Surprise, surprise. Hank Steinbrenner opens his mouth yet again. Mr. Pride Power Pinstripes begs for your mercy as the Yankees find themselves 8.5 games back behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
Steinbrenner hypocritically says he's not "writing off the season," even though he has already looked to '09 by predicting that the Yankees "will win it next year."
What Hank Steinbrenner wants is for every Yankee fan to feel that the 2008 season was lost on the unluckiness of devastating injuries. Chalk it up to chance.
This statement tries to shield both the good and the bad contributions of the team because Steinbrenner wants you to believe that no one should be held accountable for the 2008 season. Of course, he forgets to mention that every team faces injuries to their stars, even those in his own division. It's part of the game.
Management prepares for each season with the expectation that they will face a lot of injuries to their team. This is why they have a strong bench of capable players that can step right in and perform. Additionally, having a strong minor-league system of young, talented players will be an asset to the major-league club when injuries inevitably arise.
The Yankees are fully capable of winning more games than they have, but the bottom line is that some key players have underperformed.
Don't offer the slightest impression of pity to Steinbrenner. His Yankees are absolutely capable of winning ballgames. Here are 10 things that Hank should remember.
1. They're getting an unlikely career year of out Johnny Damon.
I don't think anyone saw J.D. bouncing back this year to the level he has. At leadoff, Damon is batting an AL-best .325 and getting on base at almost a .400 clip. He's everything the Yankees could ask for at the top of the lineup. Writing off the 2008 season would undoubtedly overlook Damon's contributions. Imagine where they'd be without him.
2. A-Rod got hurt? David Ortiz did, too, and for a larger amount of time.
Rodriguez has missed 20 games this year due to injury; which is a lot of games but not irrecoverably long. The Red Sox, who lead the Yankees by four games, lost their best hitter David Ortiz for 50 games, which is more than double the length of A-Rod's absence. You don't see the Red Sox whining and making excuses about injuries.
3. Xavier Nady is better than Hideki Matsui.
Unfortunately, the Brett Gardner Era didn't survive past the trade deadline. The Yankees dealt for Pittsburgh outfielder Xavier Nady to replace Matsui's bat in the lineup and upgrade their fielding.
Much like the Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez, Xavier Nady is a much better bet going forward than Hideki Matsui. Even though Matsui had a good start to the season, Nady's numbers beat Matsui's across the board, and Nady is five years younger.
Nady should supplant Matsui as the Yankees' future left fielder and Matsui should be delegated to designated hitter. From here on out, expect 34-year-old Hideki Matsui's production to drop and his injury rate to rise.
4. The bullpen is very weak.
By moving Joba into the rotation and trading Farnsworth for a catcher, the Yankees forced young, unproven relievers to pick up the slack and get the ball to Mariano Rivera. Let's not forget that Edwar Ramirez had a 8.14 ERA last year, and Jose Veras hasn't posted an ERA under 4.00 in his career until this year.
The Yankees front office assumed Damaso Marte would come in and replace Farnsworth, but he certainly isn't the answer as he's allowed nine runs in seven-and-one-third innings and almost two baserunners an inning.
Was Hank Steinbrenner really expecting these guys to be an integral part of a World Series bullpen? This isn't about injuries. It's about poor management.
5. The Joba Tug of War.
You really can't expect a 22-year old to be pulled from the starting rotation to relief and then back into the starting rotation and remain healthy. Whether it's Steinbrenner or Cashman to blame, moving Joba into the rotation during the midseason was a huge risk. Risky decisions do have a pitfall: failure. If anyone is to blame for this injury, it's the front office.
6. Ivan Rodriguez isn't a slouch.
It's not the end of the world when surefire Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez calls games for your team. Using the injury-excuse doesn't work when you have Pudge behind the plate. He's not the same hitter as he was when he was a Ranger, but no one should be sorry for the Yankees with him behind the plate
7. Melky Cabrera is a minor leaguer.
Say hello to the worst hitting center fielder in the league. How this guy gets a free pass, I have no idea. His hitting line is .243/.297/.338 and his OPS ranks 32nd out of 33 qualified outfielders.
He makes an out over 70 percent of the time he steps up to the plate and has only 21 extra-base hits in over 400 at-bats. He doesn't steal bases, he doesn't hit the ball, he doesn't hit for power, and he doesn't get on base. There's no valid reason he should be in the majors.
8. Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes weren't good bets in the first place.
Young pitchers get hurt, a lot. Relying on 22-year old Phil Hughes and 23-year old Ian Kennedy to be a big part of your starting rotation isn't a good idea. Having no backup plan is an even worse idea. Signing Sidney Ponson and Victor Zambrano doesn't count as having a plan.
9. The Payroll.
With a $209 million payroll, you should be allocating some money to a bench, in case players get injured. There are no excuses when your resources are that vast.
10. Gasp—what about Derek Jeter?
On any normal year, I'd expect an uproar if I called out Jeter for the Yankees' bad season. But this year, I think Yankee fans know it but don't want to admit it. You cannot overlook the fact that your captain and most famous player on the team is having the worst season of his career.
His numbers are well below his career levels, and although he's been nicked around this year, he has never been one to blame injury, like Hank has.
Cano and Abreu have certainly had their struggles, but no one is as important as Derek Jeter, who bats before the meat of the lineup.
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