Monday, May 24, 2010
Taking the L Train
By Tony Mangia
Yanks Must Regroup After Lost Week
Thousands of Yankee fans watched the Lost finale last night; only it wasn't on ABC. They watched their team drop the rubber game against their cross-town rivals, the Mets on ESPN. The three game series ended with Mets closer K-Rod on the mound, arm raised in victory, and Yanks slugger A-Rod standing at the plate swinging at strike three with two men on. It ended a hell week that saw the Yankees lose 5 of 7 against the AL East leaders, Tampa Bay Rays, the hated Mets, and blow a 5-0 lead against their arch-enemies, The Boston Red Sox. Like the television series, the Yanks answered some questions, but left a lot of mysteries, too.
It's really bad week for the Yankees, when they call Javier Vasquez the best pitcher during that spell. He pitched a masterful one-hitter for six innings in the first game of the Subway Series until he left the game with an injured finger. "Masterful" and Vasquez sure haven't been used in the same sentence all season. Maybe the Yankees should have him pitch every game against the National League. Only now, after bruising his digit, he joins a long list of injured pinstripers---Jorge Posada, Nick Johnson and Alfredo Aceves won't see action for a few weeks; while Nick Swisher and Marcus Thames are "day to day." Now, the return of Curtis Granderson looms larger than the reported return of Paula Abdul to American Idol.
The week started with a wild come-from-behind victory over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. The four hour game (a nick in time for these two teams) battled back-and-forth until the Yanks pulled out the walk-off win. Yeah, there was a pie-in-the-face. The breakdown appeared devastating to the Bostonians. The next night, the Sox looked ready to concede the season, after falling behind 5-0, until bungling plays by the Yankees' fielders allowed the visitors to win. Next, the Tampa Bay Rays rolled into town. They completely out pitched New York, outhit them and finally ran all over them. Six stolen bases in the first game, alone. They made the two-game sweep look easy. They seem like the real deal and made the veteran Yankees look old and tired.
Catch Some Rays
The Rays also made the home team's younger players look stale and showed the Yankees future who the real up-and-comers are. They are 32-12 and lead the rest of the majors by 6 games! Their record is no fluke, but winning this division isn't automatic. The Red Sox looked punch drunk seven days ago, too. The Yankees may be banged up and the top of the lineup is slumping badly, but fill-ins have performed admirably. The starting pitching on the Yankees is still good, even after the past few losing scuffles, but the Rays staff is even better. Tampa Bay is young and can go deep into the game. They are not the upstarts of two seasons ago; so sneaking up against anyone won't happen. The Yankees had beaten Tampa Bay seven straight at Yankee Stadium, and took two of three in April, until last week. That is, until they got a real look at this peaking club. It remains to be seen if they have staying power---a few injuries here... There's still 120 games left to play, so its too early to crown the Rays champs yet.
The Good Things
The Yankees have survived, despite all of their injuries. They still have the most potent offense in the league. They lead the majors in runs scored and on-base percentage. Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes looked mortal last week, but are still having good seasons. As a whole, the Yankee starters are 18-7 without Vasquez. Even with batting free falls by Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and A-Rod, the Yankees can still grind out plays and score. They did have 38 runs cross the plate in six days---too bad the other teams scored more.
The Bad Things
The major off-season moves aren't panning out. Vasquez, Granderson, Johnson, Randy Winn and Chan Ho "Out of the" Park haven't played well or have been nicked up. Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera both had bad weeks and the bullpen has struggled on-and-off all season. The injured list is growing faster than C.C.'s ERA.
The American League East is no longer a two-horse sprint to win--maybe its a three way trot to place. Yankee manager, Joe Girardi's yappings about Josh Beckett's extra warm-up pitches and then Cervelli's non-home run call against the Mets might be out of frustration--not desperation-- but he doesn't have to hit the panic button--yet. Last week's botched game against the lifeless Sox, let another team back into the playoff picture. Toronto is nipping at the Yankees' heels while the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins are formidable opponents from the Central Division. All five of these teams are legitimate wild cards if Tampa Bay doesn't cool off. If anything nice came from the losses to the Mets, its the benevolence of Girardi's team. It probably saved Mets' manager, Jerry Manuel's job.
EXIT 16W, YA MOOK!
Looks like the 2014 Super Bowl is coming to the Meadowlands. Oh hell, it's still Giants Stadium! Last year, during the Super Bowl game, nighttime temps in the swamps of Jersey hit 5 degrees--without the wind chill! Lots of things to keep the players and fans warm and busy all week. Visit the club where Plaxico shot himself and the hotel where L.T. got busted. If it snows, Mayor Bloomberg says 800 workers will be available to clear the roads. Security is another thing, last year during a blizzard, the NYC F.B.I. offices closed down, when only one agent showed up for work, because all the others called in a snow day.
WATCH WHERE YOU AIM THAT, GUV'NOR, IT'S ME FACE
Love the new mascots the 2012 Olympics unveiled in London last week. They look like deformed Teletubbies with urinals as heads. Makes me pine for Izzy in Atlanta.
I.B.S.? I THOUGHT IT WAS THE NEW DEVELOPMENTAL LEAGUE?
According to The New York Daily News, an ESPN staffer was canned in 2009 for repeatedly using the garbage can as a toilet. The worker is suing because of irritable bowel syndrome caused by stress. Maybe she thought it was the in-box for the Fill-in-the-blank show.