Yankees Yuck It Up

    Hi! This is Kenn’s Brewers fan/Yankees fan/baseball-loving daughter. I learned long ago that a good way to express feelings and thoughts is through writing, and after watching the complete collapse of the 2006 Yankees, emotions are just flowing. Living in the Midwest, I usually see my Yankees play on the road against the AL Central squads. I’ve garnered a reputation as a “nice, non-spoiled Yankees fan”, but this recent debacle is enough to make me want to crawl into some cabinets and curl up into a fetal position like the Indians fans in the new (and fabulous) Tommy Lasorda MLB postseason commercials. Where to even start?
    How about the sudden complete lack of hitting? Coming into the postseason, Tigers manager/living legend Jim Leyland nicknamed the Yankees lineup “Murderer’s Row and Cano”-catchy and appropriate, or so it seemed at the time. Aside from my beloved 2006 AL MVP-deserving Derek Jeter and his good buddy Jorge Posada, no one in that amazing All-Star line up contributed significantly at all. As a team, they hit .246 in the series, which is deceptively skewed in their favor because of the 8 runs scored in Game 1. If it wasn’t for Johnny Damon’s three run blast in Game 2, they likely would have been shut out in two straight games (also a credit to Detroit’s pitching; more on this later).  The thing is, though, that this isn’t a unique situation. Anemic offense in the postseason has plagued the Yankees ever since that fateful Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against Boston. It was a reason they went on to lose not only that series, but also the 2005 Divisional Series against Los Angeles/Anaheim/Orange County/Somewhere in California. Now, to be fair, one reason for this is because of the nature of the short series. They aren’t going to get to feast on the 4th and 5th starters of mediocre teams in the playoffs like they do in the regular season. However, for a lineup that features names like Abreu, Rodriguez, Sheffield, Giambi, Damon, and Matsui, a collective batting average of .246-including a sickening .095 with RISP in the losses-and a streak of 20 innings without scoring a run is inexcusable.
    With as futile as the Yankees bats were, the team’s Achilles heel all season long was the pitching, and the postseason proved no different. To succeed in the playoffs, it is absolutely crucial to have at least three solid starters-something the Yankees did not. Wang and Mussina didn’t have stellar outings, but certainly pitched well enough to win. An inconsistent Randy Johnson is unnerving in the regular season. An inconsistent Randy Johnson with a herniated disk in his back pitching in the playoffs-and as the Game 3 starter, nonetheless-is a liability, especially with the unsteady, overworked bullpen behind him. So what’s the answer? Make your Game 4 starter Jaret Wright, someone who failed to make it to the 5th inning in a majority of his starts. Cory Lidle may not have been the best choice either, but he had more quality starts in half a season with the Yankees than Wright did in twice the amount of time.  When I turned on my XM to listen to Game 4 while driving home from the Badgers football game, I didn’t know who was scheduled to start. My first thoughts upon hearing that Wright was getting the call were, “Uh oh…that’s not good! If they don’t hit today, they’re going to lose!” I could be wrong, but shouldn’t a fan be excited and confident in their starters in the postseason?  There’s something unnerving when you count your team out after hearing who’s getting the start.
    I admit that I have no front office experience. I also am not an analyst for a living, because for some reason I’ve opted to pursue a career in scientific research instead. However, the Yankees need to do some major overhauling in the offseason, and if I had a say, these are the moves I would make. First, get rid of the BALCO boys, Giambi and Sheffield. Yankees fans have unfairly been targeting A-Rod all season for his supposed “down year”, but he did more to earn his salary during the regular season than either of the other two, and all were equally lacking in postseason production. Neither contributed enough with a bat in the playoffs to warrant keeping them either in the lineup or in the field, where Andy Phillips may have been able step up and chip in when they needed him to, like he did so often during the regular season. Phillips played very solid when given the opportunity, and keeping him in the lineup as a regular first baseman next year would not only be a defensive upgrade, but free up a lot of cash. There are enough other big bats in the lineup to compensate should he take a while to really warm up at the plate. The other young player that really helped the team out this year when needed was Melky Cabrera, who would have been a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year candidate had it not been the year of the pitcher. Get Cabrera back out in the field as part of the everyday lineup, and move Damon or Abreu to DH. Finally, attack the biggest problem at its heart-the pitching. Let go of Johnson, Wright, and Pavano, the 2005-06 version of Kevin Brown. These money vacuums have done nothing to make the organization better. Finally, take the money from the bloated contracts of Giambi, Sheffield, and the pitchers and invest in some solid, proven quality pitchers. No more of this signing guys with one decent year to huge contracts, a la Pavano and Wright. It should only be more evident now after this postseason how very important a solid rotation is. Use the money to get two more good starters and a few relievers instead of another giant bat with an ego to match. This strategy is old and clearly ineffective.  It’s time for the Yankees to take a fresh approach. (As an aside, since I’m talking about the future of the team, I should probably bring up my view on A-Rod. I admit, he has not been the easiest guy to cheer for this year, but can you think of anyone else you’d rather have in your lineup? I actually feel very bad for him. He put up a solid season, and nothing was ever good enough for the press. He was constantly under the microscope, and everyone should know that it’s hard to perform like that.  The barrage of criticism this season was uncalled for. I say keep him another year, and take it easy on him. Give him one more chance. Certainly what happened in the postseason cannot be blamed solely on him.)
     Yes, the Yankees do need a new approach. However, this should NOT involve a new manager. I have been very distraught since reading the reports of Joe Torre’s probable firing. Many people have been saying that the job he did this past season was his finest, and that he’s a candidate for the AL Manager of the Year. I absolutely agree. Steinbrenner has nobody to blame for this but himself and his ludicrous overspending, particularly on pitchers. Torre isn’t the one out there throwing balls. He’s not the one swinging at bad pitches. In fact, he’s the one responsible for trying to manage this chemistry-lacking group that Steinbrenner nonsensically pieced together. He’s done the best he possibly can with what he has to work with. In the eleven seasons since first becoming manager, Torre has led the Yankees to the postseason each time, winning 10 AL East titles, including the last nine straight. He has more postseason wins than any other manager. Now he’s being blamed-and fired-because of his players’ postseason ineptitude? If he can’t manage this team, no one can. Nothing good can come of his leaving, and firing Torre will cause more problems than it will solve. If Steinbrenner wants to point fingers, he should go look in a mirror while doing so. 
    There are two sides to the Yankees’ postseason story, and the other is the incredible play of the Detroit Tigers. I would like to commend them and congratulate them on a fabulous season. Back in 2002, my friends and I took our first stadium road trip to see the Yankees play the T
igers in Detroit, when they would go on to set the AL record for single season losses. (Ironically, the Tigers took one of the two games from the Yankees then, representing about 2.3% of their total wins that season.) This year, we saw them play the Pirates in Pittsburgh right before the All-Star break. I remember being very impressed by them. They hit, fielded, pitched, and were very fundamentally sound. I couldn’t remember seeing any weaknesses or flaws. They single-handedly demonstrated this season how important solid pitching can be, and how far it can take you. “Murderer’s Row and Cano” is only good if balls are being hit.  I’ve been to quite a few stadiums now, and Comerica Park is one of my favorites. It has a lot of character and proudly displays the history of one of the sport’s most storied franchises.  Truly the Tigers have been baseball’s best story this season, and I’m very happy for their well-deserving fans. To be completely honest, the Brewers fan in me is a bit jealous of the success. To see how far they’ve come in so short a time is amazing. I suppose I should be optimistic and think that if it happened in Detroit, it can happen anywhere, but the Brewers haven’t made any significant strides forward in quite a few years.  I’ll keep hoping. Maybe if the Yankees don’t want Joe Torre, he can come back to Milwaukee and help us be the next Tigers.  If the fans in Detroit thought that the champagne the players were spraying on them was that sweet after a 19 year playoff drought, how would it taste in Milwaukee after a 25+ year drought? I guess I can only wait and continue to dream.
    I believe that the 2006 MLB season has been one of the greatest in my lifetime.  It was great to see so many fans back at the parks, and so many people excited about the game again. The last week was as intense as any I can remember. It’s unfortunate that both of my teams ended up underachieving, and that the insane, bloodthirsty owner of one of them is going to make a mess of things. It’s going to be a very interesting offseason, and a very long, cold winter here in Wisconsin (especially since the Packers aren’t going to distract me from my baseball pains this year)! But, the season isn’t over yet, and I don’t want to let Lasorda down. I’m still a die-hard baseball fan, and it would be wrong not to see how this all ends. To the TV!

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2 comments

  1. kona coffee

    Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds
    me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this.
    I will forward this write-up to him. Pretty sure he
    will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    • Kenn Olson

      That was authored by my daughter – die-hard Yankee fan while I was still blogging as Kenns Korner.
      I now post as Going Yard and encourage you to read my regular posts.
      Thanks for sharing this with me.

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