joe Torre.

So if they are going to let their pride get in the way, the next play out of their father's playbook would be to fire pitching coach Dave Eiland and/or hitting coach Kevin Long.

Yes, the Yankees' pitching has been better over the past week, but keep in mind it was against the Nationals and Marlins -- not exactly powerhouse offenses. For most of the year, the pitching has been awful, struggling to throw strikes or give the Yankees' offense a chance.

That offense, meanwhile, is again plodding, waiting for the three-run homer and failing to hit with runners in scoring position. It again struggles to manufacture runs, and it just no long grinds out at-bats and no long makes pitchers work like it did in the championship era.

Yes, this team has load more power that the late-1990s teams, but the current approach is not conducive to long-term success ... it makes us long for Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez and Wade Boggs.

This team needs a change now.

Hank, Hal I'm begging you, please, please make it -- before we change your last name to Hess.

Runners In Scoring Position
3-for-6 (.500)
167-for-629 (.266)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
101-for-361 (.280)
Vs. Red Sox
11-for-82 (.134)

Up Next
Tuesday at Atlanta, 7 p.m., Local TV (check you listings)
Chien-Ming Wang (0-5, 12.30) vs. Tommy Hanson (2-0, 4.08)

Anyone have any faith Wang can snap this two-game skid and get the ship righted? Me neither.

1 comment:

Subway Squawkers said...

If only The Boss could say, I'm 78 years old and I want to win now, a la Leon Hess!