If you don’t think baseball is the hardest game to play; if you don’t think that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports, watch a few New York Yankee playoff games. While many were screaming (correctly) that the Yankees had to play A-Rod, that they shouldn’t have put defensively-challenged Eduardo Nunez at short, that Brett Gardner hadn’t started a game since April 17, that 0-11 (now 0-14) Eric Chavez shouldn’t play third, the reality is that it didn’t matter what Jpe Girardi did in terms of lineup changes: the Yankees simply have virtually nobody who can hit. Down three games to none after a 2-1 defeat to Detroit, the Yankees are down and out.
If you’ve watched these games (and especially if you are a Yankee fan), you are actually hoping that the Yankee at the plate can just put the ball in play, just make contact with the ball, as opposed to getting a hit or hitting a home run.
The fall has been quick and precipitous.
WHAT COULD JOE GIRARDI DO?
Well, nothing, really, as it turns out.
Should A-Rod have played? Well, he should have, but right now, he’s less than a shell of what he used to be. Throw in the lack of confidence that goes with a tremendous slump and the humiliation of having your manager pinch-hit for you twice (including one time when you are called back from the on-deck circle) and bench you against a righthander (0-18 with 12 strikeouts), well, you can’t expect much of anything from A-Rod.
You can’t really play a guy who is 0-11 (Chavez) over A-Rod. Can you really play Gardner (0-4), who hasn’t started since April 17? Nunez, who wound up making an excellent play at shortstop (by the way, if Girardi lost his mind and put A-Rod at short (which, one could argue, would be another way to humiliate A-Rod), A-Rod wouldn’t have even gotten to that ball) and hitting a ninth-inning homer, was the biggest gamble and the only one who came through.
WHAT ABOUT A-ROD’S NUMBERS AGAINST VERLANDER?
Really irrelevant in this series. You see, A-Rod, 5-8 against Verlander this year with two home runs, was nowhere near the A-Rod of early in this season, never mind the A-Rod of five years ago. Home runs on April 27 and June 3 couldn’t be more meaningless for a hitter in October who is 0-18 with 12 strikeouts against righties in the playoffs.
April and June are ancient history in October given A-Rod’s collapse.
Having said that, it says here that A-Rod still should have played (because the Chavez option was terrible). But it also says here it wouldn’t have made a difference.
JOHN SMOLTZ GOT IT RIGHT
While the TBS coverage hasn’t been very good (when you hear a boothful of announcers going nuts when the “Yankee fans are on their feet” either with “only” one out or early in the game, it’s clear you have a bunch of announcers parachuting in for the playoffs. Nobody told Ernie Johnson and the rest that Yankee fans virtually always stand up when a Yankee pitcher has two strikes on a hitter?).
That’s pretty pathetic.
But give John Smoltz a lot of credit. He was the guy who said early in the playoffs that you don’t even have to throw most Yankee hitters a strike. Throw them curve balls in the dirt and Yankee hitters will be waiving at them.
And that’s the truth. It looked like virtually every Yankee hitter for virtually the entire playoffs has been trying to hit home runs. And, instead, they virtually all have fallen on their faces.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, DEREK JETER?
The Yankees turn their lonely eyes to you. But Jeter, the best Yankee hitter in the post season (or second to Raul Ibanez), finally became human and is gone with a broken ankle.
Would it have been different with him in the lineup? We’ll never know, but this was a huge blow on two levels: taking your captain out and taking the one guy who was actually hitting game to game.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, ROBINSON CANO?
Cano’s fall is much more puzzling. But, again, the hardest thing to do in sport is hit a baseball. After going 24-39 (a staggering .615) in his final nine regular season games, Cano was quoted as saying, essentially, that his hot streak came along at the right time.
Little did he know. Now 3-36 (.083) and an all-time post-season futility streak of 0-29 (stopped by a ninth inning single in Game 3), Cano’s slump, off one of the hottest ends to a regular season you will ever see, is inexplicable.
NOW THE YANKEES AND THEIR FANS WILL RESPECT ICHIRO MORE?
An all-time superstar, Ichiro came over here and was told you will bat where we tell you to bat and you will not play right field (yeah, Nick Swisher will; how funny is that?). All he’s done is become the best all-around Yankee. He kept his mouth shut; he played all three outfield positions; he batted eighth (seriously), ninth (seriously), first and second.
One of the dumbest things to do with a superstar like Ichiro is to bat him second against righties and eighth or ninth against lefties. All Ichiro has done is show that he’s the best Yankee outfielder (I think he gets that Cabrera double last night that Granderson, to be kind, had trouble with) and a guy who should bat second all of the time (Verlander was perfect through eight except for two Ichiro singles).
The Yankees should brinG him back net year, bat him second and play him every day.
If he wants to come back.
Well, the Yankees can certainly win tonight with Sabathia pitching. But this team, to win four in a row, well, that’s a million-to-one shot the way they are hitting. Lost in the shuffle is the excellent Yankee pitching. But that’s not enough.
The stats are that the Yankees are batting .182 as a team against the Tigers and .200 as a team in the postseason.
If you’ve watched all of their games, those averages actually seem too high. Live by the home run, die by the (lack of) home run.
That will probably sum up the Yankee season.