"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky: The Wheels On The Bus Are Coming Off

From Banterer PJ: “What happened to our friend Will Weiss? I really wish he stop by so the Yankees can start winning again.

No Will Weiss at Banter is unacceptable…”

PJ, you’re absolutely right. It’s unacceptable. As Cliff will tell you, a new daughter and the associated parental duties, plus a new job with some travel thrown in will deregulate the writing schedule and stretch the boundaries of acceptability. At least our fearless proprietor Alex is one of the most understanding people in the business and is unyielding in his support for all of us who contribute. I will say this: my daughter likes watching the Yankees (although there hasn’t been much to watch lately), and she let out a shriek of delight when I told her Jose Veras was designated for assignment.

On to the column…

Since I don’t have to ride a train to work anymore and I don’t own an iPod (gasp!), I have been listening to a lot of sports talk radio. In the mornings, it’s a flip between Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on WFAN and Mike and Mike on ESPN, and in the afternoons it’s Mike Francesa and Michael Kay/New York Baseball Tonight. (I still haven’t decided if this is a good thing. Now that Matt Pinfield is back, I think I’m going back to music in the morning.)

In the last two weeks, we’ve been bombarded with stories about Jorge Posada’s management (or mismanagement, depending on your perspective), of the pitching staff; Joe Girardi’s management (or mismanagement, depending on your perspective), of well, everything; the defense that went a record 18 games without committing an error has committed at least one error in 14 of the last 19 games; and oh yes, there’s Derek Jeter’s inability to drive in runs in clutch situations. Of these stories, the Posada issue is not new and the Dead Horse Alert is strong in my ear; the defensive woes would not be a story if the team was winning, and Jeter’s malaise is not subject to just him. This is not to give Jeter a free pass, but when you score 15 runs in one game and then proceed to score 12 over the next seven, it doesn’t seem right to single out one player.

Jeter alone is not the reason the team has not won three in a row since May 27-30. A-Rod has one hit in his last 22 at-bats – a span of seven games – and hasn’t had a multi-hit game since going 5-for-5 at Texas on May 25. Mark Teixeira has driven in only four runs in the last 10 games. Plus, there’s the team’s Achilles’ heel: pitchers they’ve never faced before. Even in their championship heyday of the last 15 years, rookie/no-name pitchers look like All-Stars pitching against the Yankees (see Pete Caldera’s recap in the Bergen Record for more details). Most recently, it’s been Fernando Nieve, John Lannan, Craig Stammen, Josh Johnson and Tommy Hanson. Johnson and Hanson will be big-league studs, but to lose four of six to the Nationals and Marlins, teams the Yankees were supposed to beat up on to gain ground on the Red Sox, is a reflection of something deeper.

Which brings me to Girardi. If the manager sets the tone for the team, then his management of A-Rod and CC Sabathia could be leaving the team in a lurch. This from Bob Klapisch:

…There’s more to managing than simply bodysurfing a winning streak. Girardi looked crisp and in control when the Yankees were mauling the AL a month ago, launching all those crazy comebacks. But now they’re struggling — the Red Sox’ domination of the Bombers is nothing short of humiliating — and Girardi’s confidence has turned to a square-jawed form of desperation.

That’s why A-Rod played every day until he couldn’t bring his bat through the strike zone anymore — and, as he’s hinted, his hip is so stiff. It’s the reason why no one comes to Sabathia’s rescue in the seventh or eighth innings.

It’s because Girardi knows his managerial career will be over if he gets fired by the Yankees.

The decision to sit A-Rod due to fatigue came from above Girardi. Sabathia says he’ll pitch Friday, but Cashman is putting on the brakes. Girardi is in the background.

Esiason and Carton posit that Girardi is being made to be the fall guy for the team’s travails. If he is managing for his job, he should stand up for himself the same way he did in Florida. Esiason added that despite Girardi’s championship credentials, he doesn’t believe the players respect Girardi in the same way they did Joe Torre.

Maybe that’s true. Some veterans are describing Girardi as “tight,” as Klapisch also notes in his column. We don’t know what is said in the clubhouse – and it should stay there – but the rash of flat efforts leave much to be desired. I don’t get the sense he’s inspiring confidence in his players. I’d love to hear him say something like, “We’re not overlooking any teams on the schedule. Sure, we’re at a slight disadvantage playing in National League parks, but our lineup should be able to hold up against any pitcher in any park.” Instead, we get the same monotone and the tired lines about how interleague play is a necessary evil and that it’s unfortunate the games count in the standings. Does that get you fired up as a fan? Me neither.

What’s left? Could the Yankees pull the trigger on Girardi mid-season? They haven’t made such a managerial change since Bucky Dent replaced Dallas Green after 121 games in 1989. Granted, this Yankee team isn’t nearly as lost in Mark Knopflerville (aka Dire Straits) as the ’89 squad, but if the team falls further south of Boston in the standings, it may seem that way to the powers that be.

The wheels on the Yankees bus … need air.


1 Bud Wisenheimer   ~  Jun 24, 2009 10:49 am

if they are gonna bag him, they should do it now. Much longer and it might not matter.

5 games back at the end of june and being shut out 3 times in a month feels like bottom.

Batting A-Rod behind Teixeira is insane at this point. It effectively takes the bat out of Mark's hands. Don't know why Joe wouldn't flip flop them at least for a few games just to make things a little harder on the opposition.

Batting Cano and his .336 obp behind A-Rod makes the problem worse.

good start by Wang last night. Not great but very very encouraging.

2 Will Weiss   ~  Jun 24, 2009 10:55 am

[1] I thought the same thing re: the batting order. Makes no sense to bat Teixeira third right now.

3 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 24, 2009 10:56 am

A Dire Straits reference? Cool! ....

The Yanks are not quite the Sultans of Swing lately. The rest of the league has been asking them, "Where do you think you're going? You think you were just gonna Skateaway with the division? The end of the season is So Far Away."

Perhaps its some Industrial Disease inherent in the materials used in the new Stadium. Perhaps Girardi didn't receive the Communique from A-Rod's surgeon about the need for some rest after the surgery. Perhaps its the Private Investigations into A-Rod's steroid use that have been weighing him down. Swisher has embraced a Walk of Life, but has yet to really hit.

Buy Why Worry? CC, A.J. and their Brothers in Arms will assure us that this all wasn't Money for Nothing.


Yes .... I'm a HUGE fan of Mark Knopfler. :-)

4 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 24, 2009 11:00 am


Hey Will, you gotta share some more pics of your adorable daughter (you too Cliff).

Alex .... more kitty pictures!

I'll be happy to share pictures of my dust bunnies, as I have no kids or pets. :-(

5 Bud Wisenheimer   ~  Jun 24, 2009 11:07 am

Swisher has 12 Hr and a .493 slugging percentage. He hasn't been tearing the cover off the ball lately, but he's far from not hitting.

6 Will Weiss   ~  Jun 24, 2009 11:29 am

[4] I'll put them out there for the community. ... and [3] Even cooler is that Knopfler did the score for one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Princess Bride." ... Tremendous.

7 Bud Wisenheimer   ~  Jun 24, 2009 11:30 am

[6] Not to mention the "Brothers In Arms" episode of Miami Vice!!

8 a.O   ~  Jun 24, 2009 11:54 am


9 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 24, 2009 11:56 am

[0] [6] Will, re: parenthood and radio, I'd advise listening to music. In a short time, you may be able to easily sing any song performed by, say, The Wiggles, but also know nothing about what's currently on the radio.

Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything . . . ;)

[1] et al - I avoid talk radio and the tabloids like the plague, so maybe I'm wrong . . . but to me, it seems like the "Girardi is on the hot seat/should be fired!" stories come up when the Yanks are losing more than winning, and disappear when the tide turns.

He seem to be doing a much better job with the bullpen (one haggle: pitch Hughes more than two innings, dammit!) - or perhaps the bullpen just includes better pitchers, or better performing pitchers? He seems to be doing fine mixing and matching the hitters. I too don't get Cano hitting 5th - that should be Posada, or if not, Swisher, IMHO - but lineup order is essentially meaningless, so no worries there.

I don't think Girardi is hurting the team, so I don't see why he ought to be fired. Because the offense has sucked the last two weeks? I'll repeat my post from the NoTD thread:

Yanks’ record the last 15 games: 6-9

Yanks’ OBP the last 15 games: .323

Yanks’ record the 15 games prior to that: 10-5

Yanks’ OBP the 15 games prior to that: .377

Yanks’ record for the season: 38-31 (tied for 2nd in AL, tied for 4th best in MLB)

Yanks’ OBP for the season: .352 (3rd in AL, 5th in MLB)

Unless that OBP plummets over the next month, I see no reason for Girardi to lose his job.

10 monkeypants   ~  Jun 24, 2009 12:04 pm

[9] Responding to one point only--

He seem to be doing a much better job with the bullpen...

I agree with this general assessment, with a few quibbles aside. As for you suggestion that perhaps this is the result of having better arms to work with overall, I would counter that the only reason those arms are there to begin with is because of Girardi. We never would have seen some of the younger arms used under the previous manager. They would have rotted until they were sent back down, while a trusted veteran absorbed all the innings (until his arm fell off).

It now seems de rigueur to criticize Girardi's every single decision. With regards to BP strategy and usage, I have found him largely an improvement.

11 Will Weiss   ~  Jun 24, 2009 12:15 pm

[9] I agree with you on all counts. I personally don't believe Girardi should lose his job. Give him the full season. If they miss the playoffs, then Upper Management has a legitimate gripe. ... I'm already whistling Baby Einstein stuff till my ears bleed and can't get away from Raffi, so I'm thinking Matt Pinfield's show is the way to go.

12 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 24, 2009 12:22 pm

Its not just the record the last 15 games, its the quality of the competition in those games .... (supposedly) inferior teams for the most part.

13 Bud Wisenheimer   ~  Jun 24, 2009 1:17 pm

[9] I'm not saying they should fire him. I'm saying if they are gonna do it, do it quick and get it over with. A lingering "hot seat" situation seems like it would be pretty distracting.

I do disagree with [9] though, I do think he's hurting the team. The team hasn't been able to hit the water if they fell out of the proverbial boat and yet aside from moving Swisher up last night (because Damon is hurt) Joe hasn't done anything to try to shake up the lineup. As I said earlier, I find it beyond comprehension that A-Rod is batting 4th and Tex is 3rd.

It's plain that A-Rod is completely out of sync, and it's affecting Tex's ability to contribute anything beyond walks. OBP is great but at some point they need hits. 11 runners left on base tells me all I need to know about that.

14 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 24, 2009 1:23 pm

well at least Francesa opens his show with "Torre has gotten the last laugh"...because that's relevant

15 The Mick536   ~  Jun 24, 2009 1:25 pm

Didn't see or hear A-Rod admit to stiffness. Not surprising. You got to have this hip thing to understand it. You change your balance when you got it. You avoid moving in certain ways to insure you don't feel it. He calls it stiffness. Okay. I don't, but I feel for him. He may never recover.

As for Joe, he must go. Mismanages people. Mismanages players. And he leaves me cold. Under the bus for him, with Cashman.

I thought the analysis here was primo, especially the Dire Straights reference which aptly describes the Yankees position at this time.

16 Yankee Mama   ~  Jun 24, 2009 2:06 pm

{11} Things that make me happy; not having to hear that insidious Baby Einstein or the Wiggles anymore. They've proved that the Baby Einsein dvds are worthless, but they make great babysitters.

I actually think while Girardi is an improvement over Torre with respect to the BP (see Scott Proctor, Paul Quantrill et al), I do question some of his recent moves, such as putting a long man like Aceves in an 8th inning situation, not playing Robertson enough, taking Hughes out early and over playing Coke. Other than that....

I guess it the result is good, Girardi is a genius. If the result is bad, we judge.

The truth is that the problem is not the pen, but the overall failure to capitalize on an offensive situation. The are not "stepping up to the plate." Talk about taking the wind out of their sails. It's every inning. The dps? It's like they're zombies. Pressing, hitting the first pitch. Their defense has not been tight either. Sloppy.

I'm no statistician, but has anyone ever compiled data as to what happens to the Yankees after Mo falters? It always seems to me that it jolts them at their core. Could be wrong.

17 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 24, 2009 2:23 pm

[9] Are the Yankees only supposed to win when the offense is firing on all cyclinders? If that's the case, why have a manager at all. I'll bet if you look at the pitching stats over the last 15 games, they'd rank pretty high. One could then argue that the Yankees should be winning more games with their pitchers doing well.

In my opinion, Girardi has been the biggest reason that the Yankees have lost 3-4 games over the past 15 game stretch. When your team isn't firing on all cyclinders is when you need your manager to make a positive difference. Girardi has made a negative difference.

Also, while the Yankees do have the 4th best record in MLB, they are 3 games away from being the 16th best team. In other words, that's a red herring.

18 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 24, 2009 2:26 pm

[14] It's actually true. The Yankees replaced Torre with someone who barely manages the game better than he did. They are also paying him nearly as much. What's more, the Yankees seem intent of sticking with their poor decision so as not to look bad, which is only compounding the situation. So, I think it is fair to say that Torre is enjoying a few chuckles.

19 Bama Yankee   ~  Jun 24, 2009 2:51 pm

While I have certainly scratched my head a few times over some of Girardi's moves (or lack thereof), I don't get all the talk of him getting fired right now. I tend to place the blame more with Chien-Ming Wang and his "highest-ERA-in-the-history-of-baseball-over-his-first-half-dozen-starts".

Even with Wang's struggles, just three wins vs. the Sox and the Yankees would be in first place, have the best record in the league and the second best record in baseball.

20 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 24, 2009 3:09 pm

[19] But, the Yankees have had 8 chances to get those 3 wins and come up empty each time. Also, if the Yankees had three more losses, they'd be a .500 team with a record no better than at least 17 other teams.

The Yankees are pretty much in the exact same boat as they were last year and look how that turned out. On the one hand, it seems as if many people are arguing that Girardi really doesn't have much of an impact, but then on the other they are resistant to making a change.

When the Yankees were swept by Boston, it was a crushing blow. In my mind, how they responded was going to be a very telling sign about Girardi's ability to lead this team. Since that time, they have gone 4-6 against awful competition, and they have been lucky in doing so. I am tired of waiting for the Yankees to finally start playing up to their potential. Girardi has had 1.5 years to get this team on track and has yet to establish any consistent stretch of winning. Because it's not too late is exactly why the Yankees need to make a change now.

21 Yankee Mama   ~  Jun 24, 2009 3:23 pm

What happened to the kangaroo court? Why aren't they holding each other accountable? Where is the levity? They are weighed down by failure. It's almost impossible to look at Jeter's face. Strained.

Ya know, they're not making magic. We are watching teams decimated by injuries that are battling more than they are. Maybe they do need a managerial change. Send a message.

Of course, the dismal offense is not Girardi's fault. The overall malaise of the team, could be.

22 Bama Yankee   ~  Jun 24, 2009 3:38 pm

[20] I understand what you're saying, but if Wang was having anywhere close to a normal year would people be talking about firing the manager at this point? It seems to me that it would hard for any manager to compete in the AL east without an effective Wang... (uh, sorry, that could have been worded a little better... ;-)

23 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 24, 2009 4:05 pm

[21] I don't think malaise is Girardi's fault either.

[17] No. The point is, nothing correlates better with future record than RS vs RA via the Pythagorean theroem. Nothing correlates with RS better than OBP. The point was, the Yanks haven't been getting on-base, so they haven't been scoring runs, and thus they haven't been winning. 15 games is a meaningless sample, and no guarantee at all that for the remaining 93 games, they'll carry a .325 OBP. That, through 69 games, they have a .352 OBP, speaks far more about the team than the last 15 games, which happen to have included losses vs the Nats and the Marlins.

"In my opinion, Girardi has been the biggest reason that the Yankees have lost 3-4 games over the past 15 game stretch. When your team isn’t firing on all cyclinders is when you need your manager to make a positive difference. Girardi has made a negative difference."

What would you have Girardi do? I'm of the school that NO manager can improve a team by 3-4 wins over the course of a season; there's just too few things they can do. Its ultimately the players who win or lose. That school also holds that a manager could hurt a team by 3-4 games over a season - but not 15 games! - and then it has to be really egregious moves, say, batting two guys with sub-.300 OBPs first and second for 80% of the season. (Hello Mr. Baker!) Girardi, like the vast majority of managers, has done neither. The hitters will take care of themselves. The roster could be used a bit better - hello, Angel Berroa - but that's been true for what, my entire lifetime? And is true of pretty much every last team in MLB. The rotation seems to be reasonably well-managed, and the bullpen, as monkeypants says in [10], is actually kinda good.

Step off the ledge, Mr. Steinbrenner, the Yanks will be fine. ;)

24 PJ   ~  Jun 24, 2009 4:21 pm

Welcome back Will! I'm glad to hear you and the family are well!

Maybe the Yankees can start winning again, since you're back and A-Rod is "rested" and all! Remember, there is a nearby area in Atlanta called Buckhead, where he can "rest" some more!

Don't be such a stranger!

: )

25 PJ   ~  Jun 24, 2009 10:46 pm

Oh, and thanks for bringing us a win tonight!

Like I said...

: )

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver