Thursday, May 31, 2007

MayDay!! MayDay!!

Current date: 5/31/07
Current time: 8:43 AM
Current American East Standings:
Boston 36-16
Baltimore 26-27
Toronto 24-28
Tampa Bay 22-29
New York 22-29

If this was April going on May and saw these standings, I would just chuckle and wait for the inevitable Yankee run. It's now May going on June and I'm still waiting. One month can be an aberration. Two months and 7 games under .500 it appears this might not be the self correcting Yankess of the years past.

Let's look at the standings another way to get a better picture of what sort of disaster we may be witnessing.

Boston 36-15 Total Payroll = $143,123,714
Baltimore 26-27 TP = $95,107,808
Toronto 24-28 TP = $79,925,600
Tampa Bay 22-29 TP = $24,124,200
New York 22-29 TP = $195,229,045

That's right, the mighty Yankees, with the highest payroll in the league, have the same record as the Tampa Bay LastPlacers who have the lowest. I would also like to point out that the payroll figure for the Yankees does not include Roger Clemens. So tack on another $18 mil. Or $6 million less than the entire Tampa Bay roster.

To be fair, tack on $51 million to the Red Sox payroll since they paid that out for the rights to Dice-K.
So what gives? How is the highest payroll in the league slowly shitting the bed and laying what might possibly be the biggest egg in sports history? Glad you asked. Let's do the ole break down.

Age: Granted this isn't the biggest factor, but it appears some of their key players are turning to dust before our eyes. I keep waiting for Abreu to come strolling to the plate with a walker and he's only 33! Damon is battling old and doesn't seem close to being the player he was even a year ago.

Injuries: This is becoming less of a factor lately. Mussina and Wang are back and healthy, Hughes is still on the DL, which for a hamstring pull seems a bit odd. I'm not really counting Pavano as he was going to suck and everyone knew it.

Roster Moves: This is where things started going south for this team. First was when they traded Randy Johnson back to Arizona. Things obviously didn't work out for Johnson in NY, beginning when he shoved a cameraman his first day in the city, but he was still an intimidating figure to throw at opposing teams and gave them a better chance to win than three of their current starters.

Which brings us to their second, and in my opinion, more damaging trade. Gary Sheffield to the Tigers. When I heard this I let loose a big sigh of relief. Nobody terrifies me more than Sheffield. With him gone there is a big, gaping hole of intimidation in that lineup. Even with ARod tearing it up, he doesn't scare me. Giambi is a corpse, Abreu is still laying down bunts trying to get on base, Jeter hits opposite field singles, Cano is having all sorts of trouble. With Sheffield gone, so is the Yankee swagger. He made them fearsome. Now they're just a bunch of clean cut, 'gee whiz' guys trying way too hard.

Torre: Boss keeps saying he's safe, but if they're 7 games under .500 at the end June will that still be the case? He's made more than his share of puzzling moves so far. If he keeps getting credit for winning with a $200 million team, shouldn't he be getting some of the blame now?

Cashman: He's been one of the best GMs working under the most extreme circumstances for years, but now that he wrestled control of the team away from the committee he is completely on the hook for this team. Steinbrenner has even publicly said so. Be interesting to see what moves he makes to get this team back in a groove. It also raises the question of whether other teams are going to hold the Yankees over a barrel regarding any trades. Everyone knows they're desperate. If you were another team, wouldn't you try to soak them when they attempt to make a move? I know I would.

Pitching: Mussina is 37, Pettite 34, Clemens 103. Only Wang, their most reliable starter, is in his prime. No wonder they got rid of Johnson. They would have had the first AARP rotation in history. But the biggest issue is the bullpen. Rivera seems to have completely lost his confidence, not that he's had many save opportunities, and the middle relief guys are a disaster. They even walked in two runs in a close game against Toronto a few days ago. If this keeps up, will Guidry or the bullpen coach be fired? They had no problem firing the conditioning coach when hamstrings started popping like over tightened violin strings. Someone's going to pay if this keeps up.

Defense: Not normally the strength of the Yankees anyway, but there has been a drastic decline this year. Matsui, usually there most reliable outfielder, not only looks to have lost a step, but there have been a few plays where he wasn't even sure where the ball was. Abreu looks lost and scared, which is confusing, since he's always been at least competent out there. Cano is making errors on routine plays on a nightly basis it seems. In the Mets series David Wright hit a blast to center field that Damon leaped up to grab. 2 years ago he makes that catch 10 out of 10 times. This time it hits the heel of his glove and pops over the wall for a home run.

Chemistry: Maybe this is an overrated aspect of a baseball team, but there has to be something to it. ARod started crying in public about his relationship with Jeter during spring training. Giambi decides to confess his sins about steroids or whatever in an interview, then a story springs up about him testing positives for amphetamines. Public griping about Clemens prima donna treatment. Some Yankees tell other Yankees to shut the fuck up through the newspapers. Does anyone actually talk to each other in that clubhouse?

NOTE: I wrote most of this yesterday, before ARod pulled another bush league play against Toronto when his team was up 4 runs in the ninth inning. That's twice in one week he's put himself and teammates in the line of fire (after the elbow to Pedroia). Is anyone in the clubhouse going to tell him to cut the shit? I'm betting no. Also thought it was interesting he used the EXACT same phrase he used when he was called out after slapping the ball away from Arroyo in the playoffs: 'I would never do that'.
Bottom line: I still fully expect the Yankees to make a run. They have too much talent not to, but at what point are they too far behind? Right now 13 games isn't insurmountable, but considering the look of the Red Sox, Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Angels, Athletics even if they get their shit together and win 18 games in a row, they still might not make the playoffs.

With a payroll of over $200 million, will missing the playoffs literally kill Steinbrenner? Probably not, but it will be fun to find out.

Today's distraction: Browse one of the best sites ever. Good times, my friends, good times.

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