This time last year, Joe Torre’s 2007 Yankees had 71 wins after 127 games, while Joe Girardi’s 2008 Yankees have 67 wins in 127 games. That’s only a difference of 4 games.
The 2007 miracle team finished with 93 wins (although based on their runs scored and runs allowed ratio, they should have won 97 games). It seems as if the 2008 will have to work extra hard to keep pace and win 89 games.
There already has been a lot of commentary about what went wrong this year. But the fact is Tampa Bay and Minnesota have surpassed expectations this year, and Boston is not going anywhere. Even last year’s team may have been lost in the shuffle if everyone was healthy.
In many ways, when people made predictions- including myself- we talked about the “worse case scenario” happening- that the young pitching wouldn’t hold up or injuries would catch up to some people.
Let’s take a look at Brian Cashman’s pre-season plan, and see how things panned out.
First, he kept the lineup and regulars exactly the same. Reason #1 was that none of these players- besides Cano and Melky- could have been traded due to their age or huge contract. Second of all, the Yankees didn’t have problems scoring runs last year, although they were once again frustrating in their short-post season vs. the Cleveland Indians, which led most observers to believe that Joe Torre no longer could motivate this team, which may have been true.
Injuries to the offense
The major blow was the loss of Jorge Posada’s production this year. Although A-Rod won the MVP (and rightfully so), I still thought Jorge was more valuable, or at least irreplaceable, kinda like Mo.
But the hitter’s injuries didn’t stop with Jorge; A-Rod was gone a few weeks, and the bench did nothing in his absence. Derek got hit on the wrist, and couldn’t hit anything until fairly recently. Godzilla- the most consistent hitter this year- lost his knees and was on the DL for months. Johhny Damon was on the DL.
Then you have two enigmas: Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. Instead of stepping up when all of these injuries were happening, they both had their worst seasons.
The bench has been awful; Shelley Duncan turned into Kevin Maas, and was sent to Limbo. Wilson Betemit was not the productive reserve player as advertised.
Let’s talk about pitching last year: Wang carried the team on his back in 2007- and he finally fell down against the Indians last October. Last year, Mussina had his worst year, Pettitte was 15-9, 4.05, Roger Clemens’ comeback was somewhat lackluster, Phil Hughes was injured most of the year, and the rest of the rotation was comprised of a bunch of AAA guys.
In 2008, the rotation was supposed to be Wang, Pettitte, Hughes, Kennedy, and Moose- in that order. In the heat of August 2008, it is now Moose, Pettitte, Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner, and Carl Pavano.
Let that sink in for a second.
Phil Hughes was pitching with a broken rib in April, and ruined his body. Wang went down with a foot injury; season over. Ian Kennedy got messed up physically and mentally this year. Joba Chamberlain, who was great as Mariano’s setup man, was starting to become an ace starter before he got injured.
The surprise is Mike Mussina, who has reinvented himself and is the staff ace. Andy Pettitte will probably finish with 15 wins like last year- a solid #2 starter.
As far as the bullpen goes, it was completely retooled, revamped, and managed very well thanks to Joe Girardi. It’s very possible Torre cost the team 4 wins last year thanks to not using the bullpen correctly.
In terms of trade deadline moves, Cashman got Pudge Rodriguez. Pettitte and Moose prefer Jose Molina because of his game calling. Pudge got hurt in a collision, too, and frankly doesn’t hit like he used to.
The Yanks picked up Xavier Nady, who is a 4th outfielder if you look at his career record.
Damaso Marte is a lefty, so he has work.
But no blockbuster moves, like trading for A.J. Burnett, C.C. Sabathia, or Mark Teixeira. For next year, Ian Kennedy and Melky have lost most of their trade value, and the only true avenue the Yankees can explore is free agency and to pray for players staying healthy again.
Q- What would last year’s team would have been if Wang and Jorge were gone?
A- This year’s team.
And that’s the simplest answer I can give for this year’s embarrassment.
Not hitting in the clutch? Yeah, I have to kinda point my finger at Girardi slightly for not relaxing his guys- they look too serious out there, like they are not having any fun. But even if he had an smiley-faced team, I can’t see them running away with the division.
In conclusion, I guess what I’m trying to say is that last year’s team- with all its flaws- is this year’s team, minus quite a few players that were lost to the DL for a sizable chunk of the season.
And ultimately, it’s not Girardi or Torre’s fault, although they can’t seem to motivate A-Rod to relax. This is Cashman’s team. He’s the one who signed Pavano, Igawa, Farnsworth, Hawkins, and Morgan Ensberg, and has put together a horrible bench year after year, and had no contingency plan if one of the regulars got injured.
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