New York Yankees: Bizarro Baseball? Nope. Yanks Won't Be in Basement for Long.

Raymond CarsilloContributor IMay 27, 2008

Sorry that I stole the title from Tom Verducci, but it was a just title for his article in this week’s Sports Illustrated, given the cover of this week’s issue.

Tom uses Superman’s evil clone and the comic book style cover as a way of describing that the 2008 baseball season as something so ridiculous and out of this world that it could only be seen in a comic book, as the opposite of what we are used to seeing.

A fitting assessment, but one that has come far too early into the season in my opinion, and for an article that promised all different kinds of weird baseball conundrums, he really only focuses on the last place Yankees and first place Tampa Bay Rays.

Now, I understand why he focuses on the Yankees and Rays—because it is the most obvious of disparities this year—and he does do a nice little inlet about Cliff Lee, the Indians’ ace with a sub 2.00 ERA.

There was also a nice layout on hitters he feels are having exceptional years by their standards, but what about all the other stories?

He barely gives Cliff Lee and those great hitters a page and rambles on for five about how great Tampa Bay has become in 50 games. One third of a season does not a dynasty come even close to making, my dear Mr. Verducci.

So like the real Superman to your Bizarro Superman, I have come to save the day and foil your nefarious plot of bashing the Yankees like so many like to do, and mention a few other bizarre stories in baseball that you so conveniently left out.

First off, around the rest of baseball. If you want to talk about the Yankees and Rays, why not mention the team on the other side of town in terms of both the Yankees and Rays?

I am, of course, talking about the Florida Marlins and New York Mets.

The Marlins are even more of a surprise than Tampa because people had seen the Rays coming for a couple of years now, with their All-Star outfield and Scott Kazmir and James Shields leading their young rotation.

No one saw the Marlins coming.

Everyone thought the Marlins would sink to the bottom of the NL East instead of storming out to a 30-20 record and first place, including 6.5 games over the fourth place Mets, who avoid the basement due to the Nationals being far worse than anyone expected this year as well.

If you talk about the Rays and Yankees, you have to mention the Marlins and Mets in the same breath.

Verducci mentions the Marlins once in the entire five page article and gives a special nod to 2B Dan Uggla, but aside from that it’s all Rays and Yankees. He does not even mention the Mets and their locker room struggles.

How about I move away from my slight AL/NL  East bias and look at the AL Central? How about the Tigers?

After being in the World Series a couple of years ago and being a strong contender last year, they are now tied for last place with the Kansas City Royals, who are 6-0 against Detroit so far this year, by the way.

How about Justin Verlander who already has more losses this year than all of last year? He was 17-9 two years ago, 18-6 last year including a no hitter, and this year he is 2-7 with a 5.16 ERA, a full point and a half above his young career average.

And if the Yankees offense is struggling, then Detroit’s is anemic. They may have had a 19 run outburst against Minnesota a few nights ago, but they proceeded to follow it up with a 6-1 loss to Minnesota and a 1-0, 12-inning loss to the Angels the night after that.

The times they are a-changin’, eh?

Let us wrap this part up with the San Diego Padres in the NL West, who have a glamorous basement record of 19-33, the worst in the NL.

This has always been a team to struggle to score runs, and they have had a bad case of the injury bug, but even when Chris Young and Jake Peavy were healthy, they were still the worst in the NL.

A team built on pitching has not received any. Greg Maddux did not get his first win of the season until his fifth decision, and although has bounced back nicely with three wins in a row, is now being asked at 42 to be the ace of this staff. ::puts on a Ron Burgundy/Mike D’Antoni mustache:: It is going to be a long season San Diego.

Now that we have helped to point out some of the other anomalies around the league, let us come back to the Yankees.

The Yankees are going to be fine. It would be nice if they could play the Seattle Mariners every day, but they cannot. I think an important stretch of their schedule is coming up.

They are going to be facing teams they have not seen this year and that will be including fellow wild card contenders Oakland and Minnesota.

If the Yankees play strongly against these teams leading into the next round of interleague play, then you will see the expected form of the Yankees. If the Yankees struggle and are still hovering around .500 when June ends, not May, then you can probably say that they will remain there for the rest of the year.

I do not think it will happen though.

Another test of their mettle will be that most of this upcoming schedule is on the road and, in typical Yankees fashion, they are much better at home this year than on the road.

Still I have faith.

Robinson Cano and Jason Giambi have finally climbed up off the interstate and are both batting over .220 now, and showing signs they are snapping out of their early funk.

Hideki Matsui has been on fire all year and shows no signs of cooling off after a big homestand and a 3-4 night to begin this most recent road trip.

Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera are struggling a little right now, but since they were okay to start the season, both hitting around .280, a slump is to be expected every now and again.

Alex Rodriguez has come off the DL like a man possessed and is probably the catalyst right now behind the Yankees short-term success.

Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu will continue to get their hits as well.

Don’t forget that we are still two weeks away from getting Jorge Posada back too. Once he is back, you add 60-70 career points in terms of batting average, and a lot more HR power over Jose Molina and Chad Moeller, who have done fine jobs standing in for the true Yankees backstop.

Bottom line, the Yankees will score runs. They might not score every night, but on enough nights to pull themselves out of the basement.

A big weakness is their bench. Even with Wilson Betemit coming back to add a little pop, most of the Yankee bench is hitting below .200 and most cannot field for their life.

GM Brian Cashman needs to do something to fortify a glaring weakness for the Yankees, especially with interleague play coming up and pinch hitters becoming more important in the AL.

The other aspect of the Yankees is their pitching. Their pitching will be fine, especially their starters.

Even though he is 4-5, Andy Pettitte will be a horse (no steroid references!) down the stretch just like he always is, and his record is only so bad because of a few heartbreakers that the bullpen could not keep close.

Mike Mussina is 7-4 and will continue to do fine for the Yankees this year. He has learned to pitch better with his 86 MPH fastball, probably in large part to Jose Molina calling a great game and Moose putting his faith into him.

For those who say he will get rocked on the road this year, his ERA is 3.36 on the road compared to 5.17 at Yankees Stadium, so I am not buying that argument.

Also, he may have had a rough year last year going 11-10 with a 5.15 ERA, but I am saying that it was a fluke and that although I do not see him putting up 2006 numbers of 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA, I can see 2005 numbers of 13-8 with a 4.41 and I do not know any Yankees fans out there who would not take that.  

Chien-Ming Wang is 6-2 with a 3.81 ERA, no surprise there and that will continue as long as he stays healthy. ::knocks on wood:: 

Darrell Rasner has been a pleasant surprise, and with this kid’s demeanor and his stuff, I do not see how he cannot be considered our number four guy at 3-1 with 1.80 ERA.

You've got to leave him up here to see how he handles a full season, but I do not see how this guy does not win close to 15 games this year as long as the Yankees give him run support.

Then you get the question marks. Well, I am going to answer them for you.

Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes to the bullpen and Joba Chamberlain is the number five guy. This kills two birds with one stone. It shores up the struggling bullpen, aside from Mariano Rivera and Edwar Ramirez so far, and it puts Joba back into his normal role.

I expect Joba to have about a 3.50 ERA as a starter once he gets into the groove of it. Kennedy is usually really good his first time through a lineup and struggles after that, so he would make a great long man to go two or three innings when Moose or Andy might not have it one day.

Although he made a strong case in his last start, only giving up one run in six innings, he still had four walks which you could say is possibly being effectively wild, but I say it is too wild to stay as a starter too long.

Daisuke Matsuzaka in Boston might be getting by on it, leading the AL in ERA, wins, and walks, the first man to do it in over 50 years, but Kennedy won’t.

So that is the wrap up. The Yankees will straighten themselves out, the Rays will be strong and continue to be a threat, and baseball is standing on its head with all the craziness abound that Tom Verducci failed to mention, but it has the makings for one of the best baseball seasons we’ve seen in a long time.

See you in the stands everybody.



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