"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Same Ol Song

John Harper thinks that yesterday’s 5-3 loss to the Devil Rays is one of the Yankees’ worst of the season:

In a season of stunning losses, you can make a case that this was the most alarming one of all. In the manager’s office afterward, you could see it in Joe Torre’s face. You could hear it in his tone of voice more than his words.

…”This was a tough loss,” Torre said afterward in a rather grave tone. “After what we did (Tuesday) night…and today we had a couple of leads, and we couldn’t hold onto it. It’s a setback, no question.”

From what he’s seen of the Yankees in the past week, Harper opines:

It’s more of a sign than ever that they’re destined to be an inconsistent club all season, talented enough to put together occasional hot streaks, but not complete enough to sustain the type of high-level performance that has marked the Torre era.

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1 Simone   ~  Jun 23, 2005 5:54 am

1.  I've accepted that the Yankees are just a mediocre team this season. I thought the off season moves (excluding signing Wright) had improved the starting pitching, but I was clearly wrong. The offense simply cannot produce enough to overcome the consistently bad pitching. It doesn't help that Pavano has developed a blister.

BTW, I was looking at Pavano splits. He pitches well on the road, but not at Yankee Stadium. I think that many of the home runs that he is giving up at the Stadium would be flyouts at ProPlayer. Pavano has to learn to induce more groundballs and less fly balls, especially with the Yankees' terrible outfield defense. Hopefully, he will make the necessary adjustments as the season progresses.

2 rbj   ~  Jun 23, 2005 6:05 am

2.  0-25 when scoring 3 or fewer runs. That tells me that the starting pitching is not dominating. It's not Torre hitting Womack second, or anything else. There are going to be games in which the Yankees aren't going to score much, no matter who's in the lineup, even Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Berra. The starters need to be able to work with just a couple of runs and dominate the other team. If we went a measley 5-20 in those games, we'd be in at least a tie for first place.

3 rbj   ~  Jun 23, 2005 6:16 am

3.  PS, thanks for the numbers, JeffP.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 23, 2005 6:20 am

4.  Simone, as far as Pavano goes, I don't think it's a matter of him making adjustments. Generally, either you are a fly ball or a ground ball pitcher. I believe he's considered to be a ground ball pitcher, what with that sinker and all. I think he hasn't been pitching very well, but the bottom line is he's not that great anyhow. He's decent, very much like Andy Pettitte, though Pettitte pitched for better Yankee teams. He's a good pitcher, but not a devastating one.

5 Max   ~  Jun 23, 2005 6:43 am

5.  No Yankee fan can really enjoy what has been going on this year, but all the caterwauling about this year's overrated, overpaid, underachieving team (and all the lurking by fans of other teams delighting in the Yanks' misery) is just so remniscent of... last year's Red Sox. As late as August of last year, there were calls to blow that team up for its underachieving ways.

Yes, the analogy breaks down in a number of areas, but it's spooky how visiting all the Yankee sites this year is just like a visit to the Red Sox boards at roughly the same time last year...i.e. all the "this team just isn't that good" talk, all the calculations of "they'll have to have xxx record from now until the end of the season in order to win 95 games, they'll never do it!"

I think the team is going to be ping ponging between elation and depression for a little while longer, and I'd like Womack to disappear just like everyone else, but there's a really good run in them still, I think.

6 Knuckles   ~  Jun 23, 2005 7:18 am

6.  I know all the SABR guys get hung up on how many expected wins each team is looking at, or needs, to make the playoffs, and scoreboard watching is taboo until August, but I'm looking at things slightly differently of late.

The Yanks are 5 games out. With their record, they would be right around 5 games out in every other division except the Centrals. It's time to start making up those games. As bad as they've played this year, do any of you honestly not think there's a better than even chance the Yanks can play 5+ games better than the O's and 4+ games better than Boston? Yes, they're maddeningly inconsistent, but should they win today then take 2 of 3 from the Mutts, that's 4-3 over the last 7, after a 6 game winning streak- not awful, if they can start to cut back on these crazy cold streaks.

If a few small things are done (not even addressing trades as yet) this team can become better day to day:

1. Bench Womack. Cut him, whatever. Any AAA OF would be better, as would Ruben, Andy Phillips, or my kid brother.

2. Wake Torre up during games. How many obvious PH, bunt situations, pitching changes, etc. have we all screamed for this year that haven't happened? Torre needs to change this, or George needs to change managers. Might the players revolt if Torre got fired? Yes, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. It could cause them to win in spite of the Boss, or if they rolled over and died, it would show how little heart they have, and the FO could use that as an impetus for change going forward.

3. Hold the coaches accountable. Like JohnnyC was saying about throwing that ball low and in yesterday, effective philosophies need to be developed and held onto. Ditto goes for batters swinging and popping up on the first pitch of a crucial at bat against a pitcher who hasn't shown any command of the strike zone.

4. Bullpen makeup. Torre is allowed to keep trotting 'his trusted guys' out there repeatedly. If the rest are languishing out there, Cashman needs to move them and keep cycling in new blood.

They're driving me nuts.

7 Zack   ~  Jun 23, 2005 7:42 am

7.  Knuckles,
Idealy that would all be great, but other than cutting Womack, none of that will happen. Torre has been asleep at the wheel his entire run. He's never been a great situational manager, never will, and such is life. He will also never change his bullpen management, as that has been the same too. Three or so guys he trusts, everyone else rots (though can anyone explain to me why Stanton is still on the team instead of some rookie?).

It comes down to that the Torre system isn't a system that holds people accountable, it's focused more on keeping players happy and pushing the right buttons. It's worked before, its not working now. The ones who really need to be held accountable are George and his boys, but that won't happen either.

8 Simone   ~  Jun 23, 2005 8:38 am

8.  Alex, if Pavano is a groundball pitcher, why is he giving up so many home runs? Also why is he pitching so much better on the road, if it is the defense behind him? I find the whole thing perplexing.

Knuckles, while benching Womack would help the offense, none of the your other suggestions will make any difference. Unless you have a way to jump start the starting pitching, the Yankees will continue around .500 baseball the rest of the way. The Yankees are just a poorly constructed team and there is no magic pill for that fact.

9 debris   ~  Jun 23, 2005 9:58 am

9.  Knuckles,

By what stretch of the imagination do you see the Yanks playing 4 games better than the Sox. For a number of reasons, the Sox stand to get better:

1. The schedule. They've played 7 more road games than home. They're near unbeatable at home and stand to win five of those seven games.
2. Ramirez year-long slump appears to be over.
3. Schilling comes back in two weeks.
4. They have the resources to fix their glaring hole: middle relief by a) moving Wakefield or Arroyo to the pen and b) dealing from their increasingly impressive minor league resources.

The question then is: How do the Yankees get better than a team that is already better than they are and likely to improve over the balance of the season?

Two facts are simple: 1. The Sox were a better team than the Yankees at the end of last season and 2. Epstein smoked Cashman/Tampa this winter.

Two other facts are simple: 1. Torre is a lousy manager and 2. Francoma is no better.

10 vockins   ~  Jun 23, 2005 10:20 am

10.  For as screwy as the starting pitching is, I don't think any of the offseason moves should be hypothetically taken back.

Much has been made of Vazquez and Halsey in AZ, but I don't think they are setting the world on fire out west, both with an ERA that would be in the fives in AL, I think. Same with Lieber. Halsey's got youth and probably could benefit from experience, I guess. Wright was dumb, but if he didn't go down, it's likely Wang would have been traded. El Duque is on the DL and I bet he'll get on it again.

Thinking about the other "what if" non-moves, anybody want Milton over Pavano? I didn't think so.

I guess what I am getting at is that the 2005 Yankees were destined for mediocrity no matter what happened in the offseason.

11 Knuckles   ~  Jun 23, 2005 10:27 am

11.  debris (garbage?),
There's 90 games left. I'm not saying the Yankees are GOING TO make up the 4 games on the Sox, but anyone who is stating 'facts' as if these 'facts' alone dictate the next 2/3 of the season, is clearly not in touch with reality.

12 JohnnyC   ~  Jun 23, 2005 10:34 am

12.  While it is true that the American League has deeper, better line-ups than the National League, I think it is simply buying into Stottlemyre's ready-made alibi if you think that that's the main reason Yankees pitching acquisitions suck in pinstripes. The weight of evidence is just too great for it to be a coincidence that every single pitcher no longer on the team has had an extended period of very good if not excellent pitching since leaving Stottlemyre. Every single one. As for Simone's question on Pavano: he pitches worse in Yankee Stadium because he's asked to pitch to sections of the strike zone that allow hitters from both sides to pull the ball and reach the friendly dimensions in left and rightfield. On the road, he can get away with this since it's at least 20 to 30 feet deeper in both corners in almost every other park. The problem is not "is he a groundball pitcher or a flyball pitcher?," it's "why is he being asked to throw the ball down and in to hitters, especially with men on base? I also subscribe to the Catfish Hunter theory of throw strikes, even inside strikes, with the bases empty. It's pitching aggressively and economically. Solo home runs won't kill you. But, oh, those 3 run jobs! Have Mel stop asking pitchers to commit what we will call from now on "the Javy Vazquez Cardinal Sin of Pitching"...throwing breaking balls and sinkers down and in with men on base. Amen.

13 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  Jun 23, 2005 11:05 am

13.  The pitching has been bad. No defense here, but to be especially disappointed about their problems with TB's hitters is a little misguided. The Devil Rays actually are a good hitting team. They have the 5th best offense in the AL (behind only the Orioles, Yanks, Sox and Rangers in that order).

vockins, what about not signing pavano or wright and going for clement? this is not 2nd guessing on my part (and a lot of the people who post on this site), as it seemed reasonable to think a pitcher who actually had put together more than 1 season of quality pitching might be a better investment.

14 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  Jun 23, 2005 11:08 am

14.  And I disagree with the idea that the Yanks couldn't have had a uch better off-season which would have led to a better 2005 team. There were enough players who could fill weaknesses on the market (Polanco, Beltran, better starters than Wright and Pavano).

15 Bob B   ~  Jun 23, 2005 11:12 am

15.  Truth is, If you're in the East and you don't beat up on Tampa Bay and the AL Central , you're sunk. And the Yankees are sinking.

16 rbj   ~  Jun 23, 2005 11:14 am

16.  There's a dump Tony Womack petition:
One suggestion is trading him for a bag of manure.

17 Marcus   ~  Jun 23, 2005 11:16 am

17.  JohnnyC,

You might be surprised to find that Stottlemyre agrees with you on pitching inside (at least to Nick Green):

"Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre seemed most upset that Pavano would even think about going inside with a fastball there, since the Yankees' scouting reports said to pitch Green away with hard stuff.

"In my mind, I question why we need to go inside there," Stottlemyre said." (from John Harper's column, linked above)

18 JohnnyC   ~  Jun 23, 2005 11:30 am

18.  According to Jim Kaat, the Yankees could put together quite a video of every breaking ball and/or sinker that was aimed low and in and was deposited some 400 feet distant post haste...just this season not to mention the last few years. For Mel to feign disappointment at Pavano for not following the supposed game plan to DRays hitters is just an indictment of him as a coach. I assume that Mel presided over the pre-series meeting that the pitching staff had and went over those very scouting reports. Well? Is Mel merely a disinterested bystander in the Yankees' pitching miseries? Typical. Just like Joe Torre asking his players in May after their 11-19 start to "play smarter." Whatever!

19 JohnnyC   ~  Jun 23, 2005 12:13 pm

19.  Well, Mel wasn't disappointed enough to actually visit the mound and review how to pitch this guy with Pavano. And where is his disappointment with Flaherty who quite clearly placed his mitt down and in? Obviously, Pavano didn't just lose his effing mind and throw it there come hell or high water no matter where Flaherty set up. The pitch and the location were agreed upon. Maybe Flaherty wasn't paying attention in the meeting either. Maybe there wasn't a meeting at all and no scouting reports neither. Maybe Mel's playing the blame game just as well as Yankees fans. Except for him, it's cover your ass time.

20 debris   ~  Jun 23, 2005 1:25 pm

20.  Knuckles,

What you said was "do any of you honestly not think there's a better than even chance the Yanks can play ... 4+ games better than Boston?" And what I gave you was a considerable list of reasons why there's a significantly less than even chance that they will. Simply put, Epstein put together a better team than did Cashman, with significantly fewer resources. And now, at a time of year when resources can be measured in minor league depth, Epstein has more resources than Cashman.

Cashman screwed up in the following ways:

1. Committing for three years to Randy Johnson.
2. Signing Wright and Pavano.
3. Signing Womack.
4. Not signing Clement. All indicators suggested that Clement was a better pitcher than Pavano.
5. Not signing Wells. Certainly, one could project Wells as a competent fifth starter after his year in SD. Signing Wells would have left the money for Beltran.
6. Biggest mistake. Not signing Beltran.

I won't go into Epstein's winter. The problem at hand is that Cashman spent a zillion dollars and didn't do very well. A lot of people saw this coming, most notable Joe Sheehan.

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