There is no question that the New York Yankees botched the situation with manager Joe Torre at the beginning of the 2008 season. Allowing the Hall of Fame manager to slip out of the Yankee pinstripes and put on the Dodger blue was a move that shocked many Yankee fans across the country.
Yankee brass assured "The Evil Empire" that they knew what they were doing in selecting former Yankee player and broadcaster Joe Girardi to replace Torre in the dugout. Torre's departure also meant the departure of other big-name Yankee coaches like Larry Bowa, Don Mattingly, and Ron Guidry.
The only big-named familiar face that remains from last year's coaching staff is first-base coach and catching instructor Tony Pena. Even with all of the changes in the dugout for the Yankees, they were confident that their $200 million payroll would produce positive results on the field.
Now, with a little over 40 games left in the 2008 regular season, the Yankees and their fans are not so sure about their chances of playing October baseball this year. WHY!?
Some of the critics would like to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Yankees' front office, mainly General Manager Brian Cashman. From the situation with former manager Joe Torre, not pursuing SP Johan Santana, not picking up SP Livan Hernandez from waivers (now with the Rockies), and keeping CF Melky Cabrera as the major piece from blockbuster trades.
Most of this blame, however, is misdirected and unfair. There is nothing more that the Yankee ownership and front office can do to put the best product on the field.
It is incredibly easy for fans to sit around and criticize moves that should or should not have been made, as if anyone could just pick up their cell phones and call GM Dave Littlefield of the Pirates or GM David Dombrowski of the Tigers.
General Manager Brian Cashman has been doing his best to continue the traditions of the Yankees by winning with a foundation of home-grown talent. He cannot just trade away every young player that we have in hopes of winning tomorrow's game. Yankee fans should appreciate the work that Cashman has done in his tenure with the Yankees and not think that he deserves to be blamed for the Yankees' performance this season.
As would usually be the case, most of the scrutiny falls in the direction of Manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff. As a rookie manager, there are always going to be mistakes made and decisions that deserve to be questioned. It took Joe Torre, or Mr. T as captain Derek Jeter called him, many seasons before he was able to make it to the playoffs as a manager.
Girardi does not deserve all of the blame that he is receiving either, seeing as how there are many things he does differently, and maybe even better, than Torre did. One of Girardi's biggest strengths is working with the bullpen and not overusing his relief pitchers. He rarely goes out and puts in RP Edwar Ramirez or RP Jose Veras in on three or four consecutive days.
Last year, Yankee fans became tired of seeing RP Scott Proctor pitch every single day. Along with the bullpen, Girardi has also had to change his lineup on an almost daily basis.
With inconsistent play and injuries plaguing his team, Girardi has done his best to try and put together solid lineups every game. Joe Girardi has done a good job, but not a spectacular job, as the manager of the Yankees this season and should not be made into the "whipping boy" for their performance this season.
Even being a casual fan of the New York Yankees will give you some idea as to the excessive amount of injuries that the team has had to face this year. At this point in the season, the Bombers are without three of their original starting pitchers in their rotation (Wang, Hughes, Kennedy), their starting catcher (Posada), and starting left fielder (Matsui).
Along with those injuries, they also have Joba and Albaladejo on the disabled list. Looking at these injuries, however, some of them can be easily explained and cannot really be taken as too much of a surprise.
Still, the injuries hampered some of their key players and took a major toll on their offensive, defensive, and pitching production. C Jorge Posada is worn down and just needs the surgery to fully heal his body from catching for so many years. LF Hideki Matsui is in a very similar position as Posada, especially because nobody really seems to know how old Matsui really is.
SP Chien-Ming Wang had a freak foot injury while rounding the bases at a game in Houston. RP turned SP Joba Chamberlain seems to have overworked his entire arm and now has rotator cuff tendonitis. SP Phil Hughes and SP Carl Pavano are supposed to be making their way up from AA Trenton in the next few weeks. SP Ian Kennedy was able to make a start in L.A. versus the Angels, and he was pounded and sent back down to the minors.
With all of these injuries dealing major blows to the Yankees' starting roster, it is understandable to see why they have not been playing up to their standards over the course of the year. Even though these injuries played a major role in the Yankees' performance this year, only partial blame should be placed on the injuries that have plagued the Yankees.
So who should take the brunt of the blame for the lackluster performance by the Bronx Bombers in the 2008 MLB Season?
22 of the 25 players on the Yankees' active roster are to blame! Only 22 players are to blame because RF Bobby Abreu, LF/DH Johnny Damon, and SP Mike Mussina have played as well as they should and are earning their "pinstripe riches" this year.
Inconsistent play from everyone else has been the No. 1 reason as to why the Yankees cannot seem to pull closer to the AL-East-leading Tampa Bay Rays or the hated Boston Red Sox, who are the current wild-card leaders.
It starts at the top and trickles down to the bottom. Granted, too much blame cannot be put on C Ivan Rodriguez, OF Xavier Nady, or RP Damaso Marte, but even they have come to New York and fallen into a semi-pro type of mode.
There has not been consistent play on either side of the diamond, and that is where the problems have continued to arise for the Yankees.
The offensive issues are proving to be fatal for the New York Yankees, as they have not lived up to the "Bronx Bombers" title this particular season. The entire starting lineup, again with the exception of Damon and Abreu, has not played consistent baseball all season long.
"The Golden Boy Captain," SS Derek Jeter, has not played up to his own standards as he bats .281 with 60 strikeouts and only 126 hits. Superstar 3B Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez has 26 home runs, but he has 80 strikeouts, only 70 RBI, and just went "0-THE SERIES" with two walks in the series against his former club, the Texas Rangers.
2B Robinson "Robby" Cano, 1B/DH Jason "The Mustache" Giambi, and CF Melky "The Melkman" Cabrera are all batting in the mid-.200s and none of them have produced the type of results that the Yankees expect from them.
Their biggest issue is that they can all play extremely well on one particular day, while scoring nine runs on 14 hits, but the next day, the entire lineup may produce only four hits and get shut out. The offensive production of the New York Yankees has been shaky at best.
On the other side of the diamond, things do not get much better for the Yankees. With SP Mike Mussina being out of the discussion, there has been no pitcher that the Yankees can really rely on to be effective and get opposing players out.
SP Andy Pettitte is 12-9, giving up 17 home runs and posting an ERA of 4.32. RP Edwar Ramirez, the new set-up man for the Yankees, has given up 18 earned runs with an ERA of 3.86 in 42 innings. The combination of SP Darrell Rasner, SP Joba Chamberlain, SP Sidney Ponson, and SP Dan Giese only have 13 wins amongst them.
Even "The Sandman," CP Mariano Rivera, has been inconsistent this year, as he has four losses, all in non-save opportunities. That type of play, from the starters to the closer, will not bode well for the Yankees down the stretch.
With all of the pressure and scrutiny that is in New York, especially in the Bronx, there is no wonder that many of the Yankees cannot produce every single day. With 56,000+ fans rocking Yankee Stadium, expecting every player to hit a home run and every pitcher to strike out their opposition; it makes sense that these players cannot perform every single day.
However, that is not acceptable for "The Boss" (George Steinbrenner) or any Yankee fan across the country. This is not the way that the Yankees should send off "The House that Ruth Built". With a little over 40 games left in the regular season, the Yankees need to start winning and they need to do it now.
A four-game losing streak is the worst thing that could happen at this point in the season! How they will overcome this adversity is anyone's guess at this point.
A word of advice for the Yankee hitters: They say that, "Life is all about how you deal with the curveballs that come your way." When it comes to the Yankees, they just have to sit on some and go the other way.