Why the Yankees are done
Jason Giambi launched a blast and later a game-winning bullet, rocking the aging house for what was surely the last Yankees-Red Sox game at this Yankee Stadium. The heroics by the lame-duck former star at the about-to-be-demolished ballpark salvaged a game, spared some more bad feelings and brought rare glee. Yet, they only temporarily put off thoughts of the storied club's inevitable elimination.
"The Yankees have no chance to get into the playoffs,'' asserted one American League scout. "I watch this team, and it's just not a playoff team.''
The team with the $209-million payroll and four locks for the Hall of Fame may yet be capable of a surprise, or two. But to this point, the surprises all have been bad. The offense that was supposed to have 900-run potential has been bland and mediocre. And the defense, at once porous and careless, can't even sniff mediocrity.
The team's new boss Hank Steinbrenner, who promised big things but stayed away all summer, finally emerged to offer this gem of a quote to Yankees beat writers following the 11-3 defeat to the Red Sox on Wednesday that killed any realistic hope to make their 14th straight postseason: "They sucked.''
Notice how Hank the Yank said "they,'' as if the man who acted as if he was in charge all winter had nothing to do with the mess they produce on a daily basis. As is his way, manager Joe Girardi, who maintains public confidence in his flawed ball club, declined to address Hank the Yank's remark.
Meanwhile, general manager Brian Cashman, while speaking more delicately and professionally than his boss, didn't sound in the mood to disagree too strenuously. "It's not good,'' Cashman said of the current goings on. "We're scuffling, and we're not doing a very good job of doing something about it.''
Cashman, as is his way, accepted full responsibility. "He's an incredible GM,'' Giambi said of Cashman's stance, "and that's why he has a great rapport with players.''
The postgame lovefest made for a nice respite following the negativity that permeates their scene. Giambi even hopefully suggested this unforeseen, come-from-behind win might "jump start'' the team. But that isn't seen as very likely, even around the Bronx. In surveying the remaining schedule, even one Yankee noted, dourly, "We have three more with the Angels. That's three losses.'' He was kidding, but he wasn't.
Here are a few answers regarding how they got into this mess:
1. How has Robinson Cano degenerated form one of the best young players in the game to a so-so and seemingly indifferent second baseman? None of the young players on the team lived up to their billing, and that goes for Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Shelley Duncan, as well.
But perhaps no one is a greater enigma than Cano. The dropoff is so severe and significant that one Yankee said, "Just look at [Red Sox second baseman Dustin] Pedroia, and the year he's having. The difference between him and Cano is the difference between the teams. Pedroia doesn't have one-quarter the talent of Cano, but he's outplaying him by a mile.'' There are two theories about Cano's decline. One is that he misses Larry Bowa, who was the Yankees third base coach from 2006-07, and the other is that his new $32-million contract made him comfortable.
"No way they should have given Robbie that contract. He's the last guy who should have gotten a contract like that,'' one Yankee said. "They never gave a deal like that to Derek Jeter or Bernie Williams or Jorge Posada or Mariano Rivera with so much time to go before free agency. They could have given it to Cano or [Chien-Ming] Wang. They picked the wrong guy.''
Cashman disagrees, and said, "I don't believe it's the contract. He came in and worked hard, and he was constantly in the weight room.'' Cashman gives only slightly more credence to the Bowa theory. "I think Bowa's a tremendous coach, one of the best third-base coaches I've ever seen, maybe the best. But I don't think coaches make players. Players make players.''
2. Cano's been disappointing. But who hasn't been? In the starting lineup, only the just-acquired Xavier Nady plus Johnny Damon and possibly Bobby Abreu have done about what's expected. Alex Rodriguez has the stats (he's having a better year statistically than both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez) but hasn't hit in the clutch, certainly not like last year. A-Rod has been a lightning rod, and he isn't nearly alone in his underperformance. Injuries to Hideki Matsui and Posada have hurt, and one teammate said Jeter's early season hand injury was a lot more debilitating than he let on. But what about the rest? It isn't pretty. "I just know if we hit better, we'd be better,'' Cashman said. "We haven't hit; that's the biggest reason for where we are. This team's DNA was supposed to mean 900 runs. We've had injuries but we haven't performed.'' This will likely be the last hurrah for the ever popular Giambi and also for Abreu. "He has 15 home runs,'' complained one Yankee official. "What's that? Fifteen home runs for $15 million." Actually, $16 million.