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Welcome to The Bronx Zoo – 2011 NYY Style

Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

As the weather is warming up the last three weeks; and players begin to accept their roles….or not, a team begins to develop the swag that will carry them to division glory or create tension and animosity that most fans never really get to see. Let’s face it; watching our Yankee Boys of Summer on the field is like watching poetry – usually in sync; in stride and showing us their enthusiasm as they come from behind in another nail biter. What was accomplished from behind in 2010 has not materialized so far this year. Yet; the issue does not center on the health of the New York Yankees in 2011, the issue continues to revolve around depth – and how poorly managed this team has been this off-season.

Let’s start with what was supposed to be our “lights out” approach this season – the bullpen. On the surface it appeared we had some great arms to close out games – Joba, Sori and Mo. Who was going to beat that? The truth – even though Mo is Mo and things have not changed; the rest of the staff has over a 4.00 ERA and has struggled after and including the sixth inning since May 1st. Just when you thought they would start to heat up; Soriano’s elbow is barking and the Yankees can’t seem to create runs. In fact; the Yankees have been outscored in the 6th through 9th inning almost every game since then and the vaunted pen looks like they are struggling batter to batter; inning to inning. The real problem is how this group was architected; and it does not take Einstein himself to see the unbalanced staff and wrong insert occurring over and over again. Girardi continues to walk Boone Logan out there as his “lone lefty specialist” and continues to watch him start rally’s that in the past; never got the chance to start at all. The fact that the Yankees only have one lefty in the pen is a tragedy that only poor poor Brian Cashman can stand up and take the blame for. I know he would like to throw a Top Hat on; jump on Hal’s desk and try to tap dance his way out of it – but, all I can say is – what a tragedy. Because once Boone is done doing his thing in the 6th or 7th; all Joe has left is righty after righty to ward off the likes of Big Papi and the rest of the American League power hitters. These guys come into Yankee Stadium dreaming of multi-homer games and I’ll be damned if they haven’t turned the right field bleachers into the biggest Home Run pin ball machine in the Major Leagues. Dingers are going out left and right – unfortunately more when we’re pitching than the other way around.
So as Brian sits dreaming of another skyscraper conquest; maybe he should be thinking about Steve and Manny and how he can throw two young aggressive lefty pitchers into the mix NOW to possibly save his steel climbing butt. That would give him two more lefty’s (and you need three folks!) to pull out of the pen for what appears to be the toughest 12 outs for the New York Yankees in 2011. This has to change – there is no tomorrow. If you really look at what’s going on I believe many would agree with me; one lefty when facing the left handed power in the American League is a recipe for disaster – they are living it.

The second area of concern – 3/4/5 hitters are bringing this team DOWN….not up. ARod’s two solo shots last night were great but it’s very little too late and he is not hitting when it counts – with RISP! Cano is barely getting on base and his infield errors are showing that he is not laser focused. I don’t know what the heck he is focused on because he is back to swinging like he was earlier in his career – at everything! That is not the winning formula for the Yankees and they need to go back and discipline themselves at the plate. All three of them are guilty and the poor hitting from ARod and Tex are not allowing the Yankees an opportunity to reach their goal that has always delivered results – the rule of 5. They have to manufacture five runs per game – there are no more excuses. They figured out Shields last night and scratched it out. They need to go back to the patient formula and let the opposing pitchers throw themselves out. They will get the pitch’s again once they calm down and stop pressing. If you have read my last few columns; it is not a bad idea to switch Tex and Cano. Sometimes change is good – and right now change should be at the top of Girardi’s agenda. But; if Joe wants to stay the path and he looks inclined to do so, I hope he doesn’t expect the results to move up overnight. Baseball can be a grind when you are losing and the NY Yankees middle of the order is grinding it down to the bone.

The Diamond – Jeter, Grandy, Cano and Martin are holding down the fort. If it weren’t for Grandy; I’m not sure Cashman would still be employed! They have also been grinding a bit lately but hitting; or lack thereof, can be contagious. I still believe these four will lead us home through good; and right now bad times.

The “Complement” Players – ARod, Nicky, Gardner, Jones and Posada don’t look happy. In fact; I can’t remember the last time I watched an entire Yankee game and did not see Nicky smile. Baseball should be fun – and there seems to be a lot of tension amongst all 5 of these guys. Girardi vs. Jorge has been brewing over the last four years but there seems to be more to this story than meets the eye. I can’t conjecture or try to figure out what’s going on except this: Nicky’s wife is in Tinseltown starring in her own show. She’s hot – he’s not with her. They just got married. Tense? Well; I’d be wondering what she’s doing if that was my woman. It is very tough on any new marriage to make things work when you are that far away. I wish Nicky the best of luck. And how about ARod and Cammy? She is strutting her stuff in a new movie and has been out of the picture for awhile. Never mind Jete’s new book and opening fresh wounds a month ago. I happen to love ARod and believe when he is happy and content he is the best in the Majors. I really hope that Derek and ARod are doing their best to be teammates and friends. I believe it is important to both their egos to treat each other with respect and admiration. I don’t care what anyone says; but I believe Gardner is secretly ticked off at the Jones acquisition. The Yankees wanted to assert some pressure and have a complement in left but Gardy wants the job alone…..not shared. And I believe this is a burden for Joey G as much as it is for Gardy. Which now leaves us to Tex. Tex the puzzle; the riddle and the enigma. Tex is so tight he’s trying to win with one swing. He’s so focused on the right field bleachers that we are watching deja’ vu all over again. He’s starting to look just like Giambi batting from the left side and the rest of the Major Leagues are so inside his head with the shift that he is repeating the dreaded Giambi curse. Tex will be fine batting 5th for a few months – it will do him good not to have the three hole pressure on him all the time.

Starting Pitching – these guys have been doing the job for the most part. Their collective ERA is around a 4.00 and they have provided consistent pitching as a group over the first 5/6 innings. I don’t see a lot to complain about and I still see Nova emerging as a top pitcher in the AL this year. He was falling off the mound in the 5th inning last night into the sixth; so my suggestion is for the Yankees to put him on more strength and endurance training and even cut down on his sessions between starts. He’s young and has never experienced facing ML hitters of this caliber till this year. He is finding out what Colon and Garcia probably told him already – if you want to win here; you will need to be stronger, faster and smarter throwing the ball consistently than you ever did before. He has the body to build on and a lot of his strength will naturally come over the next few years as he reach’s male maturity. However; going the extra workout mile may improve him now. I believe AJ will continue on a solid path and CC is just starting to warm up. But boy; wouldn’t it be great if the Yankees brought up the kids and they inject new life and new hope into this team! Two young lefty’s that just have to deliver in a spot – allowing them to mature at the Major League level without throwing themselves out? They are in their 20’s – what are the Yankees waiting for?

So; in conclusion, health has not been an issue unless you believe Soriano is in trouble. Elbows bark; nothing new at the show. Rest and a few shots over the next fifteen days should help. But for the rest of the team; it is their MENTAL health that scares me. It’s the lack of depth that concerns me. It’s the lack of a true architect behind the building of this team as well as the future NY Yankees that concerns me. It’s the lack of harmony and role definition, expectations and team chemistry that concerns me.

Yes – it’s the Bronx Zoo II – it’s like deja’ vu all over again.


Mike Antoniotti