New York Yankees: Why the Sky Is Falling in the Bronx

Mike Moraitis@@michaelmoraitisAnalyst ISeptember 4, 2012

September 3, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson (14) reacts to a called a strike in the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the New York Yankees 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The New York Yankees saw its American League East lead shrink to just one game after another loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday and it's time to panic in the Bronx.

As if it hasn't been time to panic for a while now, the slimmer lead in the division for the Yanks is just another harsh reminder that the sport of baseball can be very unforgiving to a struggling team—division leader or not.

Each day that passes gives a greater sense that something bad is about to happen.

This team has been riddled with injuries, but it can't be used as an excuse. You've heard the cliche a million times before: "every team has to deal with injuries."

It just so happens the Bombers have one of the deepest teams in the league and guys sitting on their bench could easily start for other teams in the MLB. Depth shouldn't be an issue at this point.

In fact, it's actually all about the team not responding to these injuries with solid play. Instead of doing so, the entire team has gone into a slump of epic proportions.

Offensive Struggles

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Runs aren't coming to the Yanks as easily as they did earlier in the season. They continue to be mediocre with runners in scoring position despite having some big bats in their order.

Curtis Granderson just finished an August that saw him hit a Russell Martin-esque .196 and adding to that, Robinson Cano had his second-worst offensive month of the season. Both still produced a decent amount, but missing Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to injury demanded more.

Tex himself missed seven games in August, but his 10 RBI in the month fell far short of the 27 he drove in back in July. That was the type of effort they needed with A-Rod in the trainer's room.

Eric Chavez was once carrying this team on his back, but he's cooled off as of late. Manager Joe Girardi might be wise to get his backup third baseman some more consistent at-bats to get Chavez going again. It's rare we ever get to see Chavez against a lefty.

Even Derek Jeter is without a hit in his last three games and has seen his average take a dive from .326 on August 20, to .315 on the present day. Ichiro hasn't been great either, but maybe it's time for Girardi to move Ichiro up to the top of the order for now just to switch things up.

That move would certainly help pad the middle of the Yankees order.

Interestingly enough, the man looking for a contract, Nick Swisher, has been one of New York's more consistent hitters through it all. He hit .306 in August. That average might serve the Yankees more if it were in the three, four or five slot in the lineup.

Starting Rotation

In the rotation, CC Sabathia has been solid since coming off the DL, but he hasn't been the ace the Yankees need. Hiroki Kuroda has been this team's best pitcher all year long and Phil Hughes can't decide if he wants to be a consistent starter for this team or a potential dud every time he takes the mound.

Ivan Nova is on the shelf, but there's no doubt with guys like David Phelps and Freddy Garcia filling in, Yankee fans might look to a new, A-Rod-like savior in the 25-year-old when he returns. But depending on Nova this season is like depending on a politician to tell the truth.

And Andy Pettitte? It's never easy to lose a guy who was pitching to a 3.22 ERA and was effective as all hell. But I said at the start of the season and I maintain that if the Yankees are depending on the 40-year-old Pettitte to save its season, this team would be in big trouble.

Hence their position at the moment.

In reality, the Yankees have two starters they can rely on and that simply isn't enough to get it done.

Joba Rules: Keep Him Off The Mound

In the bullpen, even an old reliable like David Robertson has been having issues as evidenced by his blowing the game against the Rays on Monday. Still, he and Rafael Soriano have been two of the more consistent players on this team in 2012.

Both allowed a combined total of six runs in August—three apiece.

After that, it's a toss-up. Joba Chamerbalin doesn't even deserve to be on a major league mound at the moment and since coming back on August 1, Joba has given up at least one run in six of his nine appearances.

Guys like Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada, Derek Lowe and Boone Logan have all done a nice job, but none of those arms—Lowe's playoff experience included—are exactly reliable options to go to when trying to maintain a lead.

Mariano Rivera's injury didn't hurt the Bombers at closer, it hurt them in the bullpen depth department. The Yankees were forced to slide Soriano from the seventh inning to the ninth, leaving vacant one of the more important parts of their bullpen.

Who Will Be The Yankees Savior?

The Yankees have got to find that spark that will ignite them back to their winning ways. At first it was thought to be Sabathia, but that didn't change anything. Then it was A-Rod who was to come to the rescue and with Nova, Tex and Pettitte still to come, there are plenty of potential heroes returning.

But all of them have the same thing in common: they are each just one man. What the Yankees need is for the team to step up as a whole, not just one player.

This team needs to get it together soon because when looking at the standings, neither the Rays nor the second-place Orioles are waiting for the Bombers to figure it out.