Think back to the movie “Cool Runnings” for a second. Irv Blitzer, John Candy’s character, scolds his bobsled team after they failed in their first Olympic heat. His team had proven they were good enough to be in the Olympics, but buckled under pressure, showing that even though they have the talent and skill, they lost.
“You choked. It was yours for the taking, and you choked. You were ready, and you choked. You know the turns. You know everything there is to know about this sport. I’ll tell you something: you had all better find a way to stay loose out there. That’s something I can’t help you with. I’ll see you tomorrow on the hill.”
Yankee Manager Joe Girardi needs to say something like this to his team. The Yanks have proven they are a lot better than how they have been playing, yet they are not showing it. The Bronx Bombers have now lost six games in a row and they are 3-10 in their last 13 games. The last time the Yankees won a game was a week ago today on May 10; a 3-1 win over the Kansas City Royals.
Since then, it has been a dark time to be a Yankee.
There are so many guilty parties to consider in terms of this losing skid. Collectively it has been the whole team that has been struggling – there is plenty of blame to go around. But a number of players stick out. I’ll start with…
On Friday May 13 Joba Chamberlain came into the game in the top of the seventh, in relief of Bartolo Colon – who had given the Yankees six innings while only allowing two runs. Chamberlain proceeded to give up a three-run home run to Kevin Youkilis, giving Boston a 5-2 lead.
The Yankee offense, scuffling, managed to score two runs but could not come back to tie the game or win it. New York went on to lose, 5-4.
Two days later Chamberlain was just as ineffective.
With the Yanks trailing 6-5 in a tight series finale with the Red Sox, Chamberlain surrendered a solo home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia – a player who had not homered all season up until that plate appearance. Saltalamacchia is currently batting .217, and has 24 strikeouts in 83 at-bats this year.
It’s almost impossible to give up a homer to him. Chamberlain did the impossible.
That tater gave Boston a 7-5 lead and they won by the same count.
Although Chamberlain’s current numbers don’t necessarily reflect a poor season (2-0, 4.05 ERA, 17 strikeouts and 16 hits in 20 innings pitched, and only three walks) he has given up 10 runs, nine of which have been earned.
It’s safe to say he has been a part of this losing streak, even to a small capacity.
We all know about the controversy. Jorge Posada took himself out of the lineup because he was batting ninth and he didn’t want to bat last in the order. His wife mentioned he had some back stiffness, but in the end he wasn’t injured; he just didn’t want to play on Saturday against the Red Sox.
Whatever. It’s over. I, for one, was glad he didn’t play. Has anyone else seen his numbers?
Posada is batting .165 this year, the worst in baseball among everyday players. In a big situation you cannot expect Posada to come up with a big hit because nine times out of ten he is probably going to disappoint you.
Case in point: Wednesday May 11 vs. the Royals, the night the losing streak began.
Eduardo Nunez (more from him later) stole second base, tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Nick Swisher was intentionally walked, setting up Posada. The 39 year-old DH had the perfect opportunity to silence his critics and regain some of that pride everyone talks about him having.
So with two runners on and a chance to win the game, what did he do?
He struck out swinging on a 3-2 count. Posada whiffed at a low slider that barely had the plate.
Since Saturday Posada hasn’t been in the starting lineup, although he has been used as a pinch-hitter. The media has made it seem that Posada has been left out of the lineup because he has been having a hard time with left-handed pitching – and since Saturday, the Yankees have only been facing southpaws.
Tonight however, a righty (James Shields) is taking the ball vs. New York. If Posada is in the starting lineup, we can assume everything is alright and that everyone is over his actions from Saturday. If he is once again left out, then get ready for another soap opera.
On Thursday May 12, Ivan Nova took the ball hoping to get the Yankees back in the win column. Nova failed at playing the role of stopper, getting shelled for eight runs on ten hits in just three innings pitched. He walked two batters, struck out two, and served up two homers.
What made it worse for me: I was there to witness it. I sat in the right field bleachers of Yankee Stadium to watch Nova blow the game and the Yankees lose, 11-5.
It was only one bad start for Nova, but it was a big one. If he could have managed to come out strong and win the game, the Yanks may have been able to gain some momentum heading into the Boston series. Instead they were reeling, it carried over, and as we all know Boston swept them.
Up until that point Nova had been on a little bit of a roll; he had won his previous two games against Texas and Toronto. But somehow he unraveled against the Royals.
Nova has to be able to get into a groove; he will be in for a long season if he keeps going up-and-down. Tonight he will once again try to play the role of stopper against the Tampa Bay Rays.
If he can stop the bleeding, he will be known as the guy who played a major role in ending this run of misery. Yet if he falters again, goes out and gets beat up the way he did against Kansas City, he will be considered a huge part of why the Yankees are losing.
Mark Teixeira & Alex Rodriguez
If anyone has seen these two, please call the NYPD. I don’t know where they have disappeared to, but I am reporting them missing.
Throughout this losing streak, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have practically been non-existent in the Yankee batting order; we might as well rename them Casper and Slimer, because they have been ghosts.
The number three and number four hitters are there to provide power, and most often intimidate opposing pitchers. At this point, every opposing pitcher is probably comfortable facing Teixeira and Rodriguez.
During this six-game skid Teixeira has one RBI, just four hits, no home runs, no runs scored, and he has struck out four times. His season batting average has plummeted to .250.
Teixeira looks off-balance and hasn’t been swinging the bat well.
Rodriguez hasn’t been much better, although he has been a bit more productive in recording four RBIs and hitting a home run (on May 12 vs. the Royals) during the losing streak.
However it doesn’t change the fact that A-Rod is hitting .242 on the season and he is fouling out an awful lot. The follow-through in his swing doesn’t look normal and as a result, he isn’t getting around on a lot of pitches, popping them up for outs.
Rodriguez also committed a costly error on defense in Sunday’s game, letting a ball go through his glove and allowing Dustin Pedroia to score.
The Yanks cannot expect to win when both of these players aren’t hitting. When one or two people are struggling, the other players are supposed to rise to the occasion and produce; it’s what baseball is all about, picking each other up.
Teixeira and Rodriguez always pick each other up. But when both of them are slumping, who picks them up?
Right now nobody, unless you count Curtis Granderson, who has been the only player on offense that has been hitting.
But Granderson can’t hit in all nine spots in the batting order, nor can he pick up every single hitter on the team. Teixeira and Rodriguez need to help him out and start swinging their bats.
When they get hot, the team gets hot. And right now they are about as cold as Antarctic ice.
I can’t exactly knock what Eduardo Nunez has been able to do at the plate. For a bench player he hasn’t done poorly on offense, hitting .304 on the year (7-for-23) with only two strikeouts. Nunez has also proven his worth on the bases, stealing four bags and getting caught just one time.
But that’s his offense. On defense…well…
For a bench player, he’s done well. For a backup shortstop, he has failed.
At shortstop he has committed five errors in six games. He played one game at third base and in that game, committed an error. That gives him a total of six errors this season at two different infield positions.
On May 5 in Detroit Nunez botched two throws filling in for Derek Jeter at short, helping the Tigers overcome a strong start by A.J. Burnett. In fact, Burnett had been no-hitting the Tigers into the sixth inning. Even with that strong of a start, the Yanks lost.
If Nunez could field the ball, he would be a genuinely good bench player; a good hitter and a good fielder. But his defense kills him; it only makes him a threat on offense and a below average defender (and saying he’s below average is being generous).
I could probably rant on all day about how poor the Yankees have been playing.
I could point out other struggling players like Brett Gardner, who is supposed to be a speed threat and has been caught stealing six of the 11 times he has tried to swipe a base this season.
I could touch on how Burnett had a chance to end the losing streak, and how once again he fell flat on his face, giving up five runs in the sixth inning of last night’s game to blow it.
I could mention how Russell Martin hasn’t been swinging the bat well and is carrying a .252 batting average, with only three RBIs and seven strikeouts over the last 10 games.
I could go on forever about how useless Rafael Soriano is, with his arm problems and inability to pitch.
But it’s not necessary because everyone knows it. The world knows the Yankees are scuffling and these Yankees that we see playing in front of us are not the real Yankees at all.
The real Yankees don’t choke.
The real Yankees know what’s theirs for the taking and don’t choke.
The real Yankees are ready, and don’t choke.
The real Yankees know how to hit, field, and pitch.
The real Yankees know everything there is to know about this sport.
I’ll tell them something…
These Yankees need to find a way to stay loose out there, which is something their coaches and manager can’t help them with.
We’ll see them tonight at Tropicana Field.