Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'm Your Handy Man

The Yankees won a game last night and actually picked up ground on the Red Sox for the first time in about 10 days. Since the Red Sox left Yankee Stadium after losing 2 of 3 with a 9-1/2 game lead, the Yankees have gone into a tailspin. They now sit 13-1/2 games behind the Sox and 7-1/2 games out of the wild card spot. So I have some good news and some bad news today. The good news is that I know exactly what the Yankees need to do to fix their team. The bad news is that no one at Yankee Stadium listens to me.

  1. Don't panic. This is the most important thing that the team can do at this point. It's pretty clear by the deficit in the standings that things have not gone according to plan. The worst thing that they could do at this point would be to start making wholesale changes, either in the front office or on the field. The team that started the season is good enough to make the playoffs, they just need to start playing better.

  2. Stop messing with the lineup. Moving players all over the lineup just messes with their preparation for the days game. Players (for whatever reason) like to know where they are hitting in the lineup. Bobby Abreu has been a #3 hitter for the last five years and so he should remain there. I know he's not hitting right now, but outside of Jeter and Posada, neither is anyone else. He will come around as will the rest of the team and it probably doesn't help his psyche any to be "demoted" to a lower spot in the lineup.

  3. The hitters need to be more patient. The Yankees used to pride themselves on being able to wear down an opposition starter. They used to take more pitches than any team in baseball. During their recent stretch of futility, that all went out the window. It seemed the hitters couldn't wait to get back to the dugout. During their most recent series, they lost to a couple of first year pitchers. Both went deep into the game and the Yankees continually swung at the first offering from both pitchers. That is not the way the Yankees play. Giambi, Abreu, Jeter, Arod and Damon are supposed to wear out opposing pitchers and get on base about 40% of the time they come to the plate. That is not happening. Johnny Damon swung at the first pitch, with the Yankees down by a run in the 9th inning. That is just not fundamentally sound baseball. They need to get back to doing the thing that made the lineup so dangerous. Take some pitches guys. It ain't gonna kill you.

  4. Torre needs to manage the bullpen better. If there is one consistent criticism of Joe Torre that can be made it's that he doesn't manage the bullpen very well. Joe falls in love with certain pitchers and overworks them. Currently his favorite is Scott Proctor. Proctor is currently on pace to work in about 100 games for the Yankees this year. That is simply too much. Joe has to learn to trust some of the other pitchers in the pen. Mariano has seen stretches where he hasn't pitched for 5 games. Joe needs to get him regular work so that when he's called upon to save a game, he's not rusty from sitting around for a week. I know that Mo blew some saves earlier in the year, but he still has to be used regularly. Brian Bruney has been very good so far, but Joe hasn't been as eager to call him out of the pen as he has Proctor. They also need to have a long reliever who can take the strain off of the bullpen during blowout games. I know that it's not exactly popular to be the guy who mops up, but someone should assume that mantle. If a game gets out of hand, Joe likes to run through the entire bullpen to finish up the game. That just means that most likely they won't be as fresh if he really needs them the next day. One of the kids from Triple A needs to be that long guy/spot starter who can soak up some innings if things get out of hand early.

  5. The starting pitching has been better than most people think. The Yankees have had their share of blowout games, but given the amount of injuries that the starting staff has faced, they have performed fairly well. Roger Clemens shows up next week to add another quality arm to the staff, so they should in theory get even better. It would be nice to get Phillip Hughes back to see what he can do, but he's out for at least another month. Andy Pettitte should sue for lack of support. His ERA is in the top 5 in the AL but he has a losing record because the Yankees are not scoring any runs when he pitches. Wang and Mussina are still working back from injuries, but I have no doubt that they will become more consistent as time goes on. I'm more than willing to live with a rotation of Wang, Pettitte, Clemens, Mussina and one of the kids (Hughes, Clippard, DeSalvo, etc.).

  6. Doug Mientkiewicz is a defensive replacement. Joe has insisted on using him as the de facto starting first baseman for the majority of the season. He simply doesn't hit enough anymore to be a starter. The Yankees have had Josh Phelps on then bench for most of the season. I have no idea whether Phelps is the answer, but he has to be given more of a shot that he has been given to date. He's younger and has a lot more power potential than Mientkiewicz. Joe has been stubborn about this. There are times, when the lineup is going well, that they can afford to carry a subpar bat. Now is not one of those times however. This is an easy change and can be made immediately. Defense at first base is a nice thing, but it is primarily a power position and that is certainly not what we are getting with Mientkiewicz. Everyone, join in with me, "all we are saaaa - ying, is gives Phelps a chance" (I know that was terrible).

  7. The purpose of the game isn't that the Yankee players have fun. The press keeps harping on the fact that the Yankees don't look like they are having any fun when they play. The reason they aren't having any fun is because they are losing. It's a lot of fun when you win. I'm sure Red Sox are having a ball right now, but when they got swept in a five game series in Fenway last year, that didn't look like any fun. The game isn't about fun. It's about winning and losing. People always talk about how corporate the Yankees appear. Well currently they are a corporation that is losing money. The good news is that they have the talent to turn this thing around immediately. They need to be reminded that they are well payed individuals who have a job to do and that is to win games, not to have fun. That's what the offseason is for. Win now, have fun later.

  8. They need to try and remember who they are. The Yankees somehow have forgotten that they are the nine time defending AL east champs. Their confidence has evaporated. They need to get back to thinking that they are going to win every time they step out on the field. Right now it looks like they are just waiting for something to go wrong in every game. Perhaps Roger Clemens will part of the solution. He certainly can't hurt.

  9. And finally (I hate using sports cliches, but here goes), take it one day at a time. It's impossible for the Yankees to catch the Red Sox or turn their season around in one game. The press likes to look for signs and after winning the most recent Red Sox series, I read a couple of articles claiming that the Yankees had gotten their swagger back. Well, apparently they hadn't. One game or one series does not a season make. Regardless of the seeming importance of a game in May, it will not make or break a season. The team needs to go out and think of each day as a new opportunity to succeed. Looking up at a 13-1/2 game deficit might bury some teams, but it shouldn't have that effect on the Yankees. This is one instance where their age should come in handy. Most of the players on the team have been around for a long time and they realize exactly how long the season is and how quickly things can change.

So that's it. My cure for what ails the Yankees. The bottom line is that every day is not Armageddon. At some point this season might be a lost cause. But that day is not today and it's not tomorrow either. The Yankees still have time to make this a season to remember. Overcoming adversity is what defines greatness. This Yankee team has the talent and the opportunity to create the next Yankee legend.



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