August 2008

Solo Homers Don’t Win Championships

I was thinking today, as I watched the Yanks go down yet again to a team they needed to beat, where are the rallies? Do the 2008 Yankees even know what a rally is? A solo homer is great if you’re talking about an Aaron Boone/Bucky Dent type fluke. But the teams that succeed in the 21st century are the ones that kill you with singles, not to mention pitching and defense and speed on the bases. I really hope Cashman – or whoever will be the GM next year if he isn’t – will take a look at baseball’s new reality. Gone are the days of the one-dimensional, big bopper home run hitters. Today’s success stories (can you spell RAYS?) have scrappy, speedy grinders, who mesh perfectly with the one or two guys with power. For the Yankees it’s been the same tired theme all season long: if we don’t hit a homer we don’t score/win.

And now, having lost the series to the Jays, we head to Detroit for a game between two teams that were supposed to contend (remember how everybody predicted the Tigers would win it all when they got Cabrera, Renteria and Willis?) but are, instead, nobody’s idea of a champion.
All I know is it can’t be a fun atmosphere on that charter flight this afternoon. The Red Sox lost and are clearly vulnerable down the stretch, and yet the Yankees can’t do a damn thing about it.

Booing A-Rod

Today’s loss was brutal for many reasons, but what – seriously, what? – is up with A-Rod this year? Is it the divorce? Is it not being able to tour with Madonna? Is it not having Doug Mientkiewicz around? 

He’s hit into so many DPs with men in scoring position that it’s truly bizarre. No one doubts how hard he works. And no one doubts his talent. But he seems to have one swing – that big, looping arc – regardless of the situation. Even Lyle Overbay bunted today to move the runner over. Why can’t A-Rod shorten his swing sometimes, punch/poke the ball the opposite way, EXECUTE? Admittedly I’m a writer not a ballplayer and I couldn’t hit a ball to save my life, but is it really that hard for a guy who’s been called the best in the game to perform in the clutch? Is it? Why?
As for the booing, I understand the frustration of everybody at the Stadium today. I booed A-Rod on my computer. (Thanks to Fox’s blackout I was stuck with MLB.TV here in California.) But what’s the point of booing him in person? It’ll only make him choke more, plus I have a thing about not booing my own team. 
I started the day feeling optimistic that the Yankees would pull off a win before having to face Halladay tomorrow. Now I’m miserable. 

About Not Giving Up

Thought I’d share my article that’s in tomorrow’s New York Times. It’s about my year of magical thinking about the Yanks. Sigh. Check it out here.

Where would the Yankees be without Mo?

A five-out save following a four-out save yesterday. Every time I watch Mo I try to imagine what my Yankee fan-life would be without him – and I can’t. He never changes. Same stoic demeanor. Same compact delivery. Same unhittable cutter. Sure, he’s human. But compared to every other closer out there he’s Superman. And, from what I’ve heard, he’s a unique person too. While I was on the road following the Yankees last season for my book, I kept hearing story after story about how he reached out to help people – not only other players but members of the media. I only hope that an 8th inning set-up guy finally emerges (Bruney? Uh-uh. Veras? Nah. Marte? Not happening. Edwar? Nope. Joba? I wish, but that’s a whole different post), that he turns out to be what Mo was in the John Wetteland era, and that he morphs into our closer when Mo’s done. We’re gonna need somebody and Mariano Rivera will be impossible to replace.

Just a word about Pavano. Did anyone expect him to pitch six shutout innings and beat Burnett? Did I hallucinate tonight’s win? Even though the Red Sox are thumping the White Sox as I write this and our destiny is no longer in our hands, it felt like there was energy at that stadium. At least we’re not going down without a fight.

Blame Game

OK. So now everybody on the Yankees is stepping forward to claim responsibility for the crappy season. Hank said it would be all better next year because he would MAKE it all better. Cashman said it’s all his fault. Girardi said the buck stops with him. A-Rod said he deserved to get booed.

Who’s to blame for the injuries? Nobody. Duh.
Who’s to blame for building a rotation around two unproven kids? Cashman. He’s also the genius who signed Igawa and Pavano and didn’t grab Washburn or Byrd when we needed an arm or two. And don’t get me started on Santana. I admit it. I wanted him. I was willing to trade Melky and Hughes/Kennedy. I honestly think having an ace on the staff would have made the hitters relax a little and we would scored more runs.
Who’s to blame for our anemic offense? This is the one that keeps me up at night. Girardi’s constant juggling of the lineup has been a classic case of overmanaging and couldn’t have helped. Lefty. Righty. Who cares? Just play the hot hand. Put the guy in the lineup who’s getting hits and leave him there. Players like stability. Cano has been on my blame list. He’s frustrating because he’s so incredibly talented. But what happened to him? Was it losing Bowa and his tough love that caused him to regress? Was it the big contract that made him lazy? He went down to the Dominican during the All-Star break and came back on fire. Was it something in the water there? And Melky. Well. I miss him in CF. Watching Damon not catch balls and not be able to throw is painful. But Melky was never a spectacular Yankees centerfielder. He was never going to be Bernie.
I could rant about A-Rod, but what’s the point? He’ll probably have another MVP season next year (he has them in odd years, not even). The Yankees need to find him the right shrink or the right Kabbalah Centre or the right best friend (I say bring back Mientkiewicz). He’s a head case but he’s our head case for the next nine years.
Not expecting a happy ending to Pavano vs Burnett tonight, but I’ll be watching anyway. Maybe Pudge will actually get a hit.

Why am I blogging?

In May of 2007, when the Yankees were in last place, I couldn’t take it. All the losing was killing me, keeping me up at night, making me snap at complete strangers, giving me a really bad headache. One night, after a humiliating interleague loss against the Mets, I stormed into my office and wrote an article about divorcing the Yankees. The grounds? Mental cruelty. I didn’t have a blog then, so I vented to the New York Times, which published my article. (You can read it here.) As a result of that article I landed a book deal for a nonfiction account of what it really means to be a fan. It’s called “Confessions of a She-Fan” and it’ll be out in February.

Now that I’ve finished it, I’ve been feeling desperate to be in a community of Yankee fans – people to commiserate with and celebrate with. Writing books is a solitary business. You basically sit in a room all day by yourself, wondering why in the world you didn’t pick another line of work, waiting for your publisher to call with news about something (your manuscript, your cover, your sales). I’m hoping that blogging will fill the void and distract me from checking my hourly ranking on amazon and the occasional snarky review.
Yes, it’s late in the season, but today’s game was a revelation. I’d almost forgotten what it felt like to beat a team not named the Mariners or Orioles. I’ve been second-guessing Girardi all year – from not starting Kennedy because it might rain, only to use him in relief…to resting Damon when we desperately needed his hot bat…to giving non-answers to questions about players injuries. But he looked like a genius today, juggling the bullpen and sending Giambi up to pinch hit. Taking the finale against the Red Sox wasn’t as satisfying as sweeping them would have been, but it was sweet nevertheless.
Do the Yankees have a prayer of making the postseason? I gave up on them last year and vowed I wouldn’t do it again. But it’s looking bleak. Seriously. A.J. Burnett and Roy Halladay loom this weekend. My heart tells me the Yanks can pull off a miracle comeback, but my husband says I’ve been drinking the Kool Aid.