By Michael Parente
Forget the program book. You’ll need a DNA swab and dental records to identify who’s starting for the Yankees these days.
If you were Brian Cashman, you’d be dropping F-bombs, too, if your contingency plan of dumpster-diving for replacement-level talent to hold down the fort for a few months while you licked your wounds suddenly blew up in your face.
With $110 million in salary rotting on the disabled list, Cashman assembled a team better suited for the next season of Celebrity Apprentice than a major-league roster. The crazy thing is it actually worked for a few weeks; the decaying corpses formerly known as Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis and Red Sox castoff Lyle Overbay played well enough to keep the Yankees above water with the promise that all would be right again once injured stars Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and even Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup.
They told us to be patient. Wait until the big guns come back. We did. Granderson lasted eight games before breaking another bone, this time in his left hand courtesy of a fastball from Rays’ reliever Cesar Ramos. Teixeira lasted 15 before returning to the disabled list for good thanks to the same wrist injury that cost him the first two months of the season. Elsewhere, Jeter is still recovering from the broken ankle sustained during last year’s postseason while old pal A-Rod is right by his side nursing his surgically-repaired hip.
Look on the bright side – A-Rod chimed in recently to let us know he feels great and “can’t wait” to get back on the field. If that doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart, perhaps a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the chest will do the trick. At least you wouldn’t have to watch another inning of this summer-long nightmare.
Once the calendar turned to June, the clock struck midnight on Cashman’s poorly-planned Cinderella project, exposing the fact that, when you think about it logically, he really didn’t have a solid plan at all. On May 25th, the Yankees were 30-18, a season-high 12 games above .500, and led the American League East by a game over Boston. They’re 12-20 since then and just 11-15 in June. They’ve slid to 23rd in the league in runs scored and a ghastly 26th in OPS.
The fact they’re still in third place despite their minus-6 run differential and only five games behind first-place Boston would normally be great news if the Red Sox were the only team they had to worry about. The second-place Orioles are younger, healthier and essentially better at everything other than closing games (there’s still only one Mariano Rivera). Tampa Bay is still in the hunt because of its pitching and the Blue Jays have suddenly risen from the grave by winning 13 of their last 17 games to pull to within 7 ½ of the Red Sox.
Another week or two of the Jayson Nix-David Adams-Alberto Gonzalez triumvirate and the Yankees will find themselves in the basement gasping for air. The worst part is they have no relevant prospects to speak of who can inject some much-needed life into the lineup. When the Dodgers lost Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, they called up Yasiel Puig from Double-AA Chattanooga. He broke an MLB record with seven home runs and 34 hits in his first 20 games. When the Super Two deadline passed, ensuring they could keep their No. 1 prospect under wraps for another year, the Rays called up Wil Myers, who has blasted three home runs and is hitting .289 in just 45 at-bats entering the weekend.
The Yankees haven’t had a prospect make that much of an impact since Robinson Cano burst onto the scene eight years ago, but they’ve got plenty of guys on the roster who were supposed to be that good but instead wound up failing miserably, starting with free-agent-to-be Phil Hughes, who’s 1-4 in June with a 4.55 ERA and has essentially pitched his way out of New York, and the chinless, gutless Joba Chamberlain, who has hopefully done the same. Once considered the most dynamic setup man in baseball, Chamberlain now looks like vanilla cake batter poured into a tube sock, a sloppy, fat mess with an even fatter 6.05 ERA and 1.76 WHIP, numbers beyond incomprehensible for a 27-year-old reliever.
The promotion of 24-year-old outfielder Zoilo Almonte, who has replaced Wells and his 11-for-99 slump, has added a small spark, but not nearly enough to save this team from slipping further down the ladder. This would be a nice time for the pitching staff to pick up the slack, but Hiroki Kuroda can’t get enough run support to win games (he’s got just one since mid-May) while staff ace – or, more fittingly, ass – C.C. Sabathia continues to wallow in his own mediocrity with a low-90s fastball and 4.15 ERA.
The Doobie Brothers, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, are merrily rolling in their own feces upon learning they’ll save $19 million of Teixeira’s $22.5 million salary thanks to a kick-ass insurance policy. They couldn’t care less about winning; that was evident when they unveiled their two-year plan to drop the payroll below $189 million by 2014 to avoid paying luxury taxes.
These aren’t The Boss’ Yankees anymore. The old man had a penchant for falling head-over-heels for big-name talent, even if it were well past its prime, but not even he would approve of Cashman groveling for table scraps while praying for medical miracles. The replacements have turned back into pumpkins and now Joe Girardi is stuck with an underperforming, uninteresting roster even Astros’ fans would drag to the recycle bin.
And it’s still only June. Pass the morphine.
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