Blame Brian Cashman for the Yankees All-or-Nothing Offense
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This might not be the best time to take issue with Brian Cashman, the general manager of the New York Yankees. After a slow start, the Yankees are in third in the American League East, only a half-game behind the Tampa Bay Rays after winning the first game in their three-game series.
The Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles are also leading the wild card race, although there are eight teams 7.5 games behind with two-thirds of the season to play.
Nonetheless, the Yankees appear to be hitting their stride. They are third in the A.L. in hitting with a .266 average. They lead the league, make that the majors, with 80 home runs.
But, as Shakespeare might say, therein lies the rub.
The Yankees live and die by the long ball.
Cashman has allowed the Yankees to get old and slow. It's not his fault that Brett Gardner has missed most of the season depriving the Yankees of the league's leading base stealer in 2011.
Now that Curtis Granderson has morphed into a full-time home run hitter, his speed on the bases has been neutralized. And a running game doesn't necessarily rely solely on speed: Savvy baserunners like Granderson, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano can swipe bases based on their experience and ability to read pitchers.
Playing hit-and-run puts pressure on pitchers to throw more fastballs. It puts infielders in motion, creating holes for hitters to shoot for.
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It takes the defense out of its comfort level.
You might be inclined to blame manager Joe Girardi for the Yankee's reluctance to play small ball more often. He can only play the cards he has been dealt, however, and Cashman has given him a one-dimensional team that will overpower most opponents but might be lacking come the postseason.
And let's face it, the Yankees don't measure their success by whether they make the playoffs. Call it arrogance, but the Yankees expect to be in the World Series every season.
Wait, let me clarify that.
They expect to win the World Series every year. Girardi, remember, switched his uniform number to 28 after the Yankees won their 27th World Series in 2009.
That's why this series against the Rays is important even though it is only June. The Rays might have the best rotation in the league and lead the A.L. with a 3.41 ERA. The Yankees are eighth with a 4.07 ERA.
And although the Rays are near the bottom with a .236 team batting average, they have scored just 19 fewer runs than the Yankees.
They are, in fact, reminiscent of Joe Torre's Yankee teams, relying on a mix of youth and experience, blending solid pitching with situational hitting and some long ball thrown in for good measure.
Who should be held accountable for the Yankees all-or-nothing offense?
The Rays are seventh in the league with 59 homers.
The Rangers lineup was more imposing than the St. Louis Cardinals, even with Albert Pujols, but the Cardinals pitched better and hit when it mattered the most.
That is apparent again this season. After a 22-11 start, the Rangers have lost 10 of 12 and five of six, mostly because their pitching has faltered.
If the Yankees want to be the last team standing around Halloween, then Cashman needs to swing a deal for a good contact hitter and maybe another starting pitcher.
He has to hope that Gardner will breathe new life and energy into the Yankees with fresh legs when he returns. The Yankees don't have a Will Middlebrooks like the Boston Red Sox do, infusing some youth and pop into the lineup.
And Gardner is no Jacoby Ellsbury—the injured Red Sox center fielder who gives them speed and power at the top of the order.
The Yankees are restocking their farm system in the amateur draft. That won't pay any dividends, however, this season.
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