You wish you could break up the youngsters, but with Pettitte’s setback and the necessity to push him back, you can’t. Thus, Ian Kennedy goes today and hopes to rebound from a poor outing last time out.
The Mets’ loss to the Phils yesterday was their ninth straight loss to them. I think I said eight yesterday.
Yesterday’s loss was one where it looked like the team was dead. No excuses, but that ESPN2 scheduling of playing a night game on what is supposed to be getaway day hurt. They played like a team that got to the hotel at 3 a.m., which is what they were. Yes, they are professionals, but they’re only human. On top of that, it was KC’s home opener. They had off the day before. Nevertheless, you are only as good as that day’s pitcher, and Phil wasn’t good yesterday.
Those of you who have heard Josh “the Yankee Truth” Imboden on YFCR know how he can get when he’s on a rant, esp. if the Yanks are in the middle of a tough period. Trust me, my cell phone gets quite a beating on those days. There is a lot of truth (pardon the pun) to what he says, especially in the need for change. One change advocated for a while has been done. The switch away from Joe Torre to Joe Girardi. More however, still needs to be done. The problem is, it won’t happen overnight.
Although I expect the offense to eventually wake up, with or without Posada and/or Jeter, the method of how the offense approaches things has to change. The problem is, the scripts and characters are the same. The players are ingrained into their roles. The only way out is to change the script by changing the cast of characters. New and fresh blood. Unfortunately, when it comes to position players, that change is a few years away. Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata are at AA Trenton. Others are below that.
Some are resistant to change. I remember the comments on various blogs that screamed when Bernie was let go, the Big Unit was traded or Sheff was dealt. We see the ridiculousness with #21 and the O’Neill chant. I will say this right now. The Yanks may have a big problem in three years. What to do with a 37 year old Jeter? I’m not advocating getting rid of the captain. Far from it. But what happens when you have the “Bernie syndrome” with Derek? It was obvious that Bernie couldn’t play CF anymore. Then it was obvious that he couldn’t play everyday anymore, then it was obvious that he was finished. Fans didn’t want to let go, and some still don’t. What happens when Derek can’t play SS anymore…then should be platooned…then…and it’s not just Derek. The same could be said of Posada, and, for him, sooner than three years from now. What happens if it becomes obvious in 2009 or 2010 that the Yanks are best served with Mo SETTING UP Joba rather than the other way around (assuming that it is determined that Joba is best served to be the closer than put into the rotation). How receptive will the fans and management be to the changes that will be necessary due to time?
Look at the age of the Yanks’ lineup. Prime years are basically 27-34. Most of the players are at the end of that spectrum. Giambi (37) and Posada (36) are past it. Abreu and Damon are 34. Jeter and Matsui will be 34 this summer. Alex turns 33 this summer. Higher ages lead to decreased productivity, less athleticism and more injuries. It seems like the Yanks have been stuck in neutral for a while now. Although the offense is still the envy of many teams around baseball, it is not as multi-dimensional as I’d like. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe it could mash. But I think that the Yanks’ problems began with the types of players they were getting for the offense over various years, starting with Giambi. After Giambi came Matsui, Sheffield and Alex. They all brought offense, but it was the same type of player the Yanks were going after. Power. Sheff and Alex brought some speed, but Giambi and Matsui certainly didn’t. Only Alex could be said to have brought a glove, and that glove was moved to a new position, thus negating that while he was in the process of learning that new position. In short, the lineup became more like a beer-league softball lineup rather than a baseball lineup. Between Giambi, Matsui and Posada, you had players who couldn’t steal bases or that were not guaranteed to be able to take the extra base. Giambi (and to a lesser extent Matsui and Sheffield) didn’t add anything defensively. Yes, they could mash you to death. But the defense wasn’t going to be great (hurting a suspect pitching staff) and the baserunning wasn’t consistent. You had good baserunning from Jeter, then later Abreu and Damon, but not throughout the lineup. By contrast, the 1998 Yanks were more balanced. Except for Tino and naturally the catchers, the team could run the bases well. They didn’t have lumbering slug-or-nothing players. The defense was pretty solid, save for Bernie’s arm or Knoblauch’s 1999 disintegration. They were more athletic. On the bench were Raines, Bush and Strawberry, all of whom ran the bases well.
Josh has stated for years, “Hitters not Sluggers”. I’d like to see more of a National League approach myself. The homers will come. But I’d like to see a more athletic team, and that won’t happen until the likes of Gardner, Jackson, and Tabata can make this ballclub. As much as I like Shelley Duncan, he doesn’t add that ingredient I’m looking for that the aforementioned hopefully will. That’s one reason I was hoping Gardner (who has missed three games with a foot/ankle injury) would make the team. It’s one reason why, if the Yanks offense and Damon in particular are struggling in mid-May, I’d like Gardner to take over for Damon in LF and in the leadoff spot. It would FORCE the Yanks to change. A change that is necessary. You can only be stuck in neutral for so long. There is no worse example of not adapting or changing your gameplan than Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, when the Yanks wouldn’t even bunt on a pitcher pitching on what was basically one leg. Were the Yanks to face the same scenario today, would they bunt on him? I can’t answer that with any certainty.
The Yanks have to get out of neutral. Somehow, the tiger has to change his stripes. What it may mean however, is getting new tigers. After all, should the switch to Gardner happen, what becomes of Damon? At $13M and another year after this one (same as Matsui), who would take him and how much of his salary needs to be eaten? I hope JD picks it up. But after three consecutive first-round losses in the ALDS, I hope for a change in offensive philosophy. I’m happy that the team has won a couple of low-scoring games. However the clutch hitting hasn’t been there so far. The success ratio with RISP hasn’t been there so far. The same old too many LOB. Think small. Littleball. Big things will then happen. Don’t think huge. Start with the lowest common denominator (LCD); meaning working counts, taking pitches, going the other way, hitting behind the runner. The basics. Once those are in play, big things happen.
Play baseball again. Not beer-league softball. Not just offensively but defensively too. It’s early and time will tell how the Girardi offense contrasts with the Torre offense. I hope it does contrast. Get back to the 1996 style of offense. Billyball if you want to call it that, too. Change has been needed for a while now. I obviously have no arguments with the number of runs scored the past few years, but often it’s feast or famine. I want the results as before; just by a slightly different–and more consistent–method.
No word as I know on Alberto Gonzalez coming up for Derek or Chad Moeller for Posada or any DL time. Frankly, I think I’d rather have Ransom right now than Gonzalez, but I can see the Yanks thinking. Of course, having Gonzalez in the lineup at SS would force you to change your offensive strategy now, wouldn’t it? The Yanks do face a lefty tomorrow. Does Girardi go with Ensberg at 3B, Alex at SS and Duncan at 1b? It’s a thought.
I don’t think they’d do it, but it is a thought. I mean, things could be worse than this idea. In previous years, the Yanks have seen dregs like Sal Fasano, Kelly Stinnett, and Wil Nieves as their backup catchers. Chad Moeller doesn’t thrill me. Now I know he doesn’t fit the bill for youth and athleticism that I’d want, but Mike Piazza is out there if he wants to come back as a backup catcher. Before you scream about his age or the fact (which I know full well) that he is poor defensively, read the last line again. BACKUP catcher. Compare Piazza as a backup catcher to Fasano (7 for 49 in 2006), Stinnett (.228-1-9 in 2006), Nieves (.164-0-8 last year) or Moeller (.224 career). Piazza hasn’t caught since 2006 but if Posada has to go on the DL for a considerable amount of time, I’d rather have Piazza giving Molina a blow once a week than Chad Moeller. In 83 games last year with the A’s, Piazza hit .275-8-44 in 309 at bats. When’s the last time you got that from someone you would sign as a backup catcher? That’s nirvana compared to what the Yanks have received from backup catchers lately. Is he the Piazza of old? No. Is he a long-term solution? No. You are only looking for a fill-in if Jorge is out for a considerable amount of time. 2008 only. At 39, yes, he goes against the youth and athleticism I advocate. But backup catcher is a different scenario. Atheticism in a catcher, esp. a backup, isn’t a high prerequisite. Besides, in comparison to what you had…and as far as a PH for Molina late in a close game, who better? The thing is, has Piazza stayed in shape? Can he still hit? Would he accept a backup role? Hey, it makes more sense (especially if Posada turns out to be out for a long-time) than those scenarios of any team signing Barry Bonds. First though, let’s see where Posada is and how long he may be out of the lineup.
Update: MLBTR states that the Padres are looking at Damian Miller. The 38-year-old Miller hit .237-4-24 as the Brewers’ backup C last year. A good defensive catcher, Miller was the catcher on the 2001 Diamondbacks World Series champs and just missed the 2003 World Series with the Cubs (thanks to Bartman). His bat is so-so, .262 for his career (OPS+ 88), but compared to the backup catchers we’ve seen lately on the Yanks (see above) ….