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6/25/2007 08:01:00 AM

AL East: Getting Late Early

By Alex Belth

The Yankees left for the West Coast early last week as the hottest team in baseball, having won 11 of their past 12 games. Now, six games into a nine-game road trip, New York is 1-5—swept by the Rockies and losers twice against the hapless Giants over the weekend in San Francisco. Since last Monday, the Bombers have lost three games in the standings to the piping-hot Red Sox, and now trail Boston by 11.5. Seth Mnookin thinks that for the remainder of the season the Red Sox should worry about almost anyone but New York.

What's wrong with the Yankees, asks Tyler Kepner in the New York Times. George King has an answer in the Post: the Yankees are a bad team. Peter Abraham has some ideas for how New York can fix things, including this:

"Get Joe Torre to retire: Right now. Everybody knows he's not coming back barring some sudden run to the World Series. So have Joe announce that he's retiring at the end of the season and see what happens. Create a little tension and drama, maybe it'll motivate the players. Then, if they suddenly do go on some magical run, create a story that Big Stein begged his man to come back for one more year. If they lose, you've lost nothing. Joe gets his graceful exit and either Mattingly or Girardi takes over."

Saturday's loss to the Giants was a low-point. Leading 4-1 in the sixth inning with their ace Chien-Ming Wang on the hill, the Yankees looked poised for a victory. But Wang, and then the bullpen, faltered. New York would have been cooked if not for Alex Rodriguez's solo blast in the ninth, which pushed the game into extra innings. Rodriguez doubled two innings later and the Yankees had the bases loaded with just one out, but Hideki Matsui struck out on three pitches and Robinson Cano grounded out. Scott Proctor gave up a bloop hit in the 13th which proved to be the game-winner.

Rodriguez, who reached base 12 times in 16 at bats against the Giants (including 9 hits), was pretty much the whole show for the Yankees over the weekend. He's been one of the few consistent players on a team whose performance has fluctuated wildly. One day, the offense clicks, the next day, good hitters like Bobby Abreu give up at bats, swinging at bad pitches in hitter's counts.

Even veteran pitchers like Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte are struggling with the mental aspect of the game. Mussina gave up RBI hits to the number 8 hitter twice -- once against the Rockies and then against the Giants. After the first one in Colorado, he chalked it up to "National League inexperience," Mussina said. "I didn't think about who was on deck, I wasn't paying any attention to it. I would have pitched a little differently if I had thought about it. After 17 years, you're going to learn a few things about this game and that's one of them."

Two nights later, after giving up six runs, Andy Pettitte told reporters, "To tell you the truth, I don’t really know what happened," Pettitte said. "I haven't done that in a long time. I quit pitching. I didn't use both sides of the plate like I was doing the whole game, and kind of got real one-dimensional, trying to throw my heater and my cutter in on almost every pitch. Man, you can't let that happen, and I did, and it cost us in a big way tonight."

Mussina wasn't paying attention to the fact that he was pitching to the number 8 hitter? I thought he went to Stanford. Why didn't his catcher help him out there? Pettitte admits that he quit pitching? What gives with this team? What gives is that they are 36-37 and it is getting late early.

  • Elijah Dukes called a local Tampa radio show early last week and ranted. The D-Rays optioned Dukes to the minor leagues on Friday -- he's on the temporary inactive list -- instead of releasing him outright. Rays owner, Stuart Sternberg defended the decision. TBO.com has an entire page devoted to the Dukes saga.

  • As expected, Sam Perlozzo was canned in Baltimore. The O's quickly hired Andy MacPhail as their new president of baseball operations. Murray Chass notes that the Orioles are looking to MacPhail to end a decade of confusion.

  • Joe Girardi was offered the manager's job but turned it down. Joe Gross thinks that Rick Dempsey would be a good fit for the Orioles.

  • Miguel Tejada's consecutive game streak ended at 1,152 when he suffered a fractured wrist. It was the fifth longest consecutive game streak in baseball history. Tejada was placed on the 15-day DL. David Steele thinks the time is right for the Orioles to move Miggy.

  • Julio Lugo is slumping and Curt Schilling is injured, but the Red Sox are rolling. Josh Beckett? Um, he's good.

  • Dustin McGowen lost his bid for a no-hitter in the ninth inning on Sunday. The Jays rolled anyway, 5-0 completing a weekend sweep of the Rockies. It hurts so good for DH Frank Thomas, who is now just one home run shy of 500.

  • Over at Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan weighs in on Jason Giambi's decision to speak with George Mitchell.
  • Labels:

    posted by SI.com | View comments |  


    Posted: June 25, 2007 1:35 PM   by Anonymous
    the yankees lose all weekend long and the blue jays sweep and you blog about the losers. Who cares if Pettite and Mussina had lousy outings, what is so interesting about that?
    Posted: June 25, 2007 3:50 PM   by Anonymous
    We hear about the Yanks when they're winning, we hear about them when they're losing. It's kinda like they're the Tiger Woods of baseball....they could be dead last in the standings but articles will still be written about them and ESPN will televise them at least once if not more weekly.
    Posted: June 26, 2007 10:31 AM   by Anonymous
    We hear about the yanks when they win & when they lose because they have fans all over the world. People actually care about how the yankees are doing. No diss but, the jay dont even sell out their stadium...
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