Wake Me Up When September Ends—Slumping Yanks Have Questions To Answer
Added by Elizabeth DiPietro on September 11, 2011.
And you thought the dog days were in August. Lately the Yankees haven’t been the only team plagued by end-of-the-season doldrums. The Red Sox, Brewers, and Braves are teams who dominated all year but are now slumping. On the other hand, teams previously thought to have been counted out of playoff contention, such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals, have been making a run for it. Nothing in the American League East is yet set in stone; no magic numbers have been attained.
Despite their recent slump, in all likelihood the Yankees will make the playoffs, either as division winners or wild card. As of Sunday they had a 2 ½ game lead over the Sox, and a 7 game lead over the Rays. But they must contend with the remainder of their regular season before they can even think about playoff games, a schedule that still includes two series versus the red-hot Rays and one against Boston.
There seem to be a number of issues the Yankees are dealing with on a daily basis. Problems become magnified during a slump. These issues must be dealt with in order to a) ensure they make the playoffs, and b) succeed when there.
His defense is a force to be reckoned with, and it’s too bad there aren’t stats to show how many errors he’s saved his teammates with his patented scoop at first. But Teixeira’s offensive production has been decidedly disappointing this season. His current batting average is below .250 and has struck out nearly 100 times. That’s a far cry from 2009, when he batted .292 and came in second in MVP voting. He is among the league leaders in home runs and RBI, but his average with the bases empty is a mere .218. It would be great to see him start the rallies sometimes.
Currently the Yankees are short on catchers. Regular catcher Russell Martin left Saturday’s game against the Angels after being hit by a foul ball on the right thumb, and is unavailable at least for the next few games. Backup catcher Francisco Cervelli has been experiencing concussion-like symptoms and is seeing a specialist in New York. He’ll likely miss the remainder of the road trip. Veteran Jorge Posada suited up behind the plate for the first time all season in Martin’s stead on Saturday. On Sunday recent call-up Jesus Montero caught, but his inexperience catching in the big leagues showed. If Martin’s and Cervelli’s injuries persist to the point that they must miss more playing time, Posada and Montero are going to have to step up to the plate and prepare themselves for more time behind it.
Since early August Joe Girardi has been utilizing a six-man pitching rotation, despite uneven performances from A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, and evading questions about when and if they would return to the standard five-man. It’s hard to say if there’s any merit to keeping the six, and at times it seems like Girardi is keeping all men on board so as not to hurt any feelings or to justify Burnett’s astronomical salary. There’s obviously no room for a six-man rotation in the playoffs, especially in the best-of-5 Division Series, so Girardi is going to have to decide once and for all the best men for the job. Check egos at the entrance gate.
Yankee fans patiently waited for Alex Rodriguez to return from a month-long stint on the disabled list. When he did in August, he played exactly one game before getting injured again, this time on a ground ball that rolled over his thumb at approximately the speed of your average glacier. While he has yet to go back on the disabled list, each day we’re left wondering if Mr. 30 Million is going to show up in the lineup or not. Currently he has played in only 82 games this season, including 8 as DH in which he is batting a robust .194. His other numbers (.284, 15, 56) are decent considering he basically played a half season, but now that 2011 unsung heroes such as Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner are slumping, a healthy A-Rod needs to step up.