By The Big Ragu
NFL PRO ZACH Staff Writer
After watching a 10 game lead on July 18th dwindle down to zero Yankees fans are hopeful the return of pitchers Ivan Nova who is scheduled to pitch today against the Tampa Rays and Andy Pettitte returning from the disable list to start on Tuesday versus the Toronto Blue Jays will help the Yankees get back to their winning ways.
Even though the pitching was okay the team was 13-13 in July with an ERA of 3.97 and 15-13 with an ERA of 3.89 during the month of August. The addition of Pettitte and Nova should be able to help and lengthen the starting rotation.
The main reason this team has let a 10 game lead in the American League East slip away was the offense. Or should I say lack of offense. Injuries to Alex Rodriquez who just returned after missing five weeks with a fractured left hand and Mark Teixeira who is out because of strained left calf certainly added to the mid July August collapse but I'm not here to make excuses. I said it in one of my blogs way back before the season began this team needs to hit in the clutch. This team needs to hit with runners in scoring position. As a team they are hitting .247 with RISP and .225 with RISP and 2 outs.
For the first time in a while the Yankees are in a battle for the AL East. With the pennant race likely coming down to the last game of the regular season there's a possibility that if the Yankees don't win the division they might not make the playoffs at all.
When it comes down to crunch time fans, the media and myself included look for the team to play small ball to win games but this isn't that kind of team and they haven't been for a couple of years. Even if they make the playoffs my gut tells me they'll get bounced out in the first round. All this team does is hit homeruns. If they hit bombs they win. But in October against good pitching that most likely won't happen.
Do I blame the players ? Not exactly. If players hit .240 or.260 with 35-40 homeruns how can you ask him to now play small ball, ask him to bunt ? That's not who he is. So I put some of the blame on ownership and upper management. Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brain Cashman say they want to win but do they really ? Now that the late great George Steinbrenner has passed away it makes me wonder if this management team just wants to put fans in the seats. What puts fans in the seats ? Homeruns !! Everybody loves to see the " Big Fly." I shouldn't even use the word seats. I should say put people in the stadium. Wait, not the stadium....Entertainment Center because that's what it seems to like too me. They have priced the die hard blue collar baseball fan out the door and now it's mostly the casual fan who goes to the "Entertainment Center" to see homeruns instead of a 2 to 1 pitcher's duel. They're entertained by everything else going on there other than a baseball game.
The only player on this team who gets a big hit in a big spot is the same guy who's been getting clutch hits since 1996. The Captain Derek Jeter. Right now he's nursing an ankle injury and still in the lineup. The other night he has a great at-bat and get's a big RBI base hit against the Red Sox to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. With that hit he tied Willie Mays for tenth on the all time hit list with 3,283 hits. The 38 year old Jeter is having one of his best years. He is hitting .323 with 15 homeruns and 53 RBIs. Down the stretch of this season when it truly counts he is hitting .340 and he's playing hurt. It's too bad that this team doesn't have 24 other guys just like him. A player with heart, passion, and the burning desire to win. As far as I'm concerned Derek can play shortstop until he's 50 years old.
Who would have thought that this team would have missed Brett Gardner so much. This team lacks speed and at times energy. They sit back and wait for the homerun. This team needs to get younger and start mixing in the lineup some players who make contact, hit for a higher average, get on base, and run. Alex Rodriquez is 37 years old, spent five weeks on the DL and he leads the team in stolen bases with 12.
Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are both free agents at the end of the season. Do the Yankees sign both or one of them ? Look don't get me wrong I like them both but this organization needs to start looking towards the future. Not an easy task when your trying to sell high priced tickets. Granderson is hitting .234 with 38 homeruns, 90 RBIs and is second in the league with 174 strikeouts. His OBP is .322. With his speed I wouldn't mind if he hit less homeruns, hit for a higher average, got on base more and did some running. Nick Swisher is hitting .257 with 78 RBIs. His OBP is.344 and he has struck out 128 times. That's 302 K's between two of your starting outfielders. Wow !! That's to many swing and misses for me ! Especially in big spots. How about just a "seeing eye single", a "dying quail" with a runners on base to get the job done.
Look I'm not saying I don't like the long ball. It certainly can put a team that is trailing back in a game with one swing but you can't rely on it constantly. When a team is struggling to score runs especially against good pitching which is what you see in October it would be nice to try and manufacture some runs to win games. Let's get back too getting players that know how to play the game the right way. Doing the little things, good fundamental baseball.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner talks about cutting the payroll next season down to somewhere around $ 189 million. I don't except them to sign both Granderson and Swisher after the season. So where is the up and coming outfielder ? I often wonder why other teams especially smaller market teams (everybody's smaller than the Yankees) seem to have these young 19-22 year old phenoms. Why isn't the team with most money, who should have the best scouts in the game finding the Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Steven Strasburg and the Mike Trouts of the world. Heck !! Mike Trout is from southern New Jersey not far from the Yankees Double-A affiliate Trenton Thunder. I guess they didn't see him because they were looking for a player that hits .230 but has 35 homeruns.
If they want to cut payroll and get younger I say give outfielder Zoilo Almonte a shot. At Double-A Trenton the 23 year old outfielder hit .277 with 21 homeruns, and 70 RBIs. His OBP was .322, SLG. .487, OPS .808. He had 25 walks, 103 strikeouts, 15 stolen bases in 419 at-bats. Give the kid a chance next spring. At the very least start him at Triple-A Scranton and if he is playing well bring him up to the show. Let's see what he can do !
We know catcher Russsell Martin isn't here to win games with his bat. He's been hitting barely over .200 all season. Everybody cried when the Yankees traded away catcher Jesus Montero to the Mariners who is now hitting .264 with 15 homeruns and 56 RBIs mostly as a DH in Seattle. Is the Yankees number one prospect the phenom we're waiting for ? Is catcher Gary Sanchez ready to make the jump like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper ? In his young minor league career in Tampa and Charleston the 20 year old Sanchez hit .290 with 18 homeruns, 85 RBIs. He has an OBP of .344, a SLG. of .485 and an OPS of .829. He has some defensive skills with an above average arm. Is he the next youngster to make an impact at the Major League level ? I say give him a chance. Why not ? Let's stop coddling young players. Let's see what they've got !
I'll leave the pitching alone for now. Although I'm a little concerned. CC Sabathia isn't the same dominate pitcher he usually is. Pettitte is older and coming off the DL. Nova has been up and down all season. But hey they finally gave a young pitcher a chance. They gave David Phelps a chance. Phil Hughes finally threw a good game in a big big spot the other night against the Red Sox. The Oriole's had already won earlier in the day and the Yankees needed to win in order to remain tied for first in the Al East so Hughes went out and pitched 7.1 innings giving up only five hits and no runs. Nice job ! I'll leave a pitching blog for another day.
After taking 2 out of 3 from the Red Sox this past Wednesday and Thursday that was this first time since mid August the Yankees won two in row when they took 3 out of 4 from the Rangers. Is this team ready to go on a run and put some wins together ? That's what it's going to take to get into the playoffs this year. The Yankees need to step up and show everyone that their a championship caliber team ? We shall see !!! Looking forward to edge of your seat baseball down the stretch!
Let's go Yankees !!!