Why the Yankees are done (cont.)
3. What about the pitching? Injuries killed them in this area, but give them credit for having the decency not to bring it up (all of them but Hank the Yank, that is). After the injuries to Wang and Joba Chamberlain and the injuries/failures of Hughes and Kennedy, they've been left with a skeletal rotation that includes Rangers reject Sidney Ponson, journeyman Darrell Rasner and $39.95-million laughingstock Carl Pavano. Considering that, and the fact that the bullpen had few sure things leading up to Mariano Rivera, they've probably outperformed. Yet, this staff as currently constructed isn't even presentable for a three-game regular season set, much less the playoffs. One veteran Yankee, asked to name their three biggest issues, opined, "Pitching, pitching, pitching.''
4. Is Joe Girardi partly to blame? Cashman says none of this is Girardi's fault. Yet, in the next breath Cashman will say the problem is the team's underperformed. And here's a question for Cashman: If it isn't the manager's job to get the team to outperform, then who's job is it? Girardi appears to have done a masterful job handling what appeared to be a thin bullpen, and save for one memorable brain cramp (yes, pitching to Manny Ramirez with a base open), seems to be a pretty fair strategist. The real surprise is that the young players have let him down, the very young players who thrived under Joe Torre, who is viewed as very much a veterans manager.
Around the Majors
If it comes down to a battle of the managing Manuels, I'll go with Jerry over Charlie. Though the Phillies' manager scores well in motivating his men, he still looks asleep at the switch at times. Take Wednesday. With a 3-1 lead over Mets ace Johan Santana, Shane Victorino batted with Phillies at first and second and nobody out. Yet, rather than bunt the runners over, Victorino swung away, striking out. Santana struck out the side, and the Mets came back to win 6-3. In addition, Manuel employed Cole Hamels as a pinch hitter in back-to-back games, left Kyle Kendrick in too long and let so-so righty Rudy Seanez pitch to Carlos Delgado with the Phillies ahead 3-2 and two out in the eighth (Delgado hit a game-tying home run).
There's some scuttlebutt being heard that Pat Gillick might actually consider taking a high-ranking role with the Blue Jays (though not GM) if he doesn't take one with the Mariners. Gillick previously served as GM for both organizations. In a move that seems to be a hit, the Jays already have brought back Cito Gaston, who was Gillick's manager in Toronto, to manage them.
Pedro Martinez probably was kept in too long Tuesday, but scouts say he generally looked very good. He is also said to have thrown his fastball in the 90-91 range that night, another positive sign.
Josh Beckett may have spoken too soon when he mouthed the words, "I'm fine,'' to Red Sox GM Theo Epstein following a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. Four hours later, the Red Sox were announcing that Beckett, who has elbow concerns, was traveling to see noted sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews. The team is painting the trip as precautionary. But it's still not a good thing.
Really, it shouldn't be such a stunner that longtime adversaries Scott Boras and Frank Coonelly are now in dispute over Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 overall draft choice. Alvarez, adviser Boras and the players union are contesting whether the agreement for a $6-million bonus was reached before the midnight Aug. 15 deadline and whether MLB has the right to extend the deadline, as it apparently did (though just by a few minutes). The case will now be heard by arbitrator Shyam Das. For years Boras and Coonelly battled over Coonelly's slotting system when the latter worked in the commissioner's office. And now the battle gets testier still as it hits closer to home for Coonelly.
Cliff Lee's season is remarkable. We knew that already. But Indians PR man extraordinaire Bart Swain has the stat that illuminates it. Lee is the ninth pitcher this century to start with at least 19 wins in 21 decisions. Roger Clemens once began a season 20-1 while Greg Maddux, Ron Guidry, Gaylord Perry, Whitey Ford, Preacher Roe and Lefty Grove all began seasons 19-2.
If the Dodgers, losers of seven straight, go down as it now appears they will, Joe Torre can commiserate with Bobby Cox and Jim Leyland, three legends who didn't make a dent this season.
Jeff Kent hasn't delivered since he ripped Vin Scully for suggesting that Kent was benefiting from the presence of Manny Ramirez. Since his infamous words, "Vin Scully talks too much,''' Kent has no home runs and two RBIs. I do think Kent was probably right that his resurgence was mostly due to him, not Ramirez. But I'd also like to think his ripping of Scully caused his downfall.
Don't look now. The Rockies may be working their way back into the race.